Bipartisan House Coalition Seeks to Lift Domestic Propaganda Ban


Two House members—Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)—have proposed an amendment that would "neutralize" the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987, both of which strictly govern the creation of propaganda and ban its dissemination on U.S. soil: 

The amendment would "strike the current ban on domestic dissemination" of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.

The bill's supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.

The new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. "It removes the protection for Americans," says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. "It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false."

According to this official, "senior public affairs" officers within the Department of Defense want to "get rid" of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  1. Is it wrong of me to point out that this is the best/worst propaganda poster ever?

    1. No, but if you extend the category to digital billboards, "Click it or Ticket" bests this by a nose.

    2. I'll see Riggs' Godwin and raise you a Temperance League, Matt!

      BTW, Matt, nice to see you comment on threads. I heard you were dead.

      1. Best Ad For Acohol Evar

    3. A similar classic aimed at the evil corporations.

  2. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.

    Just like campaign ads, or the jobs report.

    1. Just like the news.

    2. Oh we know the jobs report is false.

  3. Ahmadinejad thanks you for filling up your over sized SUV!

  4. a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online

    No it doesn't. Next Issue.

  5. Not just no, not just Hell no, but

    NN o O
    N N N O O
    N N N O O
    N N N O O
    N NN O O

    1. Doesn't work well without the spaces.

      How about:

      "Fuck you up the ass, you knob-gobbling militaristic pieces of shit."

  6. So the NYT has been breaking the law this entire administration?

    1. Maybe this is just a backdoor way to revitalize the legacy media empires. Enough money from DOD and half the newspaper and CNN can be "Afghanistan - Love it - Never Leave it".

      Of course now you won't know which half is administration propaganda and which half is the fine independent journalism we've come to love.

  7. I say let 'em do it. The Internet will have a field day 'shopping their posters. I predict much lulz.

    1. "for teh lulz" is not a valid expenditure of tax dollars.

      1. Better than some of the other uses it's put too. At least this way we'll get some entertainment out of it.

  8. Cosponsored by Adam Smith(D-WA) who also cosponsored the Smith-Amash bill against the NDAA indefinite detention provision.

    The wording of the article doesn't give me enough info to know what to think. Seems ridiculous to prohibit Americans from seeing/hearing the material we pay to spread overseas yet I certainly don't want them to authorize and fund a whole new domestic. psy-ops program. Perhaps mandate a prominent "Your Tax Dollars at Work" on all the propaganda.

    1. Yeah, this is what I don't get. "protection for Americans", huh? We're being "protected" from seeing what our gov't can show to foreigners? Is this some kind of psy-war technology that would turn us into zombies if we were subjected to it?

      1. Oh no, what will we do when we lose the protection from government propaganda that we have now?!? And yet all this time I thought I was seeing it everywhere....

  9. Riggs, once again, you massively FAIL! That poster was begging for a pithy, witty alt-text.

    Something like: "Hitler loves Gaia, why don't you?" or something about how Hitler is related to Sue Storm.

  10. My rxns on seeing that poster are, "Cool car!" and "Kewl...get to drive Hitler around! And be dressed more smartly and opaquely than him. And not have to wear a safety belt -- him neither!!"

    1. The car is cool. I'm still trying to decide if "convertible sedan" or "phaeton" is more apt. The former is more accurate.

  11. So are they talking about some specific announcements or advertizing which will pump up some ideas which are dear to their bureaucratic hearts or do they simply intend to push the compass needle of the existing PC frame of reference further in some desired direction?

  12. I hope Matt got to see the Padres starter Richards pulled in as a pinch hitter with 2 outs in the 13th to score the winning run.

    1. Is that factual, or propaganda?

  13. So Smith-Mundt prohibits domestic propaganda, but what about the Ad Council? Isn't domestic thought control their basic charter?

    1. You may be thinking of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

      1. Those ads during the 2002 Super Bowl were from the ONDCP.

    2. Yes

      I'm still torn. I think the act in question kept us from hearing VOA/ Radio Free Europe w/o using a shortwave to pull in a often shitty signal. Some of that was excellent programming for the time.Music, cultural stuff and news not available on domestic broadcast. Jessee Walker could probably fill in the details off the top of his head.

      1. And the interaction with Communications Act rules made it even more extreme, by forbidding sw b'cast stations from being licensed to serve the USA. So, for example, WRNO Worldwide (New Orleans) was pro forma licensed to b'cast to Canada.

        Meanwhile Canadian sw put its country's best foot forward by sending only the "straight" stuff on Radio Canada, making you listen for sideways spillage from the Northern Quebec sw service out of Moncton or Frederick (forgot which) NS if you wanted to hear the irreverent stuff like the Royal Canadian Air Farce or especially Frantic Times.

        1. Sackville, NB is the transmitter site; I think the programming comes from Montreal.

          And the transmitter is scheduled for closure sometime after Radio Canada International goes dark at the end of June.

          1. Sackville for the Northern Quebec sw service? Or RCI? I thought it was the latter. Both?

    3. That's a very good point, most of those ads are borderline creepy.

      But I guess since they are lefty propaganda, not so much American, it doesn't count.

    4. I thought about the Ad Council as well. They're pretty much domestic propaganda to a 'T.'

      I think that should be the main argument against the ban: it can't possibly be enforced. We're swamped with gov't propaganda every day.

  14. Hugh Akston|5.20.12 @ 10:38PM|#
    "So Smith-Mundt prohibits domestic propaganda,..."

    Maybe I missed it, but HIH does anyone define "propaganda" as different from political campaign statements?
    Is there some degree of lying that makes campaign claims acceptable and some slightly greater degree that qualifies as "propaganda"?

    1. 1) Lies are broadly protected under the First Amendment, as they should be.

      2) Campaign promises (ie lies) are made by private parties and non-governmental entities. So they're totes cool.

      3) Propaganda, OTOH, is lies your government told you. Smith-Mundt apparently prevents the government from propagandizing domestically.

      So it's not about lies per se, but about who's telling them.

      Also, any law that prevents the government from doing anything is one that I am happy to support.

  15. I never even thought about it liek that. Wow.

  16. This is horrible! Just imagine the geniuses behind "Julia" speaking directly to America...

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