Uh, Hooray for Transparency? Government Propaganda Now Legally Available in America


Via Drudge comes this Foreign Policy article about how July 2013 marks the the first month in decades that the United States government has been legally cleared to broadcast its vast overseas propaganda broadcasts inside America:

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. […]

[Broadcast Board of Governors spokeswoman Lynne Weil said] that the reform has a transparency benefit […]. "Now Americans will be able to know more about what they are paying for with their tax dollars—greater transparency is a win-win for all involved," she said. And so with that we have the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which passed as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, and went into effect this month.

In a world where Bruce Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" is not only a terrible song but a woefully inadequate depiction of our audiovisual plenty, there's something to be said about doing away with the fiction that television programming can be contained within geographical borders. And Reason's Greg Beato, for one, makes a good argument that this reform indeed exposes government to much-needed scrutiny.

Still, this move is part of a protracted and alarming degradation of an important taboo. Americans used to hold as a value that we not become like them, even while fighting wars cold and hot against totalitarians unbothered by civil libertarian niceities. Now, government propaganda has become the rule, not the exception, particularly as concerns the international and domestic selling of America's overseas wars. Never forget that a Yemeni journalist who exposed a deadly U.S. attack against women and children sits rotting in jail partly due to the direct intervention by President Barack Obama:

American politicians should not use our taxpayer dollars to lie, period. It's immoral, misused to cover up misdeeds, produces self-defeating feedback loops of bad information, and makes a mockery of the very values we claim to champion. Which is a lesson partisans of both major political tribes need reminding.

Reason on propaganda here.