The Executive Arm of the Invisible Government: Propaganda

22 May

I was searching around the internet for the full video of the recent hearing on the Authorization of Military Force where Pentagon officials said the “war on terror” would last another 10-20 years and claimed powers beyond the constitutional requirements set under the War Powers Clause and elsewhere. Eventually, I watched the video on Democracy Now! and another one on The Pentagon Channel which just happens to be run by the Pentagon. The videos were very different as one was propagandistic and another was not at all. That is what inspired me to write this article.

Usually when propaganda is talked about it is either emanating from the corporate mass media, covert operations or otherwise. But with the recent changes to the Smith–Mundt Act, which specifies which global audiences will receive US propaganda officially called “public diplomacy,” the dissemination ban on distributing this information domestically was eliminated. Those outlets affected by this act and other similar ones must be discussed. The reason for this, is that information from such government outlets is either white or gray propaganda. Wikipedia on their page titled CIA influence on public opinion they write that: “white [propaganda] is acknowledged as an official statement or act of the U.S. Government, or emanates from a source associated closely enough with the U.S. Government to reflect an official viewpoint. The information is true and factual. It also includes all output identified as coming from U.S. official sources.” However, there is likelihood that some of the outlets are spreading gray propaganda or when “the true source (U.S. Government) is not revealed to the target audience. The activity engaged in plausibly appears to emanate from a non-official American source, or an indigenous, non-hostile source, or there may be no attribution.”

Such “U.S. official sources” or “true source” include those run by the government-controlled Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) like the official voice of the US government called Voice of America (VOA), and a number outlets for foreign audiences like Alhurra, Radio Farda, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Martí and TV Martí, and Radio Sawa. In addition, there is the front company called Defense Media Activity run by the national military establishment; the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs & Bureau of International Information Programs; the NASA Office of Public Affairs; Organizing for America; White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; and the Department of Labor Office of Public Engagement.

The BBG is one of the most overt propaganda outlets of the US government that spreads grey propaganda. Looking at its board, which isn’t currently filled, it includes 1%er Secretary of State John Kerry; the former Republican ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe; the current chairman of Sony Entertainment Michael Lynton; President of a strategic advocacy firm, Message Global, Susan McCue; and the founder of a PR firm, VennSquared Communications, Michael Meehan. The Senior Management isn’t much better. The presidential appointee, the Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau Richard M. Lobo who previously helped push American propaganda into Cuba and who represents the BBG on a world stage. Others include:

· Jeffrey N. Trimble, the IBB Deputy Director, who was a former editor for U.S. News & World Report which is owned by Mortimer Zuckerman

· David Ensor, Director of the Voice of America, who was a former reporter for NPR, a TV correspondent for ABC News, CNN’s National Security Correspondent, and the Executive Vice President for Communications and Strategy at an international energy trading and investment group called the Mercuria Energy Group

· Carlos A. García-Pérez, the Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, who has helped expand BBG’s propaganda into Cuba

· Paul Kollmer-Dorsey, the acting General Counsel, who was a Senior Vice President of a company pushing for global data collection, Global Relief Technologies, Associate General Counsel of Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications and COMSAT Corporation while also helping to privatize the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization and the International Maritime Satellite Organization.

· Marie Skiba Lennon, the Chief of Staff, who has held governmental positions in the Defense Department, the EPA and elsewhere

· Bruce Sherman, the Director of the Office of Strategy and Development, who “directs formulation and execution of BBG strategy” especially in expanding the reach of US propaganda to the Muslim world

· Gary Thatcher, the Director of External Liaison who was Director of Strategic Communications for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the former national editor of the Chicago Tribune and national editor of The Christian Science Monitor

· André Mendes, the Director, Office of Technology, Services and Innovation who was the Chief Technology Integration Officer for PBS or the Petroleum Broadcasting Network

· Lynne Weil, the Director of Communications and External Affairs who was a former spokesperson for USAID, former legislative fellow for Senator Ted Kennedy, a journalist for UPI and a reporter for the California Public Radio Network,

Then there’s three individuals from the Grantee Leadership including Kevin Klose, the Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who was the president emeritus of NPR, director of the International Broadcasting Bureau at the CIA propaganda arm, the U.S. Information Agency and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post; Brian Conniff, the President of Middle East Broadcasting Networks, who also worked for the U.S. Information Agency along with the U.S. General Accountability Office; and Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia, who was a senior consultant at Coopers & Lybrand which now called Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Why are these connections important? Well, it is important to recognize who is behind the BBG so one can determine who controls such a such powerful force of propaganda that has over 194.5 million listeners! That’s not even including the listeners in Asia, and Cuba. Still, one might think that this propaganda is not a bad thing. However, the International Broadcasting Bureau “censors selection of articles for its “Media Highlights” distributed mostly to Americans who pay the salaries of IBB officials,” further heightening the reason Americans should “worry about news and information being censored or manipulated by government officials charged with their distribution if these are the same officials who already censor such information.” The Voice of America (VOA), supposedly the largest broadcaster in the US, during the WWII it was “the U.S. government’s international shortwave radio agency” and during the Cold War it broadcasted to Soviet citizens in order to counter the propaganda of the USSR. Today its reach is even worse. In 2001, an article in a Spanish publication noted that “in the early 1960s, President Kennedy sought to build up Voice of America broadcasting for the “peaceful evolution” of socialist countries” but US broadcasters are lawfully required to have a “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States Government and responsible discussion and opinion on those policies.” Some right-wing sources have said VOA is promoting Islamic extremism while others say they are advocating on behalf of Islam. Regardless of these accusations, it is clear that the VOA has served political ends. In 2011, there was a big fuss put up in Congress as the Obama administration decided to stop shortwave radio broadcasts of the VOA into China but keep Radio Free Asia. The conservative Washington Times, owned by a South Korean media mogul Sun Myung Moon, wrote in 2011 that representative Dana Rohrabacher, and three unnamed administration officials and a former BBG member Blanquita Cullum opposed the plan with those who created on the defensive, saying times have changed. Even at one point, the director of VOA Dave Ensor said the “best answer to propaganda is not more propaganda.” Some would counter this saying that “journalists who work in media outlets such as VOA enjoy a certain degree of freedom that enables them to do their work professionally” as noted in 2010 by an Ethiopian refugee in Uganda.

One may wonder what sort of propaganda the VOA is spreading if at all today, in the post-Cold War period. In 2005, the Bush Administration in their budget expanded “VOA’s broadcasting to Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, though Iran was expected to be “the chief focus,”” as part of their “antiterrorism broadcasting.” The next year, a VOA correspondent, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, “said the revelation of a mega terror plot a “game of the British government,” and…accuse[d] “western governments,” and in particular the United States and the United Kingdom, of deliberately fabricating the terror plot to deflect world attention from what he called “Hezbollah victories.”” Basically, a major time conspiracy theorist was in the staff of VOA. Ok, that’s not so serious. That same year, a site calling for action to help Haitians wrote that “Amelia Shaw, National Public Radio’s current correspondent from Haiti, is also a reporter with the US government propaganda organization, Voice of America (VOA)” which violates the law while “her reports – very much in line with the US State Department – have tried to suggest that René Preval is a troublemaker, a spoil-sport who was trying to undermine the mostly free and fair electoral process in Haiti.” In 2010, the claims of the VOA being a propaganda outlet for the US were a bit bolstered when the Ethiopian Prime Minister called for the banning of VOA for its propaganda that has “foment[ed] chaos in the country.” However, this regime was considered a bit heavy-handed and authoritarian in the run-up to that year’s elections. Despite all of this, according to The Milli Gazette wrote that “the Middle Eastern Radio Network – has garnered a rush of attention…[as] the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors is spearheading the initiative set to pummel the 25-and-under Arab population with popular music spliced with American news, policies and beliefs…[while the] VOA…has a trivial Arab-language service that reaches only two percent of the Arab population…[and] the U.S. military is believed to be broadcasting propaganda messages and music from EC-130 planes over Afghanistan.” Even one anonymous journalist opined that “the VOA was created to be…the Voice of America [and]…America wants to tell its side of the story in Middle Eastern countries…[and] to influence Arab youth not to become terrorists, to become the kind of ‘good Arab’ America wants them to be.” One thing is clear, since the VOA is government-owned it is almost impossible to offer coverage that is unbiased or balanced, it should be considered a propaganda outlet by everyone. In closing, as Wayne Madsen writes in OpEd News, “the priorities for U.S. propaganda include stepping up efforts to effect political change in what are termed the five remaining “Communist” countries in the world through Cold War-era dissemination of “news” and other content via the Voice of America (VOA), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), and “grantee” organizations RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), Inc., and Radio Free Asia (RFA).”

What about the Middle East Broadcasting Network that includes the two broadcast channels, Al Hurra and Al Hurra Iraq & Radio Sawa? I start with Al Hurra which is supposed to offer “objective, accurate and relevant news and information” to an audience, “support democratic values” and “expand the spectrum of ideas, opinions, and perspectives.” A 60 Minutes news report in 2009 in conjunction with ProPublica noted that “in 2004…President Bush announced that the U.S. government was getting into the Arab news business…[however] people in the Middle East, including U.S. diplomats who speak Arabic, have been complaining about Al Hurra’s “quality” and “professionalism.”…[In 2004] After Israel assassinated the founder of the militant group Hamas, Al Hurra stuck with a cooking show…Larry Register, a former CNN executive with 20 years of experience…discovered Al Hurra had a conflict at its core: the U.S. government was all for free speech as long as it was in line with U.S. policy. The idea of “U.S. government news” blew up in Register’s face when he aired a live speech by Hassan Nasrallah.” Mike Whitney wrote five years earlier in CounterPunch that “the US has spent $62 million creating an Arab TV channel called Alhurra…to promote an American-friendly view of escalating violence in the Middle East…[which] has been an abysmal failure with awful ratings and only marginal public interest.” Whitney added that “Alhurra is clearly designed to mold public perceptions in a way that is favorable to America’s corporate and political interests,” was the “brainchild of “Norman Pattiz, the California radio executive who created Westwood One, the nation’s largest radio network…[which] produces Bill O, Reilly as well as other luminaries from the right” and has an “obvious goal is to anaesthetize the public to the injustice of American foreign policy….Al Hurra’s place in the imperial arsenal is unsurprising.” Even the Washington Post has considered it “U.S. government’s largest and most expensive effort to sway foreign opinion over the airwaves since the creation of Voice of America in 1942.” People in the region didn’t want to watch it at all as some called it “imperial propaganda” while President Bush defended it as cutting through “hateful propaganda” or countering news that wasn’t biased toward the US. Even the Wikileaks cables showed that David Letterman was more effective at persuading “Saudi youth to reject violent jihad than hundreds of millions of dollars of US government propaganda” from Al Hurra. As for the Iraqi TV network, called Al Hurra Iraq, with Iraqis shunning the channel among many others while its seems to just be a “U.S. propaganda in the form of news and entertainment.” I end with an opinion published in the LA Times opines that the channel along with its “sister station, Radio Sawa…represent everything that is wrong and misconceived about official U.S. ways of approaching the Arab world…[but is not] credible with Muslims…[as] only 1% of Arab viewers watch it as their first choice…[while] the station is rightly regarded by most Arabs as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration…[and so] Al Hurra should be closed down at once.”

Radio Sawa had a similar purpose as a propaganda channel as it was only created in 2002 two years before Al Hurra under the Bush Administration. According to Arab Media & Society based at the American University in Cairo, Radio Sawa was also established by Norman Pattiz (who also helped establish Al Hurra), the channel “never identifies itself as an American station or where it broadcasts from. Its round-the-clock airtime is divided into roughly 20 percent news and 80 percent pop music…When American and British forces launched their air and ground offensives in the spring of 2003…the word “invasion” disappeared from Sawa’s lexicon…Sawa’s broadcasts avoided the word “occupation” like the plague and rarely referred to Iraqi civilian victims of air raids and other military operation. When anarchy, lawlessness and looting engulfed Iraq after the regime change, the American station continued to beam its customary pop songs and perfunctory news that lacked in-depth coverage and responsible discussion…the station’s field reporters initially maintained complete silence about the torture and shocking abuses inside Abu Ghraib prison of which Iraqis were already aware.” An article in The Electronic Intifada provides a similar account. Ali Abunimah writes that “the United States government has launched its new effort to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Arab world…[and] about 53 minutes of each hour it broadcasts cheap Arabic and Western pop, the rest of the time divided between one short news bulletins at quarter to and one longer one at quarter past each hour.” Abunimah wrote that “Sawa seemed to be concerned with damage control for the U.S. campaign against Iraq…Radio Sawa’s news bulletins do not identify the station’s sponsor or where it is broadcasting from…Sawa’s approach is not to tell outright lies, but to subtly distort the news through careful selection and omission…Underpinning Radio Sawa is the common American belief that people in the Arab world harbor resentment towards the United States because they are simply misled, do not understand their own interests and are too obtuse to realize that their views towards American policy are simply wrong.” SourceWatch writes that the channel, “funded by the United States government…[is trying to] provide what it claims is balanced news and information to youth in Arabic-speaking countries, as local news in many Middle Eastern countries is considered by the U.S. government as biased.” Despite all of this, those that run Radio Sawa have claimed falsely in the past that “we are not a propaganda arm,” but those in the region know the truth and call it what it is: propaganda.

There is one final outlet run by the BBG that focuses on the Mideast and it is run by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) called Radio Farda which was also founded around the same time as Radio Sawa. The Washington Post wrote in 2006 that “the U.S.-funded Radio Farda knows only two things for sure: that the audience is surreptitiously listening somewhere inside Iran…From surveys of Iranian ex-pats to market tests in Dubai, Radio Farda has been a work in progress since its debut in late 2002. The one constant, for which it has been both lauded and criticized, is that unlike Cold War-era transmissions by the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe that relied primarily on news programming, Farda blends news and music…More than anything else, though, there is music…No hip-hop. No alternative. No rap…Music with…a happy beat to it…One survey…put the number of adult listeners per week at 13.6 percent of the adult population. It is only an estimate.” It seems that this channel follows a similar model to Radio Sawa, one that results in the mixing of news and entertainment, creating what is called infotainment. Kourosh Ziabari, an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and interviewer, writes that Radio Farda is a “soft war machine unremittingly produces and disseminates falsehood and mendacious propaganda against the nation of Iran” and that“U.S. statesmen and politicians have…[an] agenda to sow the seeds of discord between different groups of Iranian nation by airing programs in which nothing can be traced but mere propaganda, falsification and fabrication…a propaganda machine programmed to wage wars and win profits.” Even so, in 2006, the Pentagon said the propaganda barrage against Iran should be more tough and critical! Similarly, a US Senator Tom Colburn even claimed the next year that the outlet was helping the Iranian regime. In 2010, the Iranian government decided to arrest “seven people linked to the US-funded station Radio Farda…accus[ing them of]…fomenting unrest and…[said some were] working for US spy agencies.” Radio Farda is also part the propaganda effort Wayne Madsen wrote about in OpEd News and in Iran was claimed to be a CIA outlet from the get-go. PressTV, wholly-owned by the Iranian government, said that “Britain and the U.S. established Persian services for their media outlets, including the BBC Persian, the Voice of America and Radio Farda…to…incite ethnic rifts among the Iranian nation and prepare the ground for their hostile actions in the Islamic Middle Eastern country.” Some even said that Radio Farda was cooperating with the Iranian government. In the end, it seems that this propaganda effort has utterly failed.

One must next go to the other side of the world and look into another BBG outlet, Radio Free Asia (RFA). A Spanish-language publication gives some background, noting that “Radio Free Asia…is an expression of domestic political necessity as much as it is a deliberate strategic and meaningful method of affecting the mix of messages abroad…There are a number of themes in the RFA story that illustrate the relationship between domestic policies and international broadcasting. The principal and most noteworthy element is its use as a domestic trade-off to allow “most-favored-nation” treatment for China. In an environment in the 1990’s in which there were numerous objections to China’s human rights policies and a liberalized trade policy was held hostage to a more aggressive attitude toward China, RFA was a convenient technique for gaining votes by demonstrating the fist of radio at the same time as facilitating the glove of opening economic markets…the RFA [is] an instrument supported by those who wish…to do business with China and [see]…the need for the surrogate radio as a way to gain their business advantage…RFA’s obligation was to furnish a service for Asian countries “which lack adequate sources of free information,” in a way that would “enhance the promotion of information and ideas, while advancing the goals of United States foreign policy.” In 1999, an article published on Government Executive noted a criticism by “Catharin Dalpino, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution…[as saying that] Radio Free Asia, which she regards as “a waste of money” that has more to do with domestic political symbolism than with helping indigenous movements in the region. “Wherever we feel there is an ideological enemy, we’re going to have a Radio Free Something,” she says. Dalpino said she has reviewed scripts of Radio Free Asia’s broadcasts and views the station’s reporting as unbalanced. “They lean very heavily on reports by and about dissidents in exile,” she says. “It doesn’t sound like reporting about what’s going in a country. Oftentimes, it reads like a textbook on democracy, which is fine, but even to an American it’s rather propagandistic.”..she says, “most of the authoritarian governments in Asia are at least 50 percent successful in jamming the broadcasts.””

The RFA has also been criticized as either run by the CIA (China state media), psychological warfare (North Korean state media) or inciting protest (Burmese state media). Interestingly enough, the president of the grey propaganda effort told CNN in 1997 that “we are all professional journalists, and broadcasting propaganda would injure our credibility” which was only one year after the Neo-Stalinist Workers World Party wrote in their publication Worker’s World that “”Radio Free Asia”…openly patterned on the anti-communist “Radio Free Europe.”…[has] initial broadcasts are targeted at the Tibetan autonomous region of China…[and] will also be aimed at north Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia…Countries with repressive regimes…are not targets because they are freely open to exploitation by U.S. big business and finance capital.” One blogger on a site about Cambodian politics wrote in 2009 that “according to a report on Radio Free Asia [the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights of the U. S. Congress]…plans to invite Mu Sochua and others to testify on the state of human rights abuses in Cambodia…In the past U.S. politicians rarely showed an interest in what was going on in Cambodia…perhaps [because] they did not want to be confronted with Cambodia’s history and the U.S.’s involvement there…toppling Sihanouk in 1970, illegally bombarding Cambodia, thereby killings thousands of Khmer, supporting the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese, etc…I don’t know where RFA got their news, but it sounds like a little bit of misinformation.” This is similar to what a Tibetan activist had written a year before, that because information is hard to get out of Tibet, they are forced to rely on sources like the RFA, but after his short investigation he concluded that “these scoundrels are not interested in Tibet or the plight of the Tibetan people at all. They are interested in global conflict” and asked “are the Tibetans to be the new Iraqis, pawns in a global game of world domination proposed by the rogues gallery listed above?” The last story about RFA is a reposted piece written by Richard Bennett in Asia Times which says that “in its original incarnation Radio Free Asia was established and funded by the CIA and run as a dedicated anti-Chinese Communist propaganda station…John A Lent sums it up nicely…writ[ing that]: ” …Radio Free Asia, an allegedly public-supported (but in reality, CIA-financed) international broadcasting station…[had a mission] to strengthen resistance within China to the new Communist government”…The real reason for the stations very existence almost certainly remains the same: the vested interests of the US Government and its Intelligence Services…China certainly views Radio Free Asia as an American propaganda tool and is believed to have sought to jam its broadcasts on numerous occasions. Indeed, there appears to be an obvious bias in the station’s programming and in support of this belief.”

The next outlet is also run by the BBG, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) needs to be examined as well. Its origins are “making possible the democratic values and the human right on free message entrance for listeners” and was partly created by continuing efforts of an anti-communist organization called the National Committee for a Free Europe which was composed of people including CIA directors Allen Dulles, the owner of Reader’s Digest and a prominent New York investment banker, among others. This makes it no surprise that that much of the original funding was from the CIA and it essentially became a CIA front to counter “communism” worldwide. The funding of the CIA continued until 1972 and supposedly ended at that time, but later the RFE/RL was placed under the control of the US Information Agency which was basically the propaganda arm of the CIA. In 2000,, which reprinted from the organization itself, wrote that “Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as lower-ranking religious and political officials, have excoriated the Persian Service publicly many times since it first went on air. The government tried to prevent newspapers from quoting from or citing RFE/RL broadcasts. And the hardline newspapers continue to criticize the radio itself.” A blog called Acme of Skill wrote last year that “Russia’s most distinguished human rights leaders blasted the managers of US government-sponsored broadcasting into the Russian Federation, saying that the managers did more harm than the KGB ever could…after Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Steven Korn suddenly purged the Russian language service of its veteran correspondents, editors and announcers…Russian human rights leaders described Korn’s purge of the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau as a “shameful and abusive special operation.”” Despite this, officially the RFE/FL is being used to either counter Taliban propaganda or make sure as former BBG President Water Issacson said, so “we can’t allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies.”At the same time, the right-wing says that the RFE/RL is promoting “leftist propaganda,” but that isn’t true. As Wayne Brown wrote into The Prague Post in 1998, “RFE/RL…can still produce material capable of deceiving the public about the radio’s past and present…It is public knowledge that both RFE and RL were founded separately in the 1950s by the Central Intelligence Agency and were run covertly by the CIA until their merger in the 1970s. Throughout the Cold War, they were a major U.S. government fighting force against communism…there have been numerous, shocking violations of journalistic standards throughout RFE/RL history, many of which I personally witnessed during my 30 years of employment.” Already, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan have stopped these radio stations from broadcasting while Belarus, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan don’t allow the re-broadcasting of shows.

I looked into three issues: Occupy Wall Street, drones and the Libya war of 2011. RFE/RL described the movement as “against economic equality” while disrupting the NYSE, anticapitalist or anticorporate, open-ended without demands, spreading the idea of violent occupy protesters subtly (also here a bit more openly) while not questioning the clearing of the occupy encampments (also here and here), talking to a “spokesperson” of Occupy and making it seem like he is a leader when he’s not, saying police are trying to subdue “violent” protesters and finally saying Occupy has lost its way. A search for the word “drones” turned up 100 results, but all of them seemed to defend them, saying they were used to “carry out lethal attacks against suspected terrorists,” “target suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” “missile strikes…to target suspected terrorists, most notably in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen,” “drone missile strikes have been used to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere,” and saying drone strikes killed “militants” (also here) or “suspects,” among many other stories. In reality, intelligence documents show that drones haven’t just killed “militants” as at least 400 civilians have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan alone, up to 97 civilians killed in drone strikes in Yemen and up to 15 killed in Somalia. A search for the words “occupy wall street” turns up over 28 results with a number directly relating to the movement itself. I searched the word “libya” with the time frame set to cover the whole war and got over 100 results. The RFE/RL almost cheers the “liberation” of the country, acts like the National Transitional Council represents the whole country, portrays Gaddafi as brutal and eccentric, not questioning Obama’s position on Libya, portrays Russia as evil for backing Gaddafi, no questioning of NATO’s claim that it didn’t kill civilians in an air strike, almost puts out a press release-like article about the legality of the Libya war and inadvertently saying the war was about oil. This means the RFE/RL is not critical about the crackdown on occupy and supporting military adventurism which collectively killed 572 people! An analysis of RFE/RL is not complete until there is a mention that there are other outlets under their command including Radio Mashaal launched in 2010 to officially counter propaganda of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban which they say officially is not propaganda. Even so, those in the area know better, as “US radio transmission companies Dievah Radio & Mashfal Radio are criticized by tribal leaders blaming on transmitting negative and aggravation propaganda against Pakistan, Islam, Waziristan & Khaiber P.K province.”

The final two BBG outlets, Radio Martí and TV Martí are both aimed at Cuban residents, and are run by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). Officially, “Radio and TV Martí serve as consistently reliable and authoritative sources of accurate, objective, and comprehensive news for people in Cuba, where media are controlled and highly censored by the authorities.” However, that is not the reality. For one, the deputy director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Fabio Leite has said US transmissions via radio and television transmissions to Cuba from the US is illegal if they are meant to cause internal rebellion in Cuba and would them violate ITU regulations. Even BBC reported in 2006 that “at least 10 Florida-based journalists were paid by the US government to contribute to anti-Cuba propaganda broadcasts…[including] three writers [for the]…Miami Herald newspaper group…One was paid $175,000…for hosting shows on the US-funded channels TV and Radio Marti…Pablo Alfonso, who writes an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister paper of the Miami Herald, was paid almost $175,000 to present TV and radio programmes…The Cuban government has long alleged that journalists writing on US-Cuban politics were in the pay of the US government.” The next year, delegates at the World Radiocommunication Conference said it was illegal for the US government to beam signals of Radio and TV Marti into Cuba via plane. That same year, a headline in Democracy Now! noted that “The U.S. government recently reached deals with two South Florida commercial Spanish-language TV and radio stations to broadcast TV and Radio Marti which are run by the U.S. government and have historically been beamed into Cuba as part of a U.S. effort to overthrow the Castro government. The Miami Herald has reported the White House is now pushing to begin broadcasting on local stations in Miami even though the government is prohibited under the Smith-Mundt act from broadcasting propaganda inside the country.” Even at one point, Democracy Now! had a debate about if state-run media should be broadcast in the United States in which a professor John Nichols (not related to the writer of The Nation) said that “even if they get the signal into Cuba, even if Cuba chooses not to jam, will the Cuban people embrace the voice of…a station loaded with rightwing silliness?…I think it’s highly doubtful. The Cuban people are not idiots. They know the difference between good solid, objective information…and the shrill political stuff that they get in Radio and TV Marti.” Two years later, a news story came out in the Tampa Bay Times saying that “For the past 18 years that has been the daily dilemma at TV Marti, the world’s least-watched news station. The United States has spent an estimated half billion dollars over the past two decades broadcasting TV and radio programming into Cuba…[and] even though the radio signal has better reception, both TV and Radio Marti had audiences of less than 1 percent of Cuba’s 11 million residents…Radio Marti began broadcasting in 1985 as part of an effort by the Reagan administration to promote democracy by countering Cuba’s state-run media…political pressure from Cuban exiles in Miami brought about the stations’ relocation to Miami in 1996…The GAO report has revived questions about the effectiveness of the Marti stations…Internal reviews over the last five years found repeated problems, such as editorializing and “the presentation of individual views as news,” the report said. It also found use of “unsubstantiated reports coming from Cuba,” and the use of “offensive and incendiary language in broadcasts.”…The St. Petersburg Times was invited to sit in and observe the nightly 6 o’clock newscast. Despite professional editing and studio quality, the newscast at times sank into the kind of political propaganda cited by the GAO report…The station is also carried via the satellite signal of DirecTV, though few Cubans have access to dishes.” Once again, just like the propaganda effort in the Mideast, Radio and TV Marti have been a dismal failure and are clearly illegal.

The final group I looked at was a front company called Defense Media Activity (DMA) run by the national military establishment, called the “Defense” Department. It is important to start with the two broadcast networks under the control of the DMA. Howard Beale’s words in Network seem to easily apply here, but not in the context of plot of the movie: “who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this tube?…But, man, you’re never going to get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear…We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear! We deal in illusion, man! None of it’s true!” Looking at the first of these propaganda networks is called the American Forces Network or AFRTS, which broadcasts to American service members and other government personnel, also broadcasting popular American radio and television programs from the corporate mass media. One military officer wrote in an opinion in the Washington Post that the American Forces Network (AFN)…rebroadcasts the major U.S. networks…[but] puts military commercials onto our televisions in place of the networks’ ads for civilian products and services. AFN occasionally airs a commercial that addresses real issues in a normal way….But more often, the ads are pretty ridiculous. Some beg service members and their families to live the perfect military life, or at least re-enlist. They feature corny skits of soldiers wearing perfect smiles and spotless uniforms….Other commercials show an important appointed official surrounded by service members (again, in perfect uniforms). The official offers us advice, but he’s clearly reading the advice from a teleprompter…And then there are celebrity commercials, which feature celebrities saying they support the troops…And it would help if the people who deliver the messages actually believed what they were saying (or at least acted like it).” Then there’s a clip in Forrest Gump when he he watching AFN, when someone asks him “How can you watch that stupid shit??” which seems to be a common attitude toward the horrible broadcasting overall. As noted on a factbites page, the spots appearing on “AFN are…providing vivid illustrations of what personnel should do in case they are captured; reminders on the importance of paying your bills; darkly lit, somber warnings about child and spousal abuse; and news reports that could easily be called propaganda.” In closing the analysis by SourceWatch is a good one, that says that AFRTS…was created by the War Department in 1942 to improve troop morale…[and] it added a television service in 1950…It reaches an audience of nearly 1 million”…The daily hour AFRTS broadcasts Rush Limbaugh has been criticized as right wing “propaganda” beamed to a segment of the population whose votes were decisive in the 2000 elections.”

The other broadcasting outlet of the DMA is called the Pentagon Channel to which millions of taxpayer dollars are given to and it can be viewed by a much wider audience. Sourcewatch explains that this a 24/7 network that tries to increase the morale of soldiers that is spread to the whole population almost.

ABC News wrote in 2008 that “The Pentagon Channel is a 24-hour cable news channel launched in May 2004. The idea was to provide military news and information to people on military bases. But the channel now reaches millions of households through commercial satellite and cable systems…increasingly the Pentagon is using this platform the way other governments — say, North Korea’s or Russia’s or Cuba’s — use state-controlled television: as a tool to disseminate official information without any interference from a free press. This is actually happening more now, under Secretary Robert Gates, than it did under Rumsfeld. Gates, for example, gave his first interview as defense secretary to the Pentagon Channel…Not surprisingly, he got only softball questions…Just today, Gates gave a speech at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The event was “closed press.” In fact, it wasn’t even put on Gates’ public schedule. But the Pentagon Channel was there.” In other words this channel is a state-run media outlet which could mean it violates the Smith-Mundt law and is on top of the fact that the Bush Administration had already spent millions in a PR effort to sell the Iraq war. Officially the channel claims, as bolstered by a New York University blog, that it “aims only at…those who serve…[meaning] he Pentagon Channel [is]… [not] aimed at spreading biased news to the general public.” The Christian Science Monitor says that “anchors and reporters wear uniforms instead of neckties and suits, and the commercials promote the military…In its daily news roundup, the Pentagon Channel’s reporters and anchors cover fatal attacks and events…But the spin is invariably pro-military….Military-sponsored news reports are hardly anything new. The government even operates an institution called the Defense Information School – motto: “strength through truth” – to train its troops to publish newspapers and produce news shows.” One user on Daily Kos wrote an article saying that making the Pentagon available to the general American population is illegal and David Roth of The New Republic told Utne Reader that the channel is sinister and like a “goofy Big Brother.” Democratic Media noted in 2006 that this TV channel is a “propaganda effort aimed for U.S. audiences…[that] outshines even Fox News in its fealty to the official U.S. government line about Iraq…[but] what is shocking is that the U.S. is producing a channel for domestic use that is clearly propaganda…The channel reaches about 12 million cable and satellite viewers; it’s also distributed in the U.S. and around the world on military bases. The channel is working to expand its distribution, including going after space reserved for public access channels.” Ariana Huffington added to this criticism writing in Salon Magazine that “the Bushies are taking things to the next level…the Pentagon Channel, a 24/7 niche network brought to you by the Department of Defense. Started last year as an internal public relations unit within the Pentagon…the network is now expanding its reach to the general public. A number of cable systems…already carry the Pentagon Channel.” Already, the military establishment used (and is probably still using) military pundits to influence public opinion, while the media spin promote its wars while the Pentagon tries to place stories in the media with billions of dollars and this channel just increases the propaganda push that much more. An article from CounterPunch helps provide an additional criticism, which notes that “on the Pentagon Channel, they do show the occasional flag-draped coffin, always in the context of honoring the dead. With big statues and walls of names as a backdrop, veterans talk about how much they miss their fallen friends…The oddest aspect of the Pentagon Channel is how completely they shield their audience—potential soldiers, current soldiers and former soldiers—from what they are defending, which is to say: capitalism. The Pentagon Channel has no commercials from corporate sponsors…The most appealing aspect of the military, beyond even the promise of glory and meaning, is how they take care of everything for you and advertise that it’s available…If the Pentagon Channel allowed more capitalism in its programming, the soldiers might figure out that they aren’t fighting for “freedom,” and then the Pentagon would really have a fight on its hands.”

There are a number of other DMA propaganda outlets. These include the American Forces Press Service which showcases press releases of the Pentagon and supposedly, according to Wikipedia, “supplies news stories pertaining to the activities of U.S. military forces around the world.” This makes this service a clearly white propaganda outlet as it is very clearly related to the US government. The other two outlets that are very secretive, the Joint Hometown News Service and Joint Visual Information Distribution Activity, under the DMA, would be considered grey propaganda because they are not advertised officially as part of the Pentagon. Sourcewatch writes that the Joint Hometown News Service produces “a variety of print and electronic news products highlighting the accomplishments, and worldwide activities of individual members of the Armed Forces” that is sent to the “14,000 newspapers, television and radio stations…in every state” that are subscribers to this service without disclosure that the “glowing stories was written by Pentagon staff.” Then there’s the tabloid newspaper called Stars and Stripes, which was founded in 1861, that while being editorially separate from the Pentagon, it is owned by the DMA. In 2008, Clint Handler wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review that there is a “contracting relationship between Stars and Stripes…and “America Supports You,” [ASY] a Pentagon public affairs initiative created under Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber that’s been described as a pro-war propaganda…[because] the paper…was issuing contracts on behalf of ASY in a way that made it hard to determine just how much money was being spent.” As the Scranton Times Tribune wrote in May 2012, Stars and Stripes is “hardly the type of propaganda one would expect from government censors.”

On the official side, there are a number of official white propaganda outlets or ones where information conveyed is from an obvious government source clearly. The State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs & Bureau of International Information Programs, NASA’s Office of Public Affairs, the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Engagement fall into this category. Another organization that should be highlighted is Organizing for Action or OFA, a predecessor of Organizing for America which existed from 2009 to 2012. Officially the OFA is “a nonprofit organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012” by advocating “for these policies throughout the country and will mobilize citizens of all parties and diverse points of view to speak out for speedy passage and effective implementation of this program.” This means that the organization is clearly a pro-Obama outlet, but there is more to it than that. It is in a sense a grey propaganda outlet, transmitting messages of the Obama administration, but without official acknowledgement. Recently the organization warned “volunteers over activists working in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline,” and that “volunteers [should]…respect the current process around making decisions about the pipeline.” This earns the organization a number of new names (ake your pick): “Obama Fucks America,” “Obama Follower’s Alliance” or “Organizing for Assholes.”

The Peace Corps could also fall into the mix too because while it says on its website that JFK “established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship,” two of its goals include helping Americans, the second one the most nationalistic: “helping [to] promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.” In 1986, The Multinational Monitor published a story saying that while the Peace Corps is “not in the business of transferring massive economic resources[,]…Many returned volunteers complain that the Peace Corps does little to promote or make use of their rich experiences once they return…[while] some critics charge that the Peace Corps is only a somewhat ineffective attempt to counter damage done to the U.S. image abroad by its aggressive military and its unscrupulous businesses…[and] Many observers…charge that, in addition to public relations for the United States, Peace Corps programs serve to legitimize dictators.” In a later critique by so-called libertarian advocacy group, The Future of Freedom Foundation, James Bovard writes that “the Peace Corps’s world-saving pretensions were a joke on American taxpayers and Third World folks who expected real help” and that “some Peace Corps agricultural efforts directly hurt Third World poor.” The editor of tech site, BoingBoing, Xeni Jardin has a very different critique saying that “a growing number of ex-Peace Corps volunteers are speaking out about having survived rape and other forms of sexual assault while assigned overseas…say[ing that] the agency ignored their concerns for safety or requests for relocation, and tried to blame rape victims for their attacks.” These stories among others show that Peace Corps is not a shiny good ‘ole experience that “promotes world peace and citizenship” as one of their PR videos on youtube claims.

What about USAID, United States Agency for International Development, currently led by Democratic politico Rajiv Shah? As it turns out, this organization is also a white propaganda outlet as it is clearly part of the US government. On its website, it simply reveals the organization is a tool of the business elite: “USAID is developing partnerships with countries committed to enabling the private sector investment that is the basis of sustained economic growth to open new markets for American goods, promote trade overseas, and create jobs here at home.” In 2003, the USA Today wrote that despite concerns about the bidding process, USAID “announced Thursday that Bechtel had received a contract worth $34.5 million initially to repair Iraq’s power, water and sewer systems. The company could be paid as much as $680 million over 18 months if Congress approved expanding Bechtel’s role to cover airports, the Umm Qasr port, hospitals, schools and highways.” That same year, Robert Sandels wrote an article in CounterPunch noting that USAID funded several groups which opposed the Cuban government. Also, Jacob G. Hornberger wrote on a libertarian site that Yemen voted against a resolution authorizing the first Iraqi war and that only a few days later the country’s USAID program was cut off. Three years later, the Global Policy Forum wrote that “poor countries that serve on the influential Security Council typically receive substantially more U.S. aid dollars and find it easier to obtain loans or grants from financial institutions that are strongly influenced by the United States and other economic powerhouses.” In 2008, an article in The Progressive was published, arguing that “declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America. Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)…After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments”…Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them…Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the U.S. Embassy was funding the government’s political opponents in an effort to develop “ideological and political resistance”…The USAID programs demobilized the youth.” The site argued a similar point, saying USAID was working with the National Endowment for Democracy to undermine the government in Bolivia as they had done in Venezuela in 2002. Last year, all of the countries that are part of the alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America or ALBA, including Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela signed a resolution that “request that the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.” This year, USAID made Palestinian civil society groups that receive aid from them to sign a document renouncing terrorism, which one group called the imposition of “political solutions prepared in the kitchens of Western intelligence agencies to weaken the rights and principles of Palestinians, especially the right of return.”

After writing of this while I would like to see the grey propaganda outlets included in the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Defense Media Activity that are set up for sinister purposes to help the power elite abolished along with all of the white propaganda outlets integrated into the US government. However, I do not think that will happen. Rather, I believe that it is better to build a new consciousness against these organizations, pushing for freedom of speech and press, working to build existing alternative news media in whatever way works for you.

[Originally posted on Nation Of Change]

One Response to “The Executive Arm of the Invisible Government: Propaganda”


  1. The Washington Citizen Hearing on Disclosure – OpEdNews | - May 28, 2013

    […] The Executive Arm of the Invisible Government: Propaganda <b>…</b> […]

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