Americans Finally Have Access to American Propaganda

Radio Free Europe has an office in Prague. Radio Free Europe has an office in Prague. Flickr user hoder

A law went into effect this month that ends the ban on U.S. government-made propaganda from being broadcast to Americans. In a remarkably creative spin, the supporters of this law say that allowing Americans to see American propaganda is actually a victory for transparency. 

As Foreign Policy's John Hudson explains, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 went into effect July 2, and allows government-made news like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks to reach Americans. These outlets "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics," Sen. William Fulbright said in the 1970s. Fulbright and his allies said U.S. taxpayers should not have to pay for propaganda directed at them. But now the government says that's actually unfair to taxpayers. Broadcasting Board of Governors spokeswoman Lynne Weil said it's actually best for taxpayers to be able to see the propaganda, so they can serve as a check on it.  "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. Likewise, a former government official said: "Previously, the legislation had the effect of clouding and hiding this stuff…. Now we'll have a better sense: Gee some of this stuff is really good. Or gee some of this stuff is really bad. At least we'll know now."

To be clear, only State Department-made news, not Pentagon-made news, will be available to Americans. Who are the targets? One example, Foreign Policy explains, is the Somali community in St. Paul, Minnesota. In Somalia, there are three choices for news, a government source said: "word of mouth, Al-Shabaab or VOA Somalia." While that's not true in Minnesota, the government still wants to reach Somalis: "Those people can get Al-Shabaab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn't get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VOA Somalia... It was silly."

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