A bipartisan amendment introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry and Rep. Adam Smith would allow the Department of Defense to utilize propaganda. (image: Telegraph UK)
Written by Juan Cole
Two congressmen are attempting to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization act that would allow the Department of Defense to subject the US domestic public to propaganda. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.
Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” And mind you, they want to use our own money to wash our brains!
As Will Rogers observed, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
I love our guys and gals in uniform, but they can be extremely obnoxious in any discussion about US government policy that ‘gets off point’ or ‘doesn’t serve the mission.’ At Washington think tank events, I’ve seen them repeatedly close down discussions among e.g. State Department foreign service officers. You don’t want most of the DoD types providing information to us, because it won’t be in any way balanced.
Of course, having a Pentagon propaganda unit at all is highly anti-democratic. The best defense of the truth is a free press. It should also be remembered that nowadays everything in Washington is outsourced, so government propaganda is often being turned over to Booz Allen or the American Enterprise Institute, which have a rightwing bias.
Doing propaganda abroad has the difficulty that it doesn’t stay abroad. False articles placed in the Arabic press in Iraq were translated into English by wire services, who got stung.
Then, another problem is that the Defense Intelligence Agency analysts *also* read the false articles placed in the Arabic press by *another* Pentagon office, which they did not know about. So the analysts were passing up to the White House false information provided by their own colleagues!
I was told by an insider that one reason Washington analysts often read my blog in the Bush years was that I had a reputation for having an accurate bull crap meter, and thus my judgments on what was likely to be true helped them fight the tendency to believe our own propaganda!
Not only should this amendment be gotten rid of quick, but their constituents should please vote out of office Reps. Thornberry and Smith next November.