The US Government wants to modify 22 USC 1461 sec 501 so that they can put propaganda on the internet. There is a risk of people being exposed to said propaganda, but wouldn’t you really like to know what the US Government is saying to other countries, and specifically to the citizens of those other countries? Watchdog groups on both the left and right are going to have an amazing new source of information, right from social media, YouTube, and other resources, at least the way I am reading this one.
I am coming at this from a Social Media viewpoint, and how this could open the flood gates to not only more careful citizen monitoring of what the Government is saying, but that some of this is going to be directly attacked by the Left and/or Right depending on what the Government is saying, and the political opinions of those reading it. Americans are going to engage with this material, and any effective propaganda processes might be lost on the nations/states/citizens that the propaganda might be targeted to, the confusion this is going to create in the international propaganda market is going to be phenomenal. This interaction might actively reduce the propaganda value of the works, because Americans are ornery critters and will find this stuff on line anyways, we already listen to the Voice of America, and that is one of the Agencies that does international propaganda.
There seems to be an overblown hysteria and hoopla over the proposed changes to 22 USC 1461 sec 501 proposed by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State we need to sit down and work out exactly what the proposed changes mean, and how they may influence you in what we see on TV, or on the internet, or other places. Propaganda has been with us since day one, humans spin things, we always have we always will and it is important to understand that, we will say and do things that make us look better than anyone else. That essentially is propaganda, the idea that we spin things or give an alternative view point to things that are going on, like we see in the battle between Fox News and Current TV. If you don’t believe both is propaganda, when you need to stop for a moment and think about what audiences they cater to, and how they inflame, inform, and otherwise seek to change people’s perception of events.
Sec. 1461. General authorization
(a) Dissemination of information abroad
The Secretary is authorized, when he finds it appropriate, to provide for the preparation, and dissemination abroad, of information about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, and other information media, and through information centers and instructors abroad. Subject to subsection (b) of this section, any such information (other than “Problems of Communism” and the “English Teaching Forum” which may be sold by the Government Printing Office) shall not be disseminated within the United States, its territories, or possessions, but, on request, shall be available in the English language at the Department of State, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.
(b) Dissemination of information within United States
(1) The Director of the United States Information Agency shall make available to the Archivist of the United States, for domestic distribution, motion pictures, films, videotapes, and other material prepared for dissemination abroad 12 years after the initial dissemination of the material abroad or, in the case of such material not disseminated abroad, 12 years after the preparation of the material.
(2) The Director of the United States Information Agency shall be reimbursed for any attendant expenses. Any reimbursement to the Director pursuant to this subsection shall be credited to the applicable appropriation of the United States Information Agency.
(3) The Archivist shall be the official custodian of the material and shall issue necessary regulations to ensure that persons seeking its release in the United States have secured and paid for necessary United States rights and licenses and that all costs associated with the provision of the material by the Archivist shall be paid by the persons seeking its release. The Archivist may charge fees to recover such costs, in accordance with section 2116(c) of title 44. Such fees shall be paid into, administered, and expended as part of the National Archives Trust Fund.
(Jan. 27, 1948, ch. 36, title V, Sec. 501, 62 Stat. 9; Pub. L. 92-352, title II, Sec. 204, July 13, 1972, 86 Stat. 494; Pub. L. 96-60, title II, Sec. 208, Aug. 15, 1979, 93 Stat. 401; Pub. L. 101-246, title II, Sec. 202, Feb. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 49.)
The changes proposed by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State add additional language to 22 USC 1461 sec 501 that would include the use of the internet, social media, and other newer and quicker ways of disseminating information that as the two Representatives think the “The United States Information Agency” and through its processes like the Voice of America do not have the ability to use some of the newer tools out there like YouTube, Social Media, and others to engage people where they live. Social media is a huge component of propaganda, research, and given all the hoopla about the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other three letter acronym agencies having an interest in them as well, it makes sense for the Voice of America to also be available on the internet. It already is, but there are deeper shadier bits to American Propaganda that we really don’t see like the leaflets dropped on Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. These are the changes proposed according to Adam Smith’s US Congress Page:
ll. DISSEMINATION ABROAD OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNITED STATES.
(a) UNITED STATES INFORMATION AND EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE ACT OF 1948.—Section 501 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1461) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘GENERAL AUTHORIZATION‘‘SEC. 501. (a) The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are authorized to use funds appropriated or otherwise made available for public diplomacy information programs to provide for the preparation, dissemination, and use of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, the Internet, and other information media, including social media, and through information centers, instructors, and other direct or indirect means of communication.
‘‘(b)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors may, upon request and reimbursement of the reasonable costs incurred in fulfilling such a request, make available, in the United States, motion pictures, films, video, audio, and other materials prepared for dissemination abroad or disseminated abroad pursuant to this Act, the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), or the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall issue necessary regulations
Then we move onto the Foreign Relations Act modifications which are from Adam Smith’s web site:
(c) FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 1986 AND 1987.—Section 208 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1986 and 1987 (22 U.S.C. 1461-1a) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘SEC. 208. CLARIFICATION ON DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION OF PROGRAM MATERIAL.
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broad casting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States. This section shall apply only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). This section shall not prohibit or delay the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such available, to the media, public, or Congress, in accordance with other applicable law.
‘‘(b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure. Such material may be made available within the United States and disseminated, when appropriate, pursuant to sections 502 and 1005 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1462 and 1437), except that nothing in this section may be construed to authorize the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors to disseminate within the United States any program material prepared for dissemination abroad on or before the effective date of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012.
Basically in my non lawyer non diplomat might run for office someday viewpoint, of all the legislation that has been crossing the desk of Congress and the Senate lately, this one is benign. In relationship to ACTA, CISPA, NDAA 2012, and everything else we have seen that have eroded our rights, all this act seems to be doing is stating that we need to modernize how we as a government engage with other countries and the people in those countries. While VOA and printed propaganda is awesome and we as a nation use it, well time to start using the internet as well. There is a risk that Americans will come across the propaganda, and we think using the internet is important enough that it is worth running the risk.
In my opinion if the USA is saying things abroad that Americans shouldn’t see then we are in pretty dire straits to begin with.
On the good side of this, given the sorry state of regular news in the country, if our watchdogs like the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Red State, and others see this stuff, and they don’t agree with it, the Streisand Effect will happen in full force. This gives both the left and the right, including the crazies on both sides a better ability to watchdog and monitor what the government is doing and saying, then splashing that puppy across the internet. Personally I am willing to risk being exposed to what the Government is telling other countries, because I would really dearly want to know. Save your battles for things that truly erode our rights to free speech, our ability to be private when we want to be, and otherwise be responsible adults on this one. We all need to as a nation, understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what the effects of any legislation is going to be. The current state of hysteria on this one is overblown in my opinion.