“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
~ George Orwell, 1984
The one thing we need and do not have is a taxpayer-funded propaganda machine that can disseminate government-sponsored disinformation here and abroad in real time. We don’t have one of those because of a 1948 law that our Congress now wants to nullify.
Just when you thought the National Defense Authorization Act couldn’t get any worse, it does. For now, the NDAA is on hold thanks to a Judge Katherine Forrest who is actually concerned about the First Amendment. That doesn’t seem to stop the amendments to NDAA however.
Texas Republican William Thornberry introduced HR 5736 – the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 and the next day Adam Smith (Democrat) of Washington co-sponsored it. It amends the NDAA. It is a bipartisan bill which should enjoy strong bipartisan opposition. It is yet another bill that the ACLU and the Tea Party should both hate.
I don’t think the bill will go anywhere, but the way things are going, who knows. The fact that they would even come up with this is rather alarming. If the other members of Congress have their wits about them, they won’t touch this one.
Buzzfeed (click the link for the pros and cons) broke the stunning news that some in our Congress want to lift the ban on a government propaganda machine –
Buzzfeed quoted one Capitol Hill source as saying the law would allow “U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.”
The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”
HR 5736 is also known as the Dissemination of Information Abroad Act and it attempts to modernize a 1948 law which has been amended over the years.
In 1948, the climate was similar to what it is now – new technology allowed information to come in faster than the government could respond. The government officially engaged in propaganda to deal with it. During WWI and WWII, the government spread propaganda to garner support for the wars.
After WWII, people were sick of propaganda knowing how it had been used by the likes of Joseph Goebbels. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which banned government propaganda, was passed.
How times change and how soon we forget. HR 5736 will authorize our own State Department to spread propaganda.
The bill updates the language in the Smith-Mundt Act (US Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948) to include the Internet and social media as tools for disseminating abroad “information” friendly to U.S. people and policy. If that was all it entailed, it would be bad enough. Unfortunately, that is not the end of it.
The bill takes our foreign propaganda and makes it available instantly through the U.S. Archives. Of course, we won’t get any propaganda left over from the last administration – we’re protected from that.
KrisAnne Hall, a Constitutional lawyer, explains –
Congress Seeks To Establish Ministry of Truth!
by KrisAnne Hall
May 22, 2012
Once again, the National Defense Authorization Act is used as a Trojan horse to unload a dangerous threat on America. This time it is offered up in an amendment sponsored by Representative Thornberry from Texas and its called Dissemination of Information Abroad. This bill has also been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a separate bill titled HR 5736, The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. This bill will overturn a prohibition that has been in place since 1948 and make it possible for the US Government to fund the dissemination of propaganda to influence American citizens.