Even during World War II, leaders knew the importance of information in winning hearts and minds. The role of information was critical to success in wartime, and very different from traditional means such as the military, diplomacy, and economic measures such as sanctions.
Leaders knew that the US would need a peacetime intelligence service after the end of the war. At the time, most people understood that the suppression of information contributed to the outbreak of wars. Even during World War I, American media complained that nationalist news agencies such as Britain’s Reuters controlled news content and decided what was spread across borders. This got even worse during World War II.
A bill was originally introduced in 1945. It called for “the total absence of censorship” and the elimination of discrimination in communications to contribute to the knowledge of all peoples. The drafters of the bill also wanted to nullify the effect of false propaganda to eliminate misunderstandings between nations to prevent future wars. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the time went so far as to recommend that a “freedom to listen” be added to FDR’s four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from necessity, and freedom of worship
After two years of congressional shenanigans, executive orders, and various political moves, President Truman finally signed the Smith-Mundt Act into law. The big motivation? Truman saw the bill as a necessary way to counter the growing Communist propaganda that was rewriting history.
One of the main provisions of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 requires the media to report honestly, especially to the American people and also prohibits the government from creating national propaganda of any kind. (In the original law, leaders left a provision to be able to use propaganda in foreign audiences, as deemed necessary in wartime.)
At its core, the Smith-Mundt Act empowered the United States to combat intentional misinformation and disinformation. Ironically, our country is now a victim of these things. How did we get here?
We can thank Obama for that. He created the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which allowed the media to essentially create the news rather than report it. It made it legal for them to create the biased fake news and narrative. Essentially, the new law institutionalized America’s communications and thus its cultural programming. Congress was complicit because they passed it with very little resistance. It became public law on January 2, 2013. Since then, we’ve had a decade of propaganda against us.
My information comes from the Library of Congress. The new law gave the Secretary of State the ability to prepare and disseminate information intended for the foreign public to be available in the US. The law authorizes the use of propaganda at the national level, as long as at least one non-US citizen receives the given communication. With our open southern border, this is not difficult to achieve. It’s amazing how incredibly cunning and deceptive this move is.
They covered all media: publications, radio, film, internet, social media, information centers and teachers, and of course the press. Strikingly, the law also removed statutory limitations on the State Department’s ability to provide information about its activities to the media, the public, or Congress: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to participate in any means or form of communication”.
Who is Broadcast’s Board of Governors, you ask? The Council was made up of nine members with media experience. Eight members were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The ninth member was the Secretary of State (SoS). And who was Obama’s SoS? Hillary Clinton. How convenient
During the time Obama modernized the 1948 Act, Dana Perino of Fox News was on the board, but left the board the day before the bill became law. John Kerry began serving a month after the law was enacted and served until January 20, 2017, the day of Trump’s inauguration.
The board was disbanded in June 2020, and instead a presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed CEO leads the group, now called the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Amanda Bennett is the current CEO. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and investigative reporter, and former executive editor of Bloomberg News. Bennett has just testified before the US Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the State Department and USAID management, international operations and bilateral international development. Bennett described USAGM: “Our agency provides accurate, objective and professional news and information to parts of the world that lack a free and open press. As a journalist by training, I often explain our mission by saying that we export the First Amendment.”
Who reports to Bennett? The directors of six major entities are organized under the USAGM and report directly to Bennett: Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia ( FRG), and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). The programming of these five entities is viewed in more than 100 countries in 61 languages. This is the programming that the original Smith-Mundt Act restricted from national distribution because “such propaganda should be kept outside America to distinguish the US from the Soviet Union, where domestic propaganda is a primary government activity.”
The sixth entity under Bennett’s leadership is the Open Technology Fund (OTF), newly minted in 2020. Its mission is to “advance internet freedom in repressive environments.” The OTF funds the development of multi-year “Internet Freedom Technologies” from proof of concept to deployment. “This approach ensures that USAGM journalists and audiences have the tools they need right now to securely access the uncensored Internet, while investing in innovative solutions to stay ahead of evolving censorship threats “. Really? And sentences like this make me cringe: “In order to provide comprehensive support for Internet freedom projects, OTF provides resources through a variety of implementation mechanisms.” Various mechanisms… hmmmm.
At this point, it’s worth asking a question: Did you know that the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act also allows for the creation of media outlets that can legally function as government fronts? Perhaps this explains why the love fest between Obama and the media turned into a bitter hatred of Trump. Does this mean news anchors could officially be CIA agents? BBG entities have been criticized abroad for advancing US interests in a more subtle way than blatant propaganda. By the way, the Smith-Mundt modernization was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 and went into effect on July 2, 2013.
The reality is that the original 1948 law was created to empower people at the expense of governments. The 2012 amendment to this law is the undoing of this intention. Our media is now free to lie to us, change the subject and make good politics look bad. But get over it, because it’s legal.
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Fed Up Texas Chick is a contributing writer for The Tenpenny Report. She is a rocket scientist turned writer, having worked in the space program for many years. She is an experienced medical writer and researcher who fights for medical freedom for all of us through her work.
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