How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Investigative journalist Michael Hastings recently broke a story on BuzzFeed about an amendment that is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill. The amendment would “legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.” Hasting reported that the amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon. He says the “tweak” to the bill would “neutralize” two other acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—which were passed in order “to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.” Rep. Mark Thornberry (R, Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D, Washington) are co-sponsors of the bipartisan amendment.

Hastings says that “the new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public.” One Pentagon official who is concerned about the amendment told Hastings, “It removes the protection for Americans. 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.” The official added that there are “senior public affairs” officers in the Department of Defense who would like to “get rid” of the Smith-Mundt Act “and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In a Mediaite piece last week, Josh Feldman wrote of how the US military has been looking for new ways to spread U.S. propaganda “on social media websites for a while now.” Feldman also made reference to an article that was published in Wired last July. In the article, Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine, Adam Rawnsley told of how the DoD “has been working on ways to monitor and engage in ‘countermessaging’ on social media sites like Twitter.”

According to Hastings, the Pentagon already spends about $4 billion dollars annually to “sway public opinion.”

Here’s something to chill you to the bone: Hastings reported that USA Today had recently published an article about the DoD having spent “$202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.” Well, it appears that the reporters who worked on the USA Today article were targeted by “Pentagon contractors, who created fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in an attempt to discredit them.” (Read about that story here.)

One of Hastings sources on the Hill told him, “I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing.” The source added that the law would allow “U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.”

Michael Hastings:

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

The upshot, at times, is the Department of Defense using the same tools on U.S. citizens as on a hostile, foreign, population.

Is this how we want our tax dollars being spent—to produce propaganda aimed at us Americans to sway public opinion?


Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban (BuzzFeed)

Congress May Reverse Ban On Domestic Distribution Of Propaganda Material (Mediaite)

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine (Wired)

Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor (USA Today)

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill. The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mark Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State. (Investment Watch Blog)

238 thoughts on “How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized?”

  1. ID707,

    Thanks for the compliments. I got out of the Navy in 1982. Haven’t been on a ship since.

  2. Matt,

    You had said you had been in the Navy, thus calling you seaman was appropriate. But fireman is OK too.

    And let me congratulate you in being the first at Turley’s to tell me to stay in Sweden. Do you often tell people to go back where they came from? Same-same. Very brief, but hardly an argument, wouldn’t you agree.

    Personally, I believe you have been drunk this evening.
    That’s why I said to go back to your ship as you are not in shore shape.
    But being inebriated, which induces a certain incredible stubbornness in those who inbibe, you will not take a hint.
    You have been amusing, But hardly as you thought you were.
    Others have been kind to you, which is part of being human and SOP. Humor drunks, they can go bad, and besides they are pitiful.

    Ever thought of joining the AA? Good idea. Recommend it.

  3. It seems to me that if America already has a law prohibiting our military-with-a-government from propagandizing the American electorate — otherwise known as “the enemy” — then that law needs no amendment.

  4. Dredd,

    Don’t be sorry. Just because you think the message didn’t get through doesn’t mean it didn’t.

  5. Matt Johnson 1, May 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm


    I was in the Navy. I wore boots, and I had a knife. There aren’t any foxholes in the ocean.

    Watch out for preachers who don’t know what they’re talking about. And don’t drink the lemonade.

    My apology to bettykath. Maybe I’ll buy a Harley.
    My point was that the curse “your mother wears combat boots” became a blessing through the power of propaganda.

    It seems I failed to convey that message clearly. Sorry.

  6. Matt Johnson 1, May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I already put in an absentee ballot. Scott Walker is going down.
    That would be great.

  7. Matt Johnson-

    After reading your last dozen or so comments, I have to ask- Are you the inventor of the “Non Sequitur”?

  8. bettykath,

    Thanks for the explanation and the apology. If I do a motorcycle, I drive. And I decide who rides with me. Those who ride with me will be appreciated and will not be debased. No bitch seat. Get your own bike and we ride side by side.
    I used to have a Honda 750. I think the next one will be a Harley.

  9. shano,

    I already got my hair cut in boot camp. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. BTW – The girls didn’t have to get their hair cut. We used to call the girl Marines BAM’S. Don’t ask me what that means.

  10. I do hope Walker loses in Wisconsin. I may have to ask Mr. O’Keefe to send his cameras to follow me to make sure that I don’t vote in my neighboring state of Wisconsin! 🙂

  11. I already put in an absentee ballot. Scott Walker is going down.

  12. Matt,

    Thanks for the explanation and the apology. If I do a motorcycle, I drive. And I decide who rides with me. Those who ride with me will be appreciated and will not be debased. No bitch seat. Get your own bike and we ride side by side.

  13. BB, but Mitt will be sure to cut our hair. He may even use force to do so. Not sure I want that.

  14. bettykath,

    Thanks for the suggestion. Voting third party or for a write in is probably what I will do. But that doesn’t stop me from asking the question about Romney in particular and about the fear factor of leaving the Democrats and their party in general (It is no longer my party).

    Again, the assumption that it’s OK to criticize Democrats/Obama as long as you vote for them very much needs to be challenged. If that is what someone wants to do with their vote based on a belief in either, fine, but if they agree that Obama is committing atrocities, or if they recognize that Democrats haven’t fought hard for progressive legislation since the 80’s, and haven’t succeeded in getting any passed since the 70’s (and even then) then one can reasonably ask them to review the sanity of it, never mind the practicality. They instantly render themselves and any demand for change or improvement totally, utterly, tragically irrelevant. Is doing so not simply perpetuating/enabling the political equivalent of battered wife syndrome?

    It’s possible that voting simply goes to binary la-la land now-a-days, but it’s more likely that even with considerable abuse, it still counts for a lot. Something tells me that Pols want not only to fool people, but to then get lots of love from them in the form of ballots. To me, the greatest corruption right now exists not in voting, nor in the counting of the votes, but rather in how it is decided who we get to choose from. For instance, it should come as little surprise what a poor choice we have in 2012. Obama or perhaps Obama or what about splitting that up, O-B-A-M-A?. With this economy, and all these people getting illegally thrown out of their houses with no bankers even being challenged, never mind brought to trial, and all these wars that never really end, and all the new ones, such as in Yemen, being started, one would think there would be a whole slew of Democratic candidates to choose from.

  15. ID707,

    Nobody gives a rat-ass whether or not you have a parachute. And don’t piss off the Beavers. I went to Boise State.

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