This may be a case of you tell me, and indeed I'd be interested in seeing people's reaction to this bit of legislation that was quietly signed into law during the past few days' holiday season:
The heart of the concerns is reflected in these paragraphs:
Recall that as we reported in early June, "a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth had been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability.”
Also called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), when introduced in March by Sen. Rob Portman, the legislation represents a dramatic return to Cold War-era government propaganda battles. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the U.S. spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT.
“Surprisingly,” Portman continued, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”
Long before the "fake news" meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on such discredited mainstream portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would task the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.
In short, long before "fake news" became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label "fake news."
And so, with the likes of WaPo having already primed the general public to equate "Russian Propaganda" with "fake news" (despite admitting after the fact their own report was essentially "fake"), while the US media has indoctrinated the public to assume that any information which is not in compliance with the official government narrative, or dares to criticize the establishment, is also "fake news" and thus falls under the "Russian propaganda" umbrella, the scene is now set for the US government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the government deems to be "foreign propaganda."
Just like that, the US Ministry of Truth is officially born.
Now I don't know about you, but all sorts of images and thoughts are running through my mind. Not the least of these is Josef Goebbels, the Third Reich's Propaganda Minister. Goebbels was nothing if not cunning. Goebbels knew that outright lies would never work. For propaganda to be effective, it had to contain enough truth to sell the lie, which is the purpose of propaganda: sell the lie. How to do it? Wrap it in truth. Thus, the old Deutsche Wochenschau newsreels would show the decimation of the German cities as Allied and Soviet bombers were pummeling them into rubble. That was the truth part. It would not have done to say the bombing effort was unreal, or ineffective, since millions of Germans could easily see otherwise. The lie was contained in the pledges of "final victory", in the rumors of secret weapons, strategies, reserve armies, and so on. The technique, at its most basic, is a human one: tell (or show) the truth, inculcate trust, then sell the lie.
To reinforce the lie when even it could no longer be sold, it was reinforced with summary executions if a German even questioned the propaganda, and this is the problem with all propaganda ministries and "departments of truth." And I submit that it is also a problem inherent with this bill.
But I strongly suspect the real dangers already lie elsewhere, and it's an epistemological problem the corporate controlled media and any government propaganda organ now faces: their moral capital is already so low that no one trusts them any more, even if they should suddenly tell the truth, not just as the occasional matter, but as a consistent agenda. Think of the boy who cried wolf, once too often, until the wolf actually appeared, and no one believed him any more. Our corporate controlled media have been lying to us to drive political agendas for so long that no one believes them, from the USS Maine sinking, to the magic bullet, to Waco and "we did it for the children," to the whole 9/11 narrative, to dodging Darth Hillary's health issues and the constant drumbeat of a Hillary victory, and now, to the whole (largely collapsed) Russia hacked our elections meme. (No one seems to recall those Russian allegations years ago of US attempts to steal their elections from Mr. Putin).
Countering their own deplorable fake news record will be difficult, and the way that they will do so will be not through direct confrontation, but via already tried and tested means: planting false stories, having "fake commenters" commenting on websites, and particularly foreign ones, such as PressTV(the Iranian site), Al Jazeera, RT, and of course on various free and independent media sites. And these attacks will come in the form of exhibiting or displaying "more thorough research"... after all, the government has lots of money, and can hire researchers to nitpick anything to death, to find the "falsifying footnote" to embarrass any author of any story, corporate controlled media or otherwise. But this tactic will be coupled with the age-old tactic of pettifogging (which we may summarize by saying "look at this tree bark, not the forest.")
The bottom line? I'm less worried about some American version of Dr Goebbels (after all, we had those and still have them with the talking heads on the corporate controlled media). I'm more worried about how we will see an explosion of such techniques on the internet, and how many will succumb to those efforts and start believing them, even as the bombs are falling, and we're reassured of final victory...
...and of course, we need such a law, don't we, because after all, we need to counter the growing propaganda threat from the Russians, who just hacked our election (so we're told)...
Remember the Maine!
See you on the flip side...