Rare bipartisanship

It’s good to see the parties working together for a change:

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mark Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

59 replies
  1. 1
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Drag. This calls for raising the terror threat level to at least orange.

  2. 2
    gbear says:

    Well, if Romney gets elected, he’ll need that. Might as well get it in place now.

  3. 3
    Silver says:

    Like we haven’t been already? You forget the guy who helped to sweep My Lai under the rug (badly) giving a presentation at the UN by any chance?

    The professional killers at the Pentagon are sitting on the biggest PR firm in the world. Like any other weapon, they really really really want to play with it, so they will.

  4. 4
    Egg Berry says:

    I’m guessing the one from Texas is the R, since the article doesn’t specify.

  5. 5
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Ma mishtanah…

  6. 6


    House wingnuts would pass a bill shaking down their own mothers, if they thought it could help them politically, in some way. DOA – senate. Though I don’t know what Adam Smith is doing with this stupidity.

  7. 7
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Egg Berry:
    You’d be right. Also too, the article got his first name wrong. It’s Mac, not Mark.

  8. 8
    EconWatcher says:

    On its face, this is grotesque. But surely they must be offering some kind of benign excuse. What’s the official rationale for this?

  9. 9
    amk says:

    Fucking orwell must be turning like a fucking fan in his fucking grave.

  10. 10
    Unsympathetic says:

    I’m glad Fox News is finally legal.

  11. 11
    MariedeGournay says:

    You have got to be fucking kidding me.

  12. 12
    JGabriel says:

    It’s so nice to see our elected representatives working together to give our government the right to lie to us.

    Does this really have a chance of getting passed? Who’s asking for it?

    Edited To Add: The article says:

    According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    So I guess that sort of answers the “Who’s asking for it?” question: the DoD.


  13. 13
    gnomedad says:


    I’m glad Fox News is finally legal.

    Stop the thread, we have a winner!

  14. 14
    Clime Acts says:


    The professional killers at the Pentagon are sitting on the biggest PR firm in the world. Like any other weapon, they really really really want to play with it, so they will.

    You’re not supposed to say this here. You’re talking to a group that predominantly accepts the official 9/11 narrative AS IS.

    At BJ there are shady, hard to discern lines beyond which you are asked to not use critical thinking skills; to just move along…

  15. 15
    dollared says:

    Adam Smith. Boeing. Yup, it’s that simple.

  16. 16
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Clime Acts:

    You’re talking to a group that predominantly accepts the official 9/11 narrative AS IS.

    Could you tell us about the second shooter on the grassy knoll, the “moon landing” and the alien autopsy at Area 51 while you’re at it?

    As long as we’re talking “shady, hard to discern lines” and all.

  17. 17
    Amir Khalid says:

    Was the US propaganda disseminated abroad false or slanted? If so, why was it used at all? If not, what was the objection to disseminating it in the US?

    I recognize that by nature, propaganda is all too often slanted at best and loaded with lies at worst. This legislation might be doing no more than recognizing that the US can’t separate its propaganda into domestic and export versions anymore. It seems to me that the thing to worry about is not so much your government telling you one story and me something different, but whether it’s telling a complete and truthful story whoever the audience may be.

  18. 18
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    So how do you justify this position? Has a journalist approached Adam Smith and asked him?

    Fucking disgusting

  19. 19
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Clime Acts: I see nothing scandalous with the statement you cite. Seeing the military industrial complex for what it is does not require being a truther.

    @Amir Khalid: yeah, because all the us government does is tell the truth

  20. 20
    amk says:

    @Amir Khalid: Isn’t voa shut for good? Read recently somewhere to that effect.

  21. 21
    Arm The Homeless says:

    Who, exactly, is the constituency for this law? Are there PR officers in the DOD who are afraid they might be asked to build a campaign that skirts the line?

  22. 22
    EconWatcher says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: You had me, then you lost me. 9-11 truthers are indeed nuts. But i don’t think it’s fair to put in the same category everyone who questions whether Oswald acted alone. Yeah, there are some nuts among the Kennedy conspiracy theorists, but there are also some bizarre coincidences in Oswald’s associations if he acted alone. Don Delillo’s novel Libra poses a plausible hypothesis of conspiracy that mostly conforms to the factual record. I’m not necessarily a conspiracist, but Gerald Posner is full of it.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Amir Khalid says:

    @The Bearded Blogger:
    I’m not suggesting that the US government is so honest. I know quite well that no government is. I’m suggesting that the real issue for American citizens is holding the US government accountable for speaking truthfully regardless of the audience.

  25. 25
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @dollared: And Joint Base Lewis/McChord the largest employer in his district, plus Norm Dicks(D-Military Industrial Complex)Is retiring so he is bucking for the lagesse.

  26. 26
    amk says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Jussst great.

  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The truthers seem some sort of conspiracy about 9/11, to include premeditation on the US side.

    The explanation of what happened is pretty simple, relies less on conjecture, is supported by evidence, and is every bit as disturbing because one does not need to take massive leaps of faith to see its validity.

    The malassminstration knew SOMETHING was going to happen. They were not sure what. They did not take steps to enhance security, because none of them had ever read a Tom Clancy novel. So when it happened, they didn’t realize it was what their intel analysts had been telling them was coming. However, they had already planned on how to exploit an incident, and that plan was put into place for their political advantage.

    This is one of several reasons why Cheney cannot die a natural death.

  28. 28
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Agree on all accounts except that the reason the administration didn’t act on what they knew was a combination of incompetence and a desire to have their own pearl harbour.

    @Amir Khalid: Well a law enabling domestic propaganda won’t help keep the government honest.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    I’m suggesting that the real issue for American citizens is holding the US government accountable for speaking truthfully regardless of the audience.

    Why would a US citizen expect the USG to speak truthfully “regardless” of the audience?

  30. 30
    gaz says:

    Adam must want to be retired. This is washington. That shit doesn’t play here.

  31. 31
    alien_radio says:

    The original mighty wurlitzer was the CIA program designed the get around the prohibition of propagandising domestically. By having Stories planted in foreign press american press could report on them as if they were legitimate news items.. this allows ideas outside the terms of debate to become normalized in the same way that “teach the contrversy” or “both sides do it” or it’s direct descendant the wignut welfare wurlitzer does

  32. 32
    Tripod says:

    So not only is Battleship a bad film and box office failure, it’s illegal?

  33. 33
    FlipYrWhig says:

    How well has the existing ban worked? I’d say “not very well.” Remember “embedded reporters”?

  34. 34
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Tripod: I’m looking forward to seeing how Hasbro turns other boxed games into big-budget Michael Bay-style spectacles. Next, _Spirograph, The Movie_.

  35. 35
    BBA says:

    The ban on domestic propaganda is part of the reason why PBS and NPR are loose confederations of state and community stations rather than a full-service public broadcaster like BBC/CBC/NHK/Radio France/etc. and why VOA comes off as pure propaganda in a way that the international arm of the domestic public broadcaster (e.g. BBC World Service) would not.

    If we were proposing combining VOA/PBS/NPR into a properly funded American version of BBC to compete with for-profit media, there would be a good reason to eliminate the domestic propaganda ban. But we aren’t and there isn’t.

  36. 36
    Tripod says:


    Wait… did you know that there’s a direct correlation between the decline of Spirograph and the rise in gang activity? Think about it.

  37. 37
    Tripod says:


    Wait… did you know that there’s a direct correlation between the decline of Spirograph and the rise in gang activity? Think about it.

  38. 38
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Arm The Homeless: Well, they could be nervous that with BBC America on cable and Guardian and the Economist as sources of news, that the nervous propaganda will work its way home. But I doubt it. I believe it is more what JGabriel writes above. The longer the wars drag on the less popular they become (duh). So when you lie to the public and say “We’ll be treated as liberators”, they want to be able to plant even more photos of Iraqis celebrating by pulling down the statues of Saddam.

    I have a feeling that US wars are never really all that popular abroad and that perhaps their efforts at influencing public opinion in other countries is limited. Now, the US is actually fertile field for propaganda efforts, domestic reporters are more easily tricked and influenced, and actually the constiuency that matters the most. They also need to be able to counter those images that leak out on the net more effectively. But what they really think they can do is stop the cycle where after about three years, the “favor the war” numbers start to tumble when the “nation building” gets messy.

  39. 39
    Corner Stone says:

    Speaking of domestic propaganda:
    Detained protesters accused of Chicago terror plot
    “Defense attorneys alleged that the arrests were an effort to scare the thousands of people expected to protest at the meeting of world leaders. They told a judge that undercover police were the ones who brought the Molotov cocktails.

    “This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear,” defense attorney Michael Duetsch said.

    Later, outside the courtroom, Duetsch said two undercover police officers or informants who called themselves “Mo” and “Gloves” were also arrested during the Wednesday raid, and defense attorneys said they later lost track of the two.

    “We believe this is all a setup and entrapment to the highest degree,” Duetsch said.

    The trio was charged with providing material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of explosives.”

  40. 40
    Corner Stone says:

    If I were Greek I think I’d be wearing a bag over my head about now:
    Greek euro exit could be fast if needed: Slovenia
    Just getting [New Era of Civility approved language] slapped by Slovenia. That’s fucking shameful.

    “If not, there are other options, a real option, which is the option of Greece not being in the euro zone anymore… It’s not impossible to envisage a euro zone without Greece.” Finance Minister Janez Sustersic

  41. 41
    Bill Murray says:

    @Tripod: I’m pretty sure Romney’s health care plan will be based on Operation

  42. 42
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Tripod: I smell screenplay!

  43. 43
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Corner Stone: Yep. The reason that “but the US has successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists” argument gets laughed at by our leaders when they vote to pass bills allowing indefinite detention and torture is that a lot of those hundreds of cases look a lot like this.

  44. 44
    Corner Stone says:

    God. Give me a fuckin’ break.
    ‘NATO 3’ had targeted Obama campaign HQ, Rahm’s house, police stations, prosecutors say
    “A band of out-of-state “domestic terrorists” were accused Saturday of planning to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home — and firebomb police stations and squad cars — declaring that after the NATO Summit “the city will never be the same,” police and prosecutors said.”

    I feel like this government’s mindset is back in 2004 or some shit.

  45. 45
    Corner Stone says:

    And a kind of reverse propaganda attack by the USG:
    ‘Reporter’s Privilege’ Under Fire From Obama Administration Amid Broader War On Leaks
    “Before a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a Department of Justice lawyer argued that New York Times reporter James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.

    Rather than arguing the specifics of the case, DOJ appellate lawyer Robert A. Parker asserted that there is no reporter’s privilege when a journalist receives an illegal leak of national security secrets.”

  46. 46
    Corner Stone says:

    Rep Johnson’s probably doing it because he’s a member of the Professional Left, and hates Obummer.
    Rep. Johnson says no to the indefinite detention of Americans

    “It is Orwellian, un-American, and deeply unpopular,” Johnson said. “Our constituents sent us here to provide for the common defense, yes. But they also sent us here to safeguard their liberty,” said Johnson. “We have sworn to uphold the Constitution, and we must reject indefinite detention of Americans. Civilian law enforcement is more than capable of prosecuting terrorism suspects.”

  47. 47
    Tripod says:


    The overseas haul for “Battleship” goes part way to justifying its reported $209 million price tag. But after subtracting splits with theater owners and marketing costs, it is estimated to need about half a billion dollars at box offices to turn a profit.

    That’s not happening.

  48. 48
  49. 49
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Corner Stone: And that’s just the publicly known fee. The fees paid to Pakistani officials to get them to agree to the fee and continue to do so must be huge.

  50. 50
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Corner Stone: I’m beginning to think that we wouldn’t have any competent terrorists at all if they didn’t first meet with the FBI to give them “encouragement.”

  51. 51
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    No, I think terror threat level Blackwatch Plaid is more appropriate in this case.

  52. 52
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Corner Stone: I also find it funny that anyone thinks we’re going to do anything about Syria against Russian insistence that we don’t as long as we’re using a supply routes for Afghanistan that run through the Black Sea and Siberia.

  53. 53
    mattH says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Connect 4 as a thriller.

  54. 54
    James Gary says:


    “There! Diagonally!”
    “Pret-ty sneaky, Sis!”

  55. 55
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: If I was a Congressperson I’d vote against it. If I was a president and Congress had already voted for it, I’d probably accept that it had been done, lament that it had come to this, and pledge not to use it. I think the checks-and-balances issues are important to figuring out who’s supporting what and in what spirit.

  56. 56
    mclaren says:

    “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” — Hermann Goering

    “…the truth being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms of government. (..) The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery. (..) And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty…” — Plato. The Republic, Book VIII.

    “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’” – An uncredited New York Times reporter covering Halford E. Luccock in an article published September 12, 1938.

  57. 57
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig: “And I pledge, for the duration of this weekend’s car wash fundraiser, that I will not indefinitely detain any person without trial.”

  58. 58
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: A chilling vision of things to come.

  59. 59
    A.J. says:

    @The Bearded Blogger:

    That was my first thought – Why? Why would you write this addition to a Defense bill?

    Who prospers?

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