tl;dr

A new piece of U.S. legislation wants $10 million in taxpayer dollars to create government-sponsored propaganda campaigns. The House and Senate have passed it: the “Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill.”

the basics

“U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their [bipartisan] Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act – legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations – has passed the Senate as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report.” (source)

Senator Murphy cited the alleged ‘fake news crisis’ the media has been talking about for weeks, adding that “When the president signs this bill into law, the United States will finally have a dedicated set of tools and resources to confront our adversaries’ widespread efforts to spread false narratives that undermine democratic institutions and compromise America’s foreign policy goals.”

The bill was initially introduced to the Senate in March 2016 as the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016. It passed through the House of Representatives last week, and now that it’s passed the Senate, it will go to President Obama’s desk. It appears likely that Obama will sign the Act into law, although he hasn’t taken an official position on it.

What’s in this act?

The Act gives additional authority and resources to the Global Engagement Center (GEC), an interagency entity housed at the State Department. It was established through Executive Order 13721 in March 2016. The GEC’s purpose is to develop anti-terrorism messages and direct them at citizens of foreign countries, using a variety of sources. The GEC, in a nutshell, creates propaganda: to demoralize Middle Eastern terrorist groups and potential sympathizers.

Senators Portman and Murphy have decided to give the GEC more power, plus add China and Russia to the list of targets. A fund will also be established to ‘train’ journalists to identify and analyze foreign propaganda techniques. According to the Act’s press release, “The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.”

This is the most important part of the Act. It means the USA is booting up an enormous propaganda machine. (Which already existed in some form, but is about to get a lot bigger.)

You can read the full text of the Act here: (link)

Some of the more concerning parts, copied and pasted from the Act:

  • The Center shall carry out the following functions: (3) Developing and disseminating fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners.

  • Under “Diplomatic and Consular Programs”, for each of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, $10,000,000 is authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State and may remain available until expended to carry out the functions, duties, and responsibilities of the Center.
  • The Center is authorized to provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally-funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes: (D) To support efforts by the Center to counter efforts by foreign governments to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partners.

Why this act matters to U.S. citizens

Prominent people have been loudly condemning propaganda over the past few months. The media has been spreading their ‘fake news’ narrative. (Personally, I believe the “fake news” angle is primarily a PR move for mainstream to regain reader trust – which is at an all-time low.) Important people have been saying propaganda is bad. Really bad.

Yet our country is waging its own propaganda war. And they’re sinking $10,000,000 into stepping up their game. We have black-and-white proof that the United States creates and disseminates propaganda, and will have increased power to do it. Doesn’t that seem hypocritical?

Still, that isn’t the most important question. The question is… is the U.S. government targeting its own citizens with its propaganda machine? And if they aren’t already – will they do it in the near future?

Welcome to the world of Orwell’s 1984. The United States government wants to tell the world what to think.