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Voice of America is Chinese propaganda? White House goes after own agency in bizarre newsletter attack

Nebojsa Malic
Nebojsa Malic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

Voice of America is Chinese propaganda? White House goes after own agency in bizarre newsletter attack
Billions of people across the world have known for decades that Voice of America is US government-funded propaganda. The White House apparently just noticed – and chose to call them out in a blog post, rather than officially.

VOA, as it is known, “too often speaks for America’s adversaries—not its citizens,” said a scathing post in the 1600 Daily newsletter on Friday, accusing the service of having “amplified Beijing’s propaganda.”

At issue was VOA reporting about the celebrations in Wuhan, China and praise for the Covid-19 lockdown imposed by the Chinese authorities there as a successful model to combat the coronavirus. The newsletter further accused the agency of using Chinese government statistics in graphics comparing coronavirus death tolls. 

To make a point that VOA is engaged in a pattern of bad behavior, the newsletter brought up how it “helped highlight” the Twitter feed of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif last year, while he was threatening the US and “sharing Russian anti-US propaganda videos.”

The rant wrapped up by waxing nostalgic about better times during the Cold War, when VOA was “promoting freedom and democracy across the world for audiences who longed for both.”

Also on rt.com No Covid-19 fake news on RT, EU accusations are ‘problematic’ – UK watchdog

One doesn’t have to be a Washington insider to understand that if the Trump administration, or any other, were unhappy with VOA it would have made more sense to call whoever’s in charge of the United States Agency for Global Media – VOA’s parent body since August 2018 – and give them an earful. If the VOA has indeed gone rogue, airing that grievance via a newsletter makes the White House look powerless to do anything about it!

As if things couldn’t get any more outlandish, VOA Director Amanda Bennett’s internal memo complaining that the White House was insulting heroic VOA staff who risk their lives “to give fact-based, fair, unbiased news and information to the world” was reported by the South China Morning Post, the Alibaba-owned Hong Kong paper of record.

Bennett can protest all she wants that her service is “thoroughly covering China’s disinformation and misinformation” in English, Mandarin and 45 other broadcasting languages – whoever leaked her memo to China just proved the White House’s point.

The rest of the world might be scratching its head, wondering who is in charge in the US if federal agencies can just do whatever they please. Then again, that very same world has probably struggled to make sense out of federal bureaucrats trying to get Trump impeached, the CIA falsely accusing the president-elect of conspiring with Russia, the FBI spying on his campaign using fraudulent warrants based on a debunked dossier… A $200 million-a-year propaganda outfit not breathing fire against designated “adversaries” such as China, Iran and Russia looks like small potatoes in comparison.

Serious as all that is, the sight of the White House calling out one of its own agencies in a newsletter – when a Trump tweet would have been less embarrassing – just looks like a particularly insane episode of an American remake of The Thick Of It. Someone somewhere owes Armando Ianucci royalties.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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