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Liberal media alarmed US propaganda arm Voice of America may ‘become propaganda’ (the wrong kind) under Trump nominee CEO

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

Liberal media alarmed US propaganda arm Voice of America may ‘become propaganda’ (the wrong kind) under Trump nominee CEO
Mainstream media and Democrats are howling in protest that the new head of the US propaganda agency might make it a… propaganda agency. Also literally kill people by denying them visas, maybe, disgruntled employees say.

Ever since Michael Pack was confirmed by the Senate in early June to lead the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), there has been a steady drumbeat of alarmist stories about how this nominee of President Donald Trump was ruining everything. Vindictive employees purged by Pack went so far as to reveal the USAGM has served as a conduit to “pro-democracy protesters” in Hong Kong, thinking nothing of it.

Also on rt.com US used media agency to covertly aid Hong Kong protesters, but tell us how ‘foreign meddling’ is a threat to ‘our democracy’

A whole lot of maybes

The latest outrage is over what Pack “might” decide to do, with the New York Times and the Guardian citing anonymous sources and recently fired employees to paint a picture of potential death for journalists from Thailand, Cambodia or China if they lose their visas.

As many as 100 foreign citizens working for Voice of America (VOA) might not have their visas extended once they expire, according to people familiar with the planning,” the Times reported, adding that this could be a blow” to VOA’s news-gathering abilities. Pack has indicated he may not approve extensions” of J-1 visas. 

The Times even brings in David Ensor, a former director of VOA, to explain that “J-1 visas are a crucial tool for management to get the talent that is needed to run a complex multilingual news organization.” 

As usual, the devil is in the details. Notice the whole lot of could-might-may not qualifiers employed in the article, as well as anonymous sources. It’s the same tactic the Times used in the now-debunked “Russian bounties” hysteria, which went away as soon as it served its purpose – getting Congress to block US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Visa misuse

Ensor was indeed a VOA director – back between 2011 and 2015, moving on to the Atlantic Council and academia afterward. His description of the J-1 visa is, however, at odds with that of the State Department, which lists it as an “exchange visitor” program that enables foreigners to “study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.” 

In other words, they are meant to expire at some point and for their recipients to go back to their home countries as carriers of US values and practices, not be used as a way of securing an indefinite pool of cheap foreign labor.

Sure enough, a spokesman for USAGM told the Times the review of visas was intended to improve management and protect national security, so it was “imperative to determine that hiring authorities and personnel practices are not misused.”

Also on rt.com ‘Destructive ideas’: Russia accuses US state-run media of spreading fake information about constitutional amendment vote

That information is entirely missing from an alarmist write-up of the same issue in the Guardian, which changed the tone from possible to definite and relied on quotes from recently fired employees – who surely have no ax to grind with Pack.

Sending the “brave journalists home to face a truly uncertain fate is enormously cruel and wildly inappropriate,” the outlet quoted Steve Capus, a CBS editor who was fired from his advisor job at USAGM. That quote made it into the headline, no less.

Another – anonymous – employee fired by Pack accused the new boss of “sending people home, perhaps to their deaths? And that’s not hyperbole.” Except it clearly is.

#NotMyPropaganda

The best part of the Guardian story was when it noted that Pack’s “purge” has “raised concerns” that he would “pack VOA with Trump loyalists and turn it into a propaganda outlet.”

Except that  VOA already is a propaganda outlet, with the explicit mission to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” in accordance with the “broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.” Says so right on the tin.

Also on rt.com Voice of America is Chinese propaganda? White House goes after own agency in bizarre newsletter attack

The best part is that it wasn’t just anyone who raised concerns, but House Democrats – who would stop breathing if Trump endorsed oxygen. The Guardian even linked to a piece about Democrat outrage by VOA itself, from last month, a strange look for an agency pretending to be independent while literally obligated to serve Washington’s foreign policy goals.

Unless, of course, VOA and USAGM employees don’t have objections to being propaganda, only being the wrong kind – in that they dislike serving the policy priorities of the elected president and prefer those of the Washington “swamp” instead. In that case, a cynic might suggest it might be more ethical to seek employment at the Times, Guardian, CNN or any other mainstream outlet with the exact same political bias. But who are we kidding? There is no ethics in journalism, or in Washington.

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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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