Watch out Fox News – there’s a new media outlet for All Patriot News, All The Time. Two representatives have attempted to nullify the obscure Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 with an amendment buried in the latest Defense Authorization bill. The Smith-Mundt Act enabled the US Government to produce and distribute propaganda internationally, but prevented it from doing so domestically.
Blaming “the complexity of the internet” as the reason,* Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX) and Rep. Adam Smith (WA) have embedded their provision deep within the controversial NDAA (HR4310), recently passed by the House (with ayes from Utah’s delegation). This same bill carries language that allows indefinite detention of anyone for any reason, explicity bans gay marriages from occurring on military bases, and over-funds the Department of Defense contrary to the wishes of generals and violating the mandated cuts in funding negotiated in the debt ceiling hostage crisis last summer.
Hoping their amendment would act like a D-List celebrity at the Oscars and wouldn’t get noticed, the two Reps are now arguing that even if the government could propagandize domestically the “materials they have to do so are made for international audiences” and totally wouldn’t work here. In case you didn’t know, as a government you’re handed a set of ready-made propaganda and you’re never ever allowed to deviate from that material. That’s why, to this very day, we air drop wood-block carvings of British monarchical taxation injustice over Kandahar.
Naturally, people are suspicious. The law would give the government broad new powers to produce and distribute radio, television, newspaper, and social media propaganda for the U.S. public. A pentagon official said, “It removes the protection for Americans. It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.” It would appear that Fox News would become a department at the Pentagon. Trust me – when a Pentagon official is concerned about the sweeping power of your legislation, there’s something fucked up with it.
Perhaps, inspired by China’s “People’s Daily” massively successful IPO, the US is looking for a new source of revenue. Or perhaps some members of the government (whom Thornberry and Smith are beholden to) would really like to cloud the issues with more misinformation and chest thumping to drown out dissent and bad news. Regardless, it seems this controversial version of the NDAA will die a slow death in the Senate. Rest assured that this legislation will remain an undead zombie, and will be attached to some obscure piece of legislation again in the future. Like Daniel Baldwin sneaking into that after party to snag some hors d’oeuvres, this legislation will reappear when nobody’s watching. Before you know it, we’ll always have been at war with Eastasia.
*Curse those tubes! Always so confusing and leaking stories about us having affairs and being bribed.