Fantasy Land at USAGM and VOA

OPINION

Bureaucracy Warning Sign

U-SAG-M Fantasyland

 

Special 2018 Holiday Edition

 

US Government International Media?

 
By The Federalist

 
 

The U-SAG-M fantasyland is in full swing during the 2018 holiday season. As we’ve said many times before, you can’t make this stuff up. The agency just keeps dishing out mounds of delusion in its effort to convince the unknowing that it really deserves to exist.

It doesn’t.

The mission – which the agency has failed miserably – does deserve to continue, but not with this agency and the cast of government bureaucrats running it with the help of friends and associates they have hired in recent years.

This time around, the agency has really outdone itself.

It starts with a tweet from President Trump bemoaning what he sees as the skewed world view of the Cable News Network (CNN) and its portrayal of the United States. Mr. Trump then states he wishes there were a network to portray the United States in a more positive way with foreign audiences.

It appears that Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett thinks that Mr. Trump is completely unaware of the existence of U-SAG-M in general and the aged and now decrepit Voice of America (VOA) in particular.

How can this be?

 
 

1. Hasn’t the agency’s apparent freebie superstar Greta Van Susteren done interviews with a variety of administration officials, including Mr. Trump himself? Perhaps he thinks she is still working for CNN or some other media outlet that she has worked for over the years.
 
2. As part of the apparatus of the State Department, hasn’t Secretary Mike Pompeo or Undersecretary Heather Nauert briefed the president on the existence of this federal agency?
 
3. Has White House staff compartmentalized Mr. Trump’s information flow, choosing not to draw attention to this agency for fear of how he may react?
 
4. Has not President Trump nominated Michael Pack to be the new CEO of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the parent federal agency of the Voice of America?
 
 
Be assured: Secretary Pompeo and Undersecretary Nauert know this agency very well. What they know they may not want to share with Mr. Trump.

Be also assured that White House staffers are also fully aware of this agency existence and its many, many shortcomings. This includes National Security Council (NSC) staff and others. They have received copies of offensive anti-Trump memes posted on Facebook by a few VOA English newsroom reporters, as well as copies of one-sided VOA videos showing uninterrupted several minutes of the burnings of American and Israeli flags.

While at times this agency seems to have spent most of the 21st century going subterranean out of sight, out of mind and out of relevance, every now and then a story does surface about the agency and its outrageous goings-on.

Whatever it is, on its face the agency has succeeded in making itself generally invisible and irrelevant at the highest levels of the US Government.

Not missing a beat, Russia Today (RT) picked up on the Trump tweet and had a field day reporting on it:

RT didn’t spend a whole lot of space on its website on the Trump tweet but just enough to make Trump and others look ignorant and ill-informed as to the existence of the agency. In so many words, this ignorance is testament to the agency’s success at making itself invisible and irrelevant…except of course to people in US media with a hard-Left world view and who salivate like Pavlov’s dog at anything that directly or remotely suggests presidential intent on crafting his own narrative via the agency to offset whatever is being churned out by CNN and other like-minded media outlets.

One thing that RT did do was steal a march on the hapless, ill-led and dysfunctional management of U-SAG-M.

Late to the game came Amanda Bennett, the Voice of America (VOA) director in an op-ed to the Washington Post:

The vision we have of Bennett is someone figuratively flapping and flailing away and literally saying, “Over here! Over here!” to draw attention to the agency.

Ms. Bennett might have been better advised by the sycophants around her:

“Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”

Here’s the reality:

U-SAG-M and the VOA in particular, are anything but what Mr. Trump envisions.

This agency has a virulent dislike for Mr. Trump:
 
 

✓ It has portrayed Mr. Trump as male genitals.
 
✓ It has juxtaposed Mr. Trump’s face with the Nazi swastika.
 
✓ It has posted a crude, obscenity-laced anti-Trump diatribe by actor Robert DeNiro.
 
✓ Employees in its newsroom crudely lampooned not only Mr. Trump but also his wife in its 2016 “VOA Follies” spoof – something we have noted previously it had never done with previous presidents including the outgoing Obama family.
 
✓ In short, the VOA is little more than a camp follower of the Leftist media which Trump despises.

 
 

Another item of note for Mr. Trump and his advisers:

The agency is led by two Obama holdovers: John Lansing (the agency CEO) and Bennett (the VOA director).

These two individuals have presided over the rapid collapse of the agency’s mission. From a managerial point of view, they are a couple of government bureaucrats surrounded by incompetent, inept and corrosive careerists in the bureaucracy who have been busy hardening their burrowed-in status and rewarding themselves with cash awards and fake performance accomplishments.

“Dysfunctional” and “defunct” are too generous descriptions for this agency and those whose intention is to maintain a death grip on it.”Practically defunct” was the term used by Hillary Clinton in 2013 in reference to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the previous name of the United States Agency for Global Media. Mission failure is fine with them, hiding behind fake news as to the size of its audiences and its impact.

The VOA newsroom has made a point of bemoaning any real or imagined attempt by the Congress or the Trump administration to reform the agency. They have busied themselves worrying over external threats to the agency’s existence.

But in the greatest of ironies, Bennett’s pandering to the Trump tweet shows that the real threat is internal: Obama appointees desperate to hang onto their control of the agency continue with the agency’s failings and a passive-aggressive approach to obstructing administration policies.

Both Lansing and Bennett have demonstrated themselves to be mercenary self-aggrandizers, obsequious to anyone who they think will allow them to continue to encumber the positions they hold.

The Trump administration itself is not without blame for this state of affairs. For months, the administration has had a name hanging out there as an intended nominee to take over the agency: Michael Pack. Where Pack figures in all of this is unknown. But a good piece of advice for Pack would be to get his Senate confirmation immediately. With each passing day the conditions within this agency make it all the less likely that its dysfunction and decay can be stopped and reversed.

By the way, the agency chose to use a photo of the chief of the VOA Farsi Service to go along with the Bennett op-ed. The service is one of if not the most fractious services in the agency with loyalties divided among royalists, regime sympathizers and pro-dissident elements. Back in Iran, the service is often called “the voice of the mullahs.” Like most of the rest of the agency, its credibility is suspect. This was confirmed in an independent study commissioned by the BBG and then ignored. The same management is still in charge of the agency and VOA.

This is the kind of sheer lunacy we have come to expect from Bennett and her cohorts. And it is also a perfect example of how the agency plays government officials and the American people for chumps: not knowing the internal rot that is embedded in their bureaucratic domain.

One last thing:

As some of our colleagues suggest, Mr. Trump may be crazy like a fox.

One can look at his tweet as bait. And without fail Bennett chomped down hard on the bait like “Jaws.”

Bennett made the tactically and strategically unwise move of putting the agency above the radar. Predictably, it is being shot at, as one can gather from the comments to her Post op-ed piece, the reaction here at BBG Watch and even among her Leftist cronies in the media. What is she going to say: that she is going to stand up against Trump?

Mahtab Farid, an Iranian-born American journalist who has done work for the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan and has documented many of VOA’s news failures called Amanda Bennett’s Washington Post op-ed a “biased and fake opinion piece,”

Ms. Bennett may very well hear: Good Luck, good-bye and good riddance.

Really.

Because her op-ed allows knowledgeable individuals inside the administration to show Mr. Trump what this agency has been up to from the 2016 election to the present as a haven for anti-Trump bias.

Should these individuals have the fortitude to show Mr. Trump what has really been going on…well, it may not be pretty and may make the agency’s future questionable.

And if these same individuals use the agency’s alleged audience numbers they might well argue that this is how the agency is poisoning the well of global public opinion toward the United States.

The Federalist
November 2018

 
 

Here are some images from the Voice of America during the period under the watch of VOA Director Amanda Bennett and USAGM CEO John Lansing.

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