Full Meltdown Mode for Voice of America and BBG

OPINION

Bureaucracy Warning Sign

Full Meltdown Mode

 

Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America: Information War Lost

 
By The Federalist
 
Let’s get to the point:

John Lansing (chief executive officer [CEO] Broadcasting Board of Governors) and Amanda Bennett (Voice of America [VOA] director) need to be replaced.

Soonest.

If necessary, an interim management team needs to take over comprised of individuals outside the agency. The agency’s senior bureaucracy is tainted, corrupt, incompetent and protective of personal agendas. It is the antithesis of professionalism in the Federal Service.

The latest failing is being reported as racist, sexist and homophobic social media posts by allegedly a Voice of America (VOA) staff reporter employed by VOA’s parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

What really happened remains to be seen. Getting to the facts can be a difficult proposition with this agency and with third party accounts.

Read more here about the allegations.

VOA Investigating Reports Staff Writer Posted Racist Comments Online | VOA News, November 15, 2017, 3:18 PM

And we have a statement from Amanda Bennett, the VOA director:

From: Amanda Bennett
 
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 9:41 PM

 
To: VOA Notices

 
Subject: SOCIAL MEDIA
  
Friends—
 
As some of you may have seen recent media coverage alleging misconduct by a VOA staff member regarding social media activities, I wanted to provide you with a copy of my statement provided in response to media inquiries on the matter:
  
Voice of America has zero tolerance for public or personal racist, sexist, or politically biased social media communications. Our policies make it very clear that such behavior is prohibited. We are investigating these reports as quickly as possible and will respond accordingly.
 
My best,
 
Amanda

This statement is a crock. Here is why:

First, lack of professional deportment begins with Bennett. A salutation of “Friends” makes the U.S. Government agency look like “The Amanda Bennett Social Club.”

This is an agency of the Federal Government. Employees are not your “friends.” They should be addressed professionally as the staff and not a collection of your pals. “Friends” of the boss are far less likely to take any professional instructions and warnings from the boss seriously, especially if they were already told by their boss how “fantastic” they are.

More importantly, the agency has demonstrated repeatedly that it is the opposite of friendly toward its employees. It is reflected in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). The agency is at/or near the bottom and has always been so. It is the worst-managed medium size agency in the Federal Government. Senior agency officials, who are “friends” of the VOA director, have created and perpetuated a hostile atmosphere and working environment. It is institutionalized policy.

Second, professional deportment is an anachronism at the Voice of America. The lack of professionalism exists at all levels of the agency but is at its worst among senior agency managers and in the VOA English newsroom.

At the senior level, the driving force is the avoidance of accountability and responsibility for anything that goes badly inside the agency.

And there is plenty.

Third, BBG Watch has illustrated through many examples that responsible journalism is also a thing of the past inside the agency. The agency has a pronounced anti-Trump bias. It has depicted Trump in various illustrations, political videos and in vicious sarcasm in a holiday parody put on by the VOA newsroom following the November 2016 election. Some staffers appear to view themselves as part of the so-called “resistance” to the Trump administration. It is the kind of behavior that would have sparked outrage if directed toward the previous Obama administration. The independent and non-partisan Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) warned VOA and BBG executives, as well as BBG Board members, about “unprecedented bias.” Despite these warnings, the misconduct continued and intensified in 2016 and 2017.

Donald Trump with Nazi swastika GIF – a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter's personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.

Donald Trump penis GIF – a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter’s personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.

In the official VOA-produced video based on a third-party video, which was posted for several days on the official Facebook page for one of VOA’s foreign language services, Donald Trump was called by a Hollywood actor “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid”. No rebuttal, response or context of any kind were added by VOA to the video, for which VOA provided foreign language subtitles for the name-calling. The video showed a Voice of America logo in the right top corner. (The entire video was eventually removed after much criticism for its one-sided, unanswered and unbalanced attack.)

 

 
In a federal building and on government time, some of the VOA Newsroom reporters, editors and managers amused themselves telling crude sexist jokes about Mrs. Melania Trump and Kellyanne Conway, streaming some of them live on Facebook.

VOA EMPLOYEE: “And the No. 1 top reason to love America: It’s where a woman who posed naked for a men’s magazine can be First Lady!”

In another public Facebook post on a personal page, a VOA reporter called Donald Trump:

“F*ckface Von Clownstick.”

The full post on the VOA reporter’s public Facebook page read:

“if F*ckface Von Clownstick gets elected on Nov 8, I will not be able to say anything on Facebook against him anymore, as dictatorship will have descended on this land.”

This is believed to be the first ever public use of an F-word by a Voice of America employee to describe a future or current U.S. President.

Making an obscene gesture to anti-Iran regime demonstrators in New York did not disqualify an outside contract commentator from continuing to moderate Voice of America programs about Iran. How can VOA director Amanda Bennett, BBG CEO John Lansing and their deputies expect VOA reporters not to use obscenities on social media if they had ignored such behavior before or allowed individuals who display such behavior to go back to work as if nothing had happened?

Screenshot of Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Kenneth Weinstein retweeting a video showing a Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting personality confronting anti-Iran regime demonstrators in New York.

The current allegations against a VOA reporter involve sexist social media posts. But VOA reporters had engaged in public sexist lampooning of Kellyanne Conway, an aide to President Trump, and the BBG and VOA senior management did nothing in response.

Lampooning Kellyanne Conway at the Voice of America, December 14, 2016.

A humiliating bingo game on the VOA website on the day of President Trump’s inauguration was eventually removed, but some VOA reporters continued to mock the president and those who voted for him.

One VOA English writer posted on Facebook: “New favorite game: spot the Trump supporter on Metro.”

A frequent outside commentator who participated in VOA opinion programs during the 2016 presidential election campaign, tweeted: “Starts to rain as #trump speaks #inauguration God is crying.”

Some VOA program managers, editors and reporters also included in taxpayer-funded VOA programs what critics describe as one-sided and unproven smears aimed at Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Harry Reid, both Democrats. But Donald Trump has been by far the main target of biased political reporting on the official VOA English news and commentary websites.

In short, political bias in agency news coverage is of significant concern.

Remember too the agency also used a promotional announcement targeting a Pakistani audience depicting Uncle Sam as a bloodthirsty vampire. The vampire video predates the Lansing-Bennett-Sugawara team but not Jeff Trimble and the rest of the entrenched senior management.

Fourth, and just as telling, the agency must now provide “journalism training” to its employees. We don’t know who is conducting this “training.” But it is evident that the “training” is having no material impact. Call it “journalism training” or “journalistic standards” the end result is that certain employees treat either as squiggly lines on pieces of paper and little more. Lack of leadership and lack of effectiveness in this so-called “training” has enabled and facilitated an environment ripe for problems.

Among the ranks of retired agency employees, a common refrain has been and continues to be, “you come to the agency trained, not for training.”

Most importantly, agency employees do not understand that they are employees of a Federal entity 24/7. This is a standard often seen applied in the private sector. It needs to take root inside this agency.

And it hasn’t. Almost defiantly so.

In some respects, what is being witnessed is a kind of imitation of what is seen in the private sector where you don’t have journalists but instead ideologues playing to the political Left or Right. Thus we have the “junior varsity” represented by some agency employees trying to play it like the big boys at the more visible media outlets.

Fifth, we recall Bennett referring to the agency’s bureaucratic hacks as a “fantastic leadership team.”

Saying so, with all that has transpired in her tenure, creates the appearance if not the fact that Bennett is grossly incompetent in her position. The statement becomes more imbecile with each new incident that occurs. She had plenty of warnings after each of the previous incidents of insulting and obscene social media posts by VOA reporters and they continued to occur again and again with increasing regularity. She issued instructions against such behavior but does not know how to prevent it, and neither does her boss.

Lansing and Bennett need to be sent packing. They are clearly not up to the task.

The White House, with its hands full of other issues, plays right into the strategy of agency bureaucrats whose top priority is to delay and obstruct necessary reforms to recover the purpose and effectiveness of this agency.

Even if the White House has a candidate in mind to nominate as the CEO to replace Lansing – and by extension Lansing’s deputy Jeffrey Trimble, Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara – that individual faces a hostile senior bureaucracy and a professionally deficient workforce.

We should always remember that this hostile senior bureaucracy and some agency employees are very willing to do everything they can to publicly assassinate the character of anyone designated to head the agency. It is important for the White House to recognize this and disabuse itself of the notion that any one person can singlehandedly effect a major turnaround in any reasonable amount of time. This hostile bureaucracy is laying in wait, eager and willing to make life miserable for anyone.

It’s time to clean house. At this juncture, the most expedient way to do so is transfer the functions of the agency to elsewhere in the Federal government and abolish the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and that haven for bureaucratic intrigue within the agency, its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Both are synonymous with dysfunction and failure.

The Federalist
November 2017

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