The BBG Troll Farm
US Government International Media Information War Lost
By The Federalist
We have a Part Two to the commentary “The BBG Comedy Club” but it will have to wait for the moment.
Based on reports making their way out of the Cohen Building, we need to make a point:
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and senior agency officials have turned the agency into a troll farm disseminating disinformation and outright lies.
Case in point: the alleged “coup” to oust the BBG, John Lansing (CEO) and eventually Amanda Bennett (the Voice of America [VOA] director.
On its face, the notion is preposterous. But using the word “coup” plays nicely with the hysteria of the Left-wing press which failed to note that under Lansing and Bennett VOA has become politicized and partisan to an unprecedented level in its entire history. For many months, some VOA reporters have been openly mocking Donald Trump and his family on social media and posting countless one-sided VOA reports. This is Left-wing bias, not Right-win bias, of which there is none. If members of Congress and more Americans knew about some of the one-sided, biased reporting and commentary put out by VOA at taxpayers expense, they would be outraged and would demand that the agency be closed down. The Voice of America does not need a “Right-wing coup” or a “Left-wing coup.” What it needs is to be made to respect the VOA Charter.
Allegedly “right-wing coup” was to be orchestrated by a former agency senior official heading up the agency’s IT infrastructure and more recently also formerly in charge of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). What media reports failed to point out was that by all accounts he was a favorite manager of former BBG Democratic Chairman, Hollywood executive Jeff Shell, who on several occasions put him temporarily in key executive positions and publicly praised him, as did the BBG board and Mr. Lansing. Shell still occupies a Democratic seat on the BBG board.
One should note that for a time, the former agency executive who categorically denies the allegations and calls them “lies,” served as the interim CEO of the BBG at the recommendation of Mr. Shell and the board. Not too long ago, they put him temporarily in charge of Radio and TV Marti.
We are no fan of this former BBG manager. At the same time, the idea that a lower-level manager with a technical background would orchestrate a two-man “coup” at the agency without having access to the President or at least his chief of staff is ludicrous. “Coups” within the lower-ranking bureaucrats of government agencies to change the top leadership appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate are unheard of. If they ever happen, they are not orchestrated by one or two persons unknown to the President or his most senior aides. It simply doesn’t happen.
Worse, so-called “whistleblowers,” which they are not, themselves were able to orchestrate a media “coup” and buy-in to the notion on the part of Eliot Engel (D-NY) the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They must have used a lot of persuasion on him because he seems to have allowed himself to fall victim to word games on the part of people inside the agency. These BBG bureaucrats think themselves to be clever, deliberately casting themselves as “whistleblowers” to afford them protection. In some media reports, they were identified as “management whistleblowers” or “current and former BBG officials.” We think of a “management” whistleblower term as an oxymoron.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter:
The BBG and its cohorts within the agency are clearly desperate to hang on. It plays into what has clearly been their objective: to perpetuate dysfunctional status quo and business as usual. In the case of this agency, it means obstructing the reform process initiated during the Obama administration.
This agency has a long, long history of opposing reform and obstructing the process of reform. You will recall that when congressional legislation was introduced to initiate reform, an editorial written by a then-agency employee and appearing in the Los Angeles Times demanded, “Back Off Congress.”
And this is the agency where a group of VOA newsroom employees demanded that agency officials repudiate policy directives from the White House.
The Obama White House.
You will also note that this agency has consistently earned the lowest marks in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). It is and always has been one of the worst places to work in the Federal Government.
The agency’s mission effectiveness has been destroyed. It makes unilateral claims of successes where none exist in strategic target areas such as China, Iran and Russia.
Its audiences have simply vanished, contrary to make believe data the agency pushes but does not explain in detail.
But here is what is most important:
Members of the BBG and the CEO are presidential appointments. They serve at the pleasure of the President. They can be replaced and normally are replaced as administrations change and even within the term of an administration. This is not a coup. It is the normal process of government.
One should also note that under existing legislation, the BBG is supposed to be taken out of the daily running the agency and reconstituted as an advisory body.
The Trump administration has a person in mind to replace Lansing. The vetting process takes time and of late is dragging on this potential nominee, Michael Pack.
But our sense of the atmospherics inside the Cohen building is that the process is closing in and the group of individuals who have reduced the agency to a failed legacy operation are throwing anything and everything at the process to derail it if they can.
However, this latest agency transgression does serve a useful purpose. It gets the agency’s dysfunction well above the radar and provides momentum to the nomination process.
It does another very important thing in terms of unintended consequences: It lowers the agency’s already teetering reputation.
The actions of the individuals responsible for this latest piece of troll work are not paragons of virtue.
When agency officials deliberately engage in this kind of subterfuge, it casts a negative pall over all of what the agency does. Its credibility already weakened, this type of behavior serves to weaken it even more.
We have long argued that the agency needs to be reconstituted. The most likely scenario would be what is known as a “transfer of function” placing the agency inside another department.
To allow this agency to exist as a rogue operation, a “Broadcasting Board of Deceit” if you will, is not an acceptable option.
It is time to move the re-form and reorganization option forward with a new CEO, a new VOA director and a BBG board relegated to advisory capacity.
This kind of flagrant obstruction and resistance within the Federal Government cannot be tolerated.