by The Federalist
To reiterate our opening to Part One of this series:
If the press releases by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) were Christmas presents, we’d have a closetful – stacked floor to ceiling.
These guys are the perfect combination of arrogance and incompetence – a combination that has led to a failed agency with a failed mission.
Let’s consider the latest press release from the BBG’s Public Affairs Office dated October 11, 2012: “BBG Condemns Jamming, Intimidation as Threats to Media Freedom.”
The press release describes the board’s “enduring outrage over persistent attempts to stifle the free flow of news and information through satellite jamming, intimidation and detention of journalists in Iran, Syria, Cambodia, Ethiopia and elsewhere.”
The press release goes on to cite specific cases that has the Board figuratively throwing a temper tantrum in a display of the one thing it is known for:
But, we thank the agency’s press flaks for at least obliquely acknowledging its failed mission and its failed “flim flam Soviet-style strategic plan;” or more to the point, the effective countermeasures being adopted by other governments that ensure its failure – on top of the ludicrous premises and faulty decision-making that are trademarks of the BBG and its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) staff.
Here’s the deal:
If you are the national government of a country that has a different point of view regarding press freedom, this press release acknowledges that you are being effective in blocking BBG programs.
These governments know that they can act with impunity and there is little or nothing the BBG (or the US Government) can do to stop them. When one talks about intimidation, it is evident that these governments are not intimidated one iota by the flailing temper tantrum of the BBG/IBB.
Further, they are taking advantage of the agency’s Achilles heel: abandoning its direct radio broadcasting in favor of satellite transmissions, in-country program placement or the Internet – all of which can be effectively interdicted by variety of means.
With regard to the pesky Iranians, when they block a BBG program transmitted by satellite, they may be disrupting all the channels transmitting from that satellite as well. That means other broadcasters are losing programming they pay for and the satellite company may be losing revenue. It’s happened before. The agency has been kicked off of other satellites. This is the Iranian “daily double:” knocking off BBG programs and doing a little collateral damage in the process to make the point of the BBG/IBB as a financial liability for satellite companies. The Iranians know when they have a good thing going, from their point of view. In effect, they are making a statement: don’t mess with us. It kind of reminds us when the Iranian Cyber Army hacked all BBG/IBB websites not long ago and posted a personal message to Secretary of State Clinton. We can still visualize the Iranian flag waving gently in the cyber breeze with an AK-47 near-by, across all BBG websites for something like five hours. These guys know what they’re doing and they do it well. And if you are the “geniuses” in the Cohen Building, you should be worried about how much further along and how much more sophisticated the Iranian capabilities have become since that memorable cyber attack.
In addition, these governments have gotten busy with legislation to impose press restrictions inside their countries. This is another “daily double:” they interfere with foreign news organizations reporting inside their borders and successfully clamp down on their own domestic media.
Recently, Cambodian government officials called in reporters of the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) for “cooperation” talks. Translation: that means “co-opting” talks. The BBG is gamely trying to hang on in Cambodia, but it may be a losing effort. Prime Minister Hun Sen (whose motto is: “The only person who can remove Hun Sen is Hun Sen”) is the kind of guy who would enjoy showing he’s the “big man on campus” by drop-kicking RFA/VOA out of his country. It adds to the image of toughness he likes to cultivate. He knows he has a lot to lose by RFA/VOA reporting inside Cambodia on a whole lot of issues. It would be a great play for him to send the agency’s reporters packing. And that would be a blessing for those reporters when juxtaposed to other tactics he could employ. The guy has a hair-trigger temper, literally as much as figuratively. You cross the guy and he will make sure you understand that doing so comes with consequences.
When a relatively small country like Cambodia can put a twist on agency reporters and programming, you know that the BBG has no muscle. They can mouth off a lot, as in these press releases. But these other governments hold some good cards and are not afraid to play them.
In this case, two employees of the BBG’s al-Hurra television have gone missing for over 50 days (and counting) inside Syria. This is not a good sign. Syria is in an all-out, no holds barred sectarian civil war. Both the Syrian government and the polyglot of insurgent militias have been cited for war crimes. These al-Hurra employees were last known to be reporting from Aleppo. Aleppo is the Syrian equivalent of Stalingrad. It is being systematically reduced to rubble, largely due to the Syrian armed forces using heavy artillery and air strikes in an urbanized environment.
It is understandable for the BBG to raise the issue of the welfare of al-Hurra employees Bashar Fahmi and Cuneyt Unal in a combat zone. At the same time, 50 days into this incident, one must take into account certain grim possibilities. At this juncture, we believe it would be better to work in a less public way through others rather than to continually raise the issue in press releases. Why?
Because it is another example of the lack of resonance the BBG has around the world. It creates the view that entreaties from the BBG are having zero effect and that the US Government is also powerless. These press releases put both of these deficiencies on global display. If these two employees are being held by someone, these press releases raise the value of holding them.
With this kind of track record, you know how we feel. We have zero tolerance for failure. Failure is hateful, contemptible and despicable; and the BBG/IBB has set upon it deliberately and they reward themselves for it. Seventy years worth of hard work building up US international credibility and prestige around the world is being reduced to nothingness by the mercenary IBB staff.
There is work to be done regarding these perpetuators of failure:
As to the BBG: it has demonstrated itself to be worthless as a management oversight and accountability body. Their appointments should be terminated immediately.
And as for that group of self-aggrandizers in the IBB: they should be removed from the Federal Service for cause.
It’s time for leadership: because this agency has none.
More to come.