Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War: Lost
By The Federalist
Some thoughts about the 2016 US presidential election:
This was Secretary Clinton’s election to win.
The victory went to Donald Trump.
Historians and others will analyze and debate the reasons why, but at the end of the day the responsibility for losing resides with Secretary Clinton. Taking responsibility for the loss is another matter. As we have already seen, Clinton spokespersons have placed the blame in other quarters and not with their candidate.
Polling and Mainstream Media
The US presidential campaign now has a long, tedious life span, at least a year if not longer. Early-on, pollsters were predicting a win for Secretary Clinton. In some cases, the win was predicted to be a landslide. There were also predictions that there was no conceivable way that she would not carry the necessary Electoral College votes by a wide margin.
In both cases the expected results did not occur.
Somehow lost in the election polling was earlier data which consistently demonstrated that large numbers if not a majority of Americans felt that the country was headed in the wrong direction. The results of the election seem to indicate that this polling should have been given more attention and be cause for concern.
Mainstream media has changed. We no longer live in the era of objective reporting and journalism. We are now in the era of advocacy, but still trying to call it “journalism.”
Americans were pummeled 24/7 with advocacy journalism in this election cycle. In addition, some “journalists” contributed to the Clinton campaign. While surely their right to do so, one wonders if this did not compromise their objectivity and credibility. On its face, what this amounts to is “buying” access to the candidate (literally or figuratively depending on your point of view). Contribute to the right campaign and you have four years of access to administration officials if not the president as well.
With what appeared to be large-scale support among mainstream media, it created a mindset that a Clinton win was virtually assured and pre-ordained. And this mindset continued into the early hours of returns on the evening of Tuesday, November 8.
This made the loss by Secretary Clinton and the win by Mr. Trump all the more shocking on the morning of Wednesday, November 9 for those Americans who did not stay up to the end of coverage in the very early hours of that morning.
SEE: Voice of America had two pre-written ‘Clinton will win programs’; none for Trump, VOA staffers say, BBG Watch, November 9, 2016
This is where the result of mainstream media coverage is all the more disturbing. In its effect, the coverage outwardly leveraged heavily in favor of Secretary Clinton created an atmosphere that she was entitled to win and that her supporters were entitled to her victory.
Now, the media is in a state of frenzied hysteria which in turn has been passed along to the American public.
Beyond shock, some Clinton supporters appear to be in mourning, having made a heavy emotional investment in the election outcome.
But others are angry and bitter. They have taken to public demonstrations, some turned violent by anarchists and rioters using the protests as cover for an entirely different agenda anchored in criminal activity.
It might also be suggested that there hasn’t been enough of a display of national leadership directing the American people to be calm, accept the rule of law and get on with their normal daily routines.
Extremism of the political Left or Right does not and should not determine the course of a transition in US government. Nor does this kind of violent anarchic behavior overturn an election. There are orderly processes in place to assure that election results are validated and civil order to prevail.
Also, governance does not come from either of these extremes. It comes from consensus: some form of middle ground: a sensible course to make, execute and enforce the law and civil order and proceed with the future direction of the country.
(Anti) Social Media
What was also visibly on display in this election was the toxic, rancid and visceral display of opinions on various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
Freedom of expression is a protected right under the US Constitution. At the same time, expressing views does have responsibilities. Too often, those responsibilities seemed to have been tossed aside and ignored.
There have been voluminous instances of emotions gone wild in comments offered on mainstream media pages and the astounding number of pages from non-mainstream media regarding the candidates and their platforms. Unfortunately, the rhetoric from both the Clinton and Trump campaigns contributed to the onslaught.
Among the lessons from this:
Civility suffered a serious blow. Regardless of what one’s views were/are one could be assured that if you offered these views as comments on social media you could expect to be subjected to a steady stream of toxic cyber-bullying.
Further, it laid bare the fact that the American public is extremely polarized, with two very different views regarding the country and the relation of the United States to the rest of the world.
One also got to see how seriously misinformed, uninformed and under-informed people can be and in turn be emotionally manipulated.
SEE: Message from Voice of America Director fails to acknowledge who won U.S. Presidency, BBG Watch, November 9, 2016.
If the American public was surprised or shocked by the election result, the reaction globally was even more so.
Once again, this is the effect of the editorial content coming from mainstream and social media. Indeed, it appears many parts of the world were just as beguiled by an erroneous projection of a Clinton victory.
That leads us to reflect on how US Government international broadcasting may have factored into the equation.
It is troubling and disturbing to read accounts by BBG Watch which observe that the Voice of America (VOA) made a serious departure from objective and balanced reporting, as called for in the VOA Charter, allowing what appears to be pro-Clinton and anti-Trump biases to be manifest in posts to the agency’s main English language website.
On its face, the impression is that the agency has embraced the same kind of advocacy “journalism” as seen in American commercial and social media.
This isn’t just bad.
It’s very bad.
This presents yet another clear and distinct reason why the agency is:
- “Regular Bottom Feeder” ; “Going Backward” Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson “Federal Insider,” The Washington Post, September 20, 2016.
- “Dysfunctional” (Heritage Foundation scholar Helle C. Dale)
- “Practically Defunct” (Hillary Clinton)
- “Broken” (US statesmen, diplomats, media experts and journalists interviewed by former BBG member S. Enders Wimbush and former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty executive Elizabeth M. Portale)
- “Truly Rudderless” or Leaderless (Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce)
The end result still is:
- “This Broken Agency is Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin,” House Committee on Foreign Affairs Blog, February 23, 2016.
Yes. Maintaining editorial balance can be a difficult task. But it is also a necessary task. Otherwise, global publics can easily be led astray. Voluminous propaganda abounds in the world. Shoddy and sloppy “reporting” by VOA doesn’t need to be contributing to the problem.
It also provides another argument for making big changes with US Government international broadcasting or closing VOA altogether. One would suspect that people in the Trump administration would not be happy with what VOA “journalists” were up to during the campaign and seeing those examples in reading BBG Watch. And you may be assured that BBG Watch is being widely read.
It is a foregone conclusion that changes will be coming to the Third Floor of the Cohen Building despite assurances to the contrary.
SEE: No Change of Leadership at Broadcasting Board of Governors, CEO John Lansing assures employees, BBG Watch, November 29, 2016
The chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will most certainly be replaced. If he hasn’t left (resigned) already, one would expect Jeffrey Shell to be on his way out. Even before the election, he made himself a rather public and political liability following the fiasco of his ejection from a never fully explained private business/official business Moscow visit earlier this year.
Also likely to go will be John Lansing (chief executive director) and Amanda Bennett (VOA director). The next administration has many appointments to fill and these posts will be among them. Shoddy reporting practices during the campaign may hasten their departure.
Of course, the real hardcore culprits are the senior career staff up on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building. Dealing with that group should be an important priority.
Third Floor Games
Now begins the games the Third Floor plays before the transition teams hit the ground.
As a result, you now see a flurry of memos and press releases, like an early winter snowstorm:
- A memo from John Lansing talking about what he thinks will be coming next.
- A memo from an agency functionary claiming a management solutions program to work on personnel and other issues.
- A press release claiming audience increases. We know this game and the way the agency tricks up its audience “research” with estimated as opposed to real audiences.
It’s all intended to create the false impression that this agency is actually doing something constructive.
It’s all suspect. A ruse. A diversion.
Members of the Trump transition team would be well served to speak with stakeholders outside the agency, including key members of congressional committees who have been dealing with the institutionalized dysfunction of this agency. It’s been going on for years, seemingly forever, and needs to be put to an end.
And the transition team should also know this: that among the agency’s bureaucrats there is no intention to engage in remedial action. The top priority remains: preserve the status quo.
The best “management solution” is to replace the current management. It is thoroughly inept, incompetent and corrupt.
On the audience estimates claimed by the agency, the elephant in the room is a global population of
The alleged 278-million weekly audience, divided among 40 language services within VOA alone, gets diluted very, very quickly when it comes to any measure of sustained resonance in light of:
1. questionable paid and unpaid placement in countries that have free media;
2. self-censorship to achieve such questionable placement; and
3. production of embarrassing animal videos, some of which not only make the United States and American taxpayers look ridiculous in the eyes of worldwide audiences but on occasion help to promote Russian propaganda narratives.
SEE: BBG CEO John Lansing’s digital tout and Voice of America cat video, BBG Watch, November 29, 2016
How do these “fabulous” BBG audience engagement claims look when checked against outside data that the BBG cannot manipulate, such as Facebook “Likes,” “Shares,” and “Comments?”
A BBG Watch report liked below explains how the Voice of America was humiliated on Facebook on Fidel Castro death coverage by Russia’s RT and BBC.
SEE: VOA, RT, BBC Facebook Castro posts compared: VOA 379; RT 11K; BBC 56K Likes, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016.
Lansing and Bennett should have the sense to be shopping their resumes for employment outside government. Every day that they remain in the agency perpetuates a dismal state of being, surrounded as they are by a group of inept and incompetent managers and sycophants.
The same applies to the BBG. While their appointments differ in lengths, the smart play for them is to pack their bags and get out.
When administrations change, the number of political appointments is staggering. One thing is certain: the Trump administration, like every administration before it, has people to place throughout government, including this agency.
As demonstrated repeatedly, corrective action must come from outside the Cohen Building. That will be the task of the incoming administration.