Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – Press Releases and Other Pronouncements
by The Federalist
Here, we consider the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) press release of Thursday, September 13, 2012 and other pronouncements.
The press release features a photo of Secretary Clinton, Under-Secretary Sonenshine, members of the BBG and Richard Lobo, representing the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).
The first thing that struck us is: why are these people smiling?
This was a very bad week for the United States: an ambassador and staff members killed in Libya, US embassies assaulted, breached, and torched, riots and demonstrations in 20 countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia.
This picture just leaves us perplexed. Where is the look of resolve and determination commensurate with the seriousness of surrounding events?
With the deaths of four US diplomats, including American ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and with violence directed against US missions throughout the Arab and Muslim world, smiling is the last thing you would expect from any of the people in this photograph. It’s just plain incongruous to events. The week of September 10, 2012 was a catastrophic disaster for US diplomacy, US public diplomacy and US Government international broadcasting in the Arab and Muslim world.
In its September 15, 2012 edition, the New York Times published a map of where the riots and demonstrations have taken place: from North Africa all the way to Pakistan and beyond. It’s a map that should be of concern. It cuts the world virtually in half, right through some of the most populous places on the planet.
According to the press release, the Secretary “encouraged the Board in their strategic efforts to restructure and increase the impact of U.S. international broadcasting.”
Perhaps this is the spin we have come to expect from the BBG/IBB, since the agency has now fully embraced the notion of itself as a domestic US propaganda ministry and has engaged in acts of deception vis-vis Americans relating to its programming. In their press releases, they were telling their own bipartisan Board, other Americans and the world that the popular Voice of America (VOA) satirical television program “Parazit” was very much being broadcast to Iran when in fact the TV show was off the air for nine months, with no prospects of being resumed. BBG members found out about this deception only recently from the BBG Watch website and a report by Elizabeth Flock in U.S. News & World Report. They were surprised, as was –we were told — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an ex officio BBG member, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine who represents the Secretary of State at BBG meetings.
And while the popular television show to Iran was off the air at a critical time in U.S.-Iranian relations, a top VOA official responsible for programs to Iran was writing an email to the United Nations with a request to revoke the UN press accreditation of Matthew Russell Lee, independent American journalist who engaged in a private dispute with a VOA correspondent and annoyed the official with his emails.
Message to adversaries: lack of focus, deception and business as usual, still chasing a flawed strategic plan that has no resonance around the world. In public pronouncements, Secretary Clinton tried to distance the US Government from the makers of the film that set off the Arab and Muslim world. After the statement, the violence continued to ratchet up. That isn’t an encouraging development. And it should be a strong indication that whatever the BBG/IBB is doing, it isn’t working. In terms of impact, it is rather evident that US Government international broadcasting is having less – not more – of an impact on global publics.
BBG “Presiding Governor” (i.e., no BBG chairman at present) Michael Lynton noted that “during a discussion in June 2011, the Board shared with the Secretary its intention to undertake a wholesale transformation of U.S. international broadcasting and had since adopted a five-year strategic plan.”
Over a year has passed. We have our own view of this “wholesale transformation of U.S. international broadcasting.” We call it a demolition operation. Where is the United States now? Answer: No message, no resonance, no credibility.
And as to that “five-year strategic plan,” as a source noted, now the BBG/IBB is talking like the Soviets used to. Five year plans didn’t work for the Soviets and they aren’t working for the BBG/IBB.
Is anyone listening to the nonsense coming from these guys?
Last but not least, Mr. Lynton reiterated that BBG/IBB mantra of, “to inform, engage and connect with people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
We have to say it again: this is a crock.
This is a BBG/IBB statement. It is not the agency’s mission statement. For the Voice of America (VOA), it is the VOA Charter. For the grantees, it is the language found in legislation creating them.
As far as the Arab and Muslim world is concerned, it is quite apparent that they want nothing to do with the US concepts of “freedom and democracy.”
Here’s another thing that deeply disturbs us:
During its September 2012 meetings, the Board, via its Public Affairs office, issued a statement noting the “passing” of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Ambassador Victor Ashe, the only member of the BBG to consistently demonstrate fortitude (for which he is loathed by the deceptive, self-aggrandizing IBB senior staff), stepped up and objected to the terminology of the statement. Ambassador Ashe gets it and we agree: tell it like it is: Ambassador Stevens and other US Embassy personnel were killed, murdered. They were killed by a mob of Libyans, perhaps infiltrated by or covering for hardcore jihadists.
We were incredulous when reading of this latest bit of BBG/IBB nonsense. Figuratively speaking, the impression rendered is as if the ambassador was 100 years old and died peacefully in his sleep – yet another example of the agency’s inability to deal with truth and reality.
As we said in a previous commentary, there is a sense of things inside the Cohen Building, the BBG headquarters in Washington, DC, that the place has gone “soft in the head” with regard to the Arab and Muslim world reflected in agency programming and now pronouncements of the BBG.
What’s going on?
Is someone inside that building afraid of offending people in that part of the world after killing fellow Americans? We would really not want to conclude that the Cohen Building is now populated with apologists for the “it’s America’s fault” world view.
Bottom line: you can’t make lovey-dovey with cold-blooded killers.
What Is Past Is Prologue
Let us put current events into some form of historical context and why they should be viewed with trepidation.
The events of this past week are likely to be seen as a great jihadist victory.
To the jihadists, storming American embassies and burning American flags is analogous to the Muslim armies of bin Saladin storming the walls of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. Indeed, looking at American embassies in this part of the world, they look like mini-fortresses. You can be assured that this historical parallel is not lost on the jihadist leadership. They have demonstrated that symbols of the US presence in the region are not invulnerable and can be overrun and assaulted by the faithful.
In the mind of the jihadist, the general population is the equivalent of a standing army. They proved that this week in 20 COUNTRIES across North Africa, the Near and Middle East and Asia. All it takes is militant clerics calling upon the faithful to rise up and defend the faith. That is what they did. And more than likely they will believe and instruct the faithful to believe that the Will of the Prophet has spoken – a powerful sentiment in the world of true believers.
So much for the millions of dollars spent on US Government broadcasting to the Arab and Muslim world. It doesn’t mean a thing. It hasn’t delivered. As we noted, the time to penetrate the Arab/Muslim mindset was the decade after 9/11 with a consistent authoritative intellectual message. That decade is over. The window of opportunity has been slammed shut and braced with iron shutters. There has been a momentum shift and it is in the direction of fundamentalism.
An article in the September 16, 2012 edition of The New York Times was headlined: “U.S. Preparing for a Long Siege of Arab Unrest.” That’s how we see, if you understand the mindset of the “Arab/Muslim street.”
The spin makers and con artists inside the Cohen Building are not up to the task. The IBB in particular is wallowing in arrogance, venality and self-aggrandizement. It traffics in a lot of – baloney.
You don’t hear the jihadists talking about “design and innovation” or “five-year plans.”
For them, the attitude is, “Whatever it takes. As long as it takes.”
Broadcasting Board of Governors press release:
Thursday, September 13, 2012
BBG Meets With Secretary of State Clinton
In a meeting today with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged the Board in their strategic efforts to restructure and increase the impact of U.S. international broadcasting.
BBG Presiding Governor Michael Lynton led the Board’s delegation to the State Department, which included Governors Victor Ashe, Dennis Mulhaupt, Susan McCue, and Michael Meehan, as well as Richard M. Lobo, Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau. Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine, the Secretary’s representative to the BBG, took a leading role in framing the discussion.
Lynton noted that during a discussion in June 2011, the Board shared with the Secretary its intention to undertake a wholesale transformation of U.S. international broadcasting, and had since adopted a five-year strategic plan.
“Change will not happen overnight,” Lynton said. “But the reforms we are enacting will strengthen the agency’s ability to deliver on its mission in support of U.S. national interests: to inform, engage and connect with people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
Lynton and his colleagues on the Board also discussed with Secretary Clinton their efforts to improve the BBG’s digital outreach, which have included launching programs on new platforms, creating an office focused on innovation, and forming an outside advisory group of leading innovators in social media and other fields.
And they expressed their condolences over the loss this week of four diplomats serving in Libya, including the new U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens.
Secretary Clinton serves on the BBG ex-officio. She’s the only Secretary of State to have met with the Board.
BBG | 330 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20237