“State of Fear” – a Voice of America (VOA) article published shortly after the terrorist attack in California produced a lot of negative reactions from journalists and non-journalists, Democrats and Republicans, native born and naturalized American citizens and defenders of the VOA Charter.
One of our high-level sources on Capital Hill who prefers to remain anonymous had this comment:
“I would say that the biggest problem with the VOA article is the poor quality of the journalism – an appreciable decline from an organization that once was the standard bearer. The article is one-sided and it is odd that there is no identified author. However, it does appear in the section of the website that I assume is for editorials. As we’ve seen before, poor journalistic quality inside the VOA can be attributed to failures in leadership. When an organization is confused about its mission and purpose, it’s not surprising that its product is sub-par.”
A former BBG employee, who also prefers anonymity, told us:
“No identifiable author. No counterpoint. No editorial controls. The list goes on and on.
And the place doesn’t get a pass for another reason: it is inconsistent with the VOA Charter. This ‘editorial review of U.S. opinions’ doesn’t meet the test of responsible discussion whether it be U.S. policy or anything else this place throws up there. Why not put a rant up there from ISIS supporters and call that ‘opinion’? The place is more out of control than ever. And that makes it dangerous. That’s the issue. What they are doing is the equivalent of shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded movie theater. What is the intended objective: fear, misinformation, disinformation, panic?”
Former Voice of America associate director Ted Lipien, a co-founder and supporter of BBG Watch, wrote in a Digital Journal op-ed:
“The unattributed Voice of America commentary makes a case for America being in a “State of Fear” by using selective quotes from a few U.S. media outlets and by quoting a few obscure “experts,” all of whom agree with the premise of the article. A countervailing U.S. viewpoint is missing.”
A former Voice of America news correspondent and editor David Dyar commented:
I agree this article was written in a somewhat confusing manner and it seems to come off as being VOA issuing its own opinion. If the headline had been written along the lines of ‘Is the U.S. in a State of Fear?’ or ‘U.S. Media Have Differing Opinions on Reaction to Attacks’, it would be a lot better.
I also think the article should have made it clear its purpose was to catalog various opinions in the U.S. press about the reaction to the domestic attacks.
So in this instance, I think the attempt to meet the charter requirements did not work.”
Longtime BBG Watch commentator, The Federalist, wrote the opinion article below after consulting with contacts on Capitol Hill.
Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War: We Lost – State of Fear – NOT!
By The Federalist
Another day, another egregious outrage on the English language website of the Voice of America (VOA).
In this instance, it is an article in the U.S. opinion and editorial section of the VOA English website with its headline featured on the main VOA English News homepage. The article, not attributed by name to any writer, is entitled, “State of Fear.” It was posted on December 4, 2015, two days after the terrorist attack in California. Four days after its posting, it still shows only 1 Facebook “Like/Recommend.” Perhaps it has not yet been noticed by ISIS and their supporters. Let’s hope it won’t be.
This editorial insinuates that Americans are living in fear due to the Islamic jihadist attack in San Bernardino, California.
For the benefit of BBG Watch readers outside the United States, you can be assured that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not living in fear.
This is the reality:
Americans are going to work. They are going to school. They are decorating their homes with Christmas displays, both indoors and outdoors. They are doing their Christmas shopping. Our highways are crowded with automobiles. Retail shops are brisk with people searching for gifts to buy. Restaurants are full.
In short, this is not a country that is hunkered down in hiding, lights off, cars parked in locked garages.
Unless you write a false narrative for the VOA English language website and call it a “U.S. Opinion & Commentary.”
That is not the American way. We know how to fight and we expect to win wars – especially when properly led in wars supported by American people. The United States of America is a country shaped by the wars we had to fight. We enjoy the circumstances that have given the American people the opportunity to live in peace, be prosperous and to expand our horizons for ourselves and future generations. Using soft power to back up our military deterrence, we morally supported other nations struggling for freedom during the Cold War with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasts which helped us and them win that war. We share our wealth with others, both a home and abroad. We are incredibly fortunate.
At the same time, most Americans realize that to preserve the peace, we must be eternally vigilant. We must have and must deploy our military assets to address a broad range of threats including the asymmetrical threats in the 21st century posed by international terrorism, particularly that represented by global Islamic jihadists. We must also use the soft power of true and unbiased information that counters false narratives and propaganda.
There is a term of art used in contemporary English language. The term is “sheeple.” This term is used to describe people who are afraid of just about anything, from the serious to the mundane, in the manner of sheep which have any number of natural predators.
Apparently, there must be sheeple in the employ of the Voice of America.
This editorial appears to intend to portray a country of 300-million citizens living in hysterical fear. It is a dangerously false image to present to global publics, in variance with the truth, violating all three provisions of the VOA Charter. Worse, it is a dangerous image for our adversaries to latch upon and affirm that they have the United States on the run.
Now the questions:
Who Wrote This Article, Editorial, U.S. Opinion and Press Review, and On Whose Behalf?
It is a highly one-sided article. It does not meet even the most basic VOA Charter requirements for accuracy, balance and comprehensiveness. Not even current and former VOA journalists know what it is and whom it represents. Certainly, international audiences will have no idea except to conclude that the Voice of America wants them to believe Americans are indeed in a “State of Fear.” Nothing in this article suggests otherwise.
This editorial press and opinion review appeared without attribution although it is accompanied by photos from other news organizations such as Reuters.
Does This Editorial Compilation of One-Sided Views Reflect The Views of the United States Government?
Back in the day, VOA preceded its broadcast editorials with a statement that the editorials were “reflecting the views of the United States Government.” Is this article intended to be a reflection of the views of the United States Government, keeping in mind that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the VOA are part of the United States Government and not some independent “news company?”
If this article is meant to present accurately opinions found in U.S. media and expressed by Americans in an objective and balanced way, why does it present the views of only those who agree that America is in a “State of Fear”?
Who Supervises VOA Editorial Content?
This agency is well established as being:
Let’s have a name people; because whoever the writer and the editor are, he/she should be called out on writing and approving a piece of such outrageous bias along with false and misleading representation of American society.
Do We Need An Agency So Out of Control That It Aids and Abets Our Adversaries?
Let me help you with this one: Emphatically NO!
It is well past the time for the Congress to assert its fiduciary responsibilities to the American people and defund this agency and lock its doors.
The functions of this agency should be transferred elsewhere in the Federal Government and some outside of it through grantee funding for surrogate media outreach where it is needed.
Every day that this agency continues to exist – particularly its VOA component in its current unsupervised, leaderless and unaccountable form – it creates serious risks to our national security and the safety of US citizens, particularly those who are abroad.
The same goes for the under-scrutinized “Middle East Broadcasting Network,” otherwise known as Radio Sawa and Alhurra television which lack any clear brand identity. It is evident that neither is having positive resonance in the Middle East. Worse, Americans really don’t know what the content is of these broadcasts to the Middle East in Arabic.
And we should know.
Whatever it is, it is a failure. The message with resonance in the Middle East and elsewhere is coming from ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). This is not a good thing. It never will be a good thing. It is an on-going bad thing.
And you will never get a straight answer from the bureaucrats who run this operation: only prevarication and doubletalk.
Close down Sawa and Alhurra.
At The Very Least: Clean House! Create a new entity.
We subscribe to the belief that John Lansing’s tenure as the BBG Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is an exercise in perpetuating failure if he continues to surround himself with failed International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives and managers. This editorial is a prime example of his failure-in-progress.
However, if you still hang onto the tiniest sliver of hope for this agency:
You can start with removing and reassigning the persons responsible for VOA editorials and working down the organizational chart until the housecleaning job is done.
This article is not representative of the United States that most Americans know. We feel confident that if most Americans knew of VOA’s “State of Fear” article, they would want the Cohen Building demolished.
And they would be right.
It is toxic. It is poison. It is decrepit. It’s time has come and gone. It is a repository for sheeple intent upon spreading a false narrative of hysteria which facilitates the ISIS narrative.
Get rid of it.
From The Oval Office
As we are writing this commentary, we are listening to President Obama addressing the American people from the Oval Office. The address comes one day before Americans mark the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 which brought the United States into World War Two and later resulted in the creation of the Voice of America to fight Japanese and Nazi propaganda.
We have been and remain critical of Mr. Obama’s performance as president. Nothing in his address changes that. We have studied the man for seven years. In our view, he has been a polarizing figure in American society. He has done more than his fair share of turning Americans against each other on a wide variety of issues. In listening to his address, what we heard was a man pleading with the American people to believe that he is doing everything he can to defeat ISIS at home and abroad.
What he is doing is not enough.
Mr. Obama likes to make note that he has his top advisers, civilian and military, working on the terrorist threat. That is rhetoric. It does not necessarily mean that he is listening to their advice. He has done nothing about the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which his first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “practically defunct.” He should support bipartisan congressional efforts to reform the agency through legislation.
In the circumstances of the day, what the American people expect of their president is to be like a heavyweight fighter who lands the knockout blow against what threatens us.
In the fight against ISIS, Mr. Obama is not that heavyweight fighter. His demeanor reflects it. The rushed manner in which he delivered the address reflects it. The policies of his administration reflect it. The performance of agencies the executive branch of the US Government reflects it, including the BBG. This administration tolerates too much failure as an acceptable standard of performance.
Mr. Obama needs to overcome his own shortcomings and fears and not project them onto the American people who would dearly like to see ISIS and other like-minded organizations wiped off the face of the planet by any and all means that get the job done.
Would we say this directly to Mr. Obama? Emphatically YES.
That’s what we’re doing here.
To which we would add:
“Get with the program.”
“State of Fear” appears to be in the White House. And that is never a good thing. It is not the way to run the country. It is not the way to protect the American people.