Bureaucracy Warning Sign

Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War: We’ve Lost For The French and Western Civilization

By The Federalist

France is under siege.

Three terrorist attacks have occurred in the French homeland during 2015: the attack against the staff of the Charlie Hebdo publication, the attack on a French train (thwarted by three Americans and one British national) and the worst of all, the coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.


Mr. Obama, as president of the United States, declared ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) “contained:”


This interview took place hours before the terrorist strike in Paris. It was an unguarded observation at the time and looks even worse now, as something detached from reality.

ISIS “contained.” This has to be one of the biggest oxymorons of all time emanating from the White House. Perhaps one of Mr. Obama’s staff should have advised him on how “contain” is defined in the dictionary.

Not satisfied to have one blunder on his plate, Mr. Obama followed up with another on Monday, November 16, 2015 saying that it would be a mistake to put US forces on the ground to combat ISIS directly.

Perhaps Mr. Obama and his advisers think the ISIS will simply evaporate on their own. In the meantime, recent polls suggest Americans want and/or expect a much more robust military response to the ISIS threat.

Worse, from the perspective of ISIS operatives, Mr. Obama’s remark is likely to be seen as a lack of US resolve and yet another sign of White House weakness – not exactly the message one should send to an organization that only fears power greater than its own that could destroy it.

Those of us who use Facebook have seen repeated postings by our friends with the French tricolor and often the phrase, “Pray for France.”

For the average person, perhaps this is the best they can do. But most assuredly, prayers are not enough.

If you enjoy freedom, you must be prepared to fight for it and preserve it for future generations. That takes determination and will. It also means killing those who would otherwise deprive us of our freedoms and our civilization. It is the business of war. It is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. The application of force requires all means at one’s disposal and to maintain the willingness to use those options.

The reality of what we are confronted with is global jihad. It is most certainly not “contained” or limited to the Middle East:

Global jihad is total war. The primary targets are noncombatants: people on the ground in Syria and Iraq, people traveling in commercial airliners, people having their normal daily activities interrupted by carnage aimed at them indiscriminately. These Islamic jihadists seek out these “soft” targets because colliding with the professional military of the United States, Russia and other national armies would have predictably calamitous results for their cause.

The memory of total war is receding in the consciousness of latter generations particularly those removed from World War Two. Germany and Japan practiced total war. In turn, the Allies responded in kind in order to defeat the Nazis and Japanese militarists. There was no other option other than unconditional surrender.

Drone strikes are not total war. Drone strikes are intended to be “surgical:” as Mr. Obama points out, to “decapitate” the ISIS leadership.

This is simply not enough. In this kind of asymmetrical warfare, one must not only disrupt command and control but also interdict financing and the flow of weapons or other forms of logistical support.

Further, the events in France demonstrate that Islamic jihadists either individually or in cells have dispersed outward from the epicenter of conflict in Syria and Iraq.

We do too much thinking from our perspective and not that of the jihadists.

To them, the events in France on November 13 are a victory. They know the math: a handful of well-armed terrorists killed over 100 and wounded over 300. It required France to seal its borders and spend enormous sums of money to ratchet up its security posture. Please keep in mind that the French government has a highly professional and capable security/intelligence apparatus. Even so, it was unable to prevent this attack. These ISIS operations show that they are flexible and search out opportunities and timing.

Let us also not forget the recent terrorist attack in Turkey or bombings in Lebanon.

The so-called “foreign fighters” of global jihad are infiltrating Western countries, some co-mingled with legitimate refugees from the Middle East, others entering surreptitiously. France is bearing the brunt of terrorist attacks at present, but all of Europe is under threat. The refugee issue does not make the security needs of these countries any easier. It has created serious vulnerabilities.

What Is Islam?

We have heard leaders from the Arab-American community denouncing these attacks and declaring that ISIS does not represent the Islamic faith.

Well, at present, the grim reality is that it does for those who kill. The jihadists have taken control over what constitutes Islam. In so many words, they have taken over the narrative and derive a sense of pride and power from their interpretation.

From the relative safety of the United States, it is perhaps easier to denounce the brand of Islamic interpretation practiced by ISIS. However, one has to believe that if these same leaders were closer to the action in the Middle East, they would either be silent or dead. ISIS has zero tolerance for any deviation from its theology or ideology. They rule by killing, terror, fear, deprivation, torture, oppression and submission. These Arab-Muslim-Americans are out of step with ISIS doctrine.

And also note the very robust social media proselytizing and recruitment techniques used by ISIS.

Taking It To The Enemy

While it is at times exemplary to show restraint, these recent attacks demonstrate Western civilization has reached a threshold: that means the full weight of the application of US/Allied military power should now be operationally ready, to eliminate ISIS. To paraphrase one of the great US war fighters, General George S Patton, Jr., you win wars by killing the enemy, not by dying for your country. The only way to eliminate the ISIS threat is to kill them in such numbers that it will be impossible to train and replace their losses. “Decapitating” the so-called ISIS “leadership” as a one-dimensional strategy is not effective, since their tactics show that ISIS leadership and training can be decentralized and dispersed, in part to carry out the kind of attacks witnessed in France.

As much as we would like to believe that this is some kind of rag-tag collection of misfits, these attacks suggest otherwise. They have demonstrated that they are determined, fanatical adherents to their cause and are willing to die for it. In short, in order to be successful in eliminating the threat, ISIS fighters need to be killed by the tens, hundreds and thousands.

As part of a total war strategy, it is also necessary to target ISIS financiers and suppliers. Those Toyota trucks that ISIS favors do not just materialize from nowhere.

No Coherent Messaging Strategy

Last and certainly not least, this brings us to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

We know this organization to be:

  • Dysfunctional
  • Defunct
  • Broken
  • Rudderless

The United States Government has no coherent “messaging” strategy. We are not talking about propaganda. We are talking about delivering news and information as called for in the Voice of America (VOA) Charter, delivering clear and unambiguous explanation of US policy and doing so to the widest population spread and geographic regions possible.

Instead, we have incoherence. And that incoherence starts right at the top, with Mr. Obama’s “ISIS contained” comment.

For its part, following the second attack on the World Trade Center, the BBG closed the VOA Arabic Service and created the “Middle East Broadcasting Network” comprised of Radio Sawa and Alhurra television.

The United States has been at it with this creation for well beyond a decade.

It is painfully obvious:

Radio Sawa and Alhurra television are total, abject failures and testaments to the larger failure of the BBG.

Both need to be scrapped and its prevaricating, “business as usual” bureaucrats and their enabling Broadcasting Board of Governors’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) officials canned.

The American people need to know what the content of these broadcasts are and have been. Over the years, the BBG rationale for these services has been to change the paradigm of public opinion in the Arab and Muslim world. As we have noted regularly, they have: by making things worse, whether directly or indirectly.

One has to logically conclude that it has something to do with the content of the programming produced by these stations.

US taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize failure or to compound it as is the case with messaging failures by the BBG and the State Department. New leadership and new strategies are required.

And keep in mind, the BBG likes to equate what it does as part of US national security. It is a joke on its face and in practice its failures are evident within the dimensions of the success of Islamic jihadist operations and the overall decline in interest in BBG programs.

On November 17, 2015 a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider options for reforming US Government international broadcasting.

Among those offering testimony will be Jeffrey Shell, chairman of the BBG and John Lansing, BBG’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

This will be an opportunity to get the measure of Mr. Lansing in his position.

We have had plenty of exposure to Mr. Shell, in whom we have no confidence, based on his actions as BBG chairman.

There are serious obstacles for Mr. Lansing to overcome in order to bring about an effective new paradigm for US Government international broadcasting which at present is “international broadcasting” in name only. It is not going to happen as long as Lansing is surrounded by and seems to rely on the people who have, in effect, eliminated the agency’s effectiveness and created a mission debacle.

That these people continue to encumber their current position speaks volumes about facilitating and enabling failure.

Speaking of which…

On November 16, 2015, the BBG put out yet another press release about its “audience research:”

U.S. International Media Attracts Record Audience Of 226 Million, BBG Press Release

Here they claim a global audience of 226-million.

From our point of view, it is all smoke and mirrors. Here’s why:

First, consider this BBG gloating in the context of a global population of 7-BILLION. When you break the numbers down, by 43 VOA language services, those of the other BBG entities and other related measurements, this figure of 226-million gets diluted very fast.

Second, consider the countermeasures, particularly those that are used to block BBG programs in China, Iran and Russia. Further dilution.

Third, and perhaps the most important, the BBG never publishes the actual survey questions and/or how the BBG comes up with its audience numbers. In short, these numbers are unconfirmed and undistinguished. If you go on the BBG website you will see a chart of the claimed audience numbers. There is nothing to substantiate if these numbers are real or fabricated. In short, the agency’s credibility on this subject is suspect.

As BBG Watch has pointed out:

“Critics have asked how BBG can claim large audiences for programs that actually advance its mission if Edward Snowden has four times more Twitter followers than VOA English News Twitter page.”
Voice of America (VOA) had over the weekend only 9 Paris terror-related Facebook posts in English and only 7 in Russian, and that among international broadcasters (BBC, DW, RT and VOA) Voice of America had received only 2% Facebook “Likes” for such posts in English and also only 1% in Russian (BBC English got 84%, RT English 12%, DW English 2%; among Russian Facebook Paris terror related posts — BBC Russian got 38%, DW Russian 12%, RT Russian 32%, RFE/RL Russian 16% “Likes”). VOA English share of Facebook comments among international broadcasters was also only 1%.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors today released its annual impact numbers, including an unprecedented weekly measured audience of 226 million, but internal and external critics doubt that these numbers are accurate considering Voice of America’s dismal performance on social media, as well as reports of self-censoring of VOA news to achieve local placement in countries known for news censorship in order to increase the size of its audience even though such self-censorship of news violates the VOA Charter. BBG officials are also known to place non-news programming in countries which have free media, such as Mexico, and claim such placement as its audience. Critics also question BBG’s estimates of such audiences.

Fourth, last but not least, senior VOA officials have been babbling that it is the agency’s intent to eliminate its radio broadcasting altogether by 2016/2017. In the past, the agency has claimed that roughly half its audience has been on radio. Thus, using its own audience measurements, one can project a significant reduction in the projected VOA audience by half.

A former Voice of America journalist echoed some of BBG Watch’s observations:

If you dig deep in the text of these reports, you’ll find they don’t seem to be all they might appear.
The “record audience” of 226 million, according to the “Overview Report” is mostly from TV audiences (142 million). I assume most of this figure is derived from program placement on local TV stations.
A little further down in that summary it says Indonesia and Mexico have the largest BBG audiences. These are not countries that BBG itself cites in the report as its priority target audiences that have high restrictions on press freedom.
In the main report on page 29 it says: “The bulk of VOA’s growth comes from large audience increases in Mexico and Nigeria, where VOA partners with leading television stations.”
TV placement is in my opinion a rather dubious exercise for VOA because it can’t be done without the host governments approving it and thus the content is subject to self censorship by VOA so as not to offend those host governments.

This is the deceit this agency practices. You never get the whole story. And more than likely, you don’t get the true story of how badly this agency fares against other broadcast media.

Another former BBG staffer observed:

“And if you believe this PR article by BBG, I have a bridge in the desert to sell you. It’s time BBG stop trying to deceive Congress and the public in their efforts to protect and save their own bloated salaries and jobs. If this inflated public relations article is in fact true, then it’s time to give the management at BBG (another) raise. And you wonder why staffing at the organizations BBG oversees is so short-staffed?”

What gives one a better picture is the number of views, “Likes” and comments VOA gets for its posts on social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, etc. This is especially important since Facebook intends to increase its news content to its subscribers and YouTube already has news content posted from a variety of legitimate sources. These statistics are dismal for the Voice of America.

So, the BBG timed the press release to coincide with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on November 17.


So, so predictable.

It is important for readers of BBG Watch, especially those abroad (including our adversaries), that there are people well aware of this agency’s failure and the failure of leadership within the Executive Branch of US Government to address this failure.

We are not all deaf, dumb, blind and/or stupid.

The Federalist

November 2015