BBG Watch Commentary

In the last few days U.S. taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was too busy promoting an icon of communism, the East German “Trabant,” to notice the White House statement proclaiming November 7 “National Day for the Victims of Communism.” Reporters of U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) were also too busy tweeting about a woman who had shown President Trump an obscene sign to post a timely report on the “Victims of Communism” statement. While such anti-communist pronouncements from the Trump White House are not picked up by The Washington Post or Russia’s RT, a VOA correspondent working for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Washington, DC has succeeded in getting his tweet about Trump used by the the Washington newspaper and the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet at the same time.

“No fits of rage in the Kremlin, just fits of laughter…,” was a comment directed specifically at the BBG’s RFE/RL’s programs. During the Cold War, both RFE/RL and VOA were always at the top of the Kremlin’s enemy lists. Not anymore. Recently, they did not even make it into the top ten of Russia’s enemies, as published by RT. President Putin has nothing to fear from either VOA or RFE/RL, and he and RT know it.

When it comes to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, why should U.S. taxpayers promote nostalgia for communism in English-language videos on the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup, generously referred to in some of RFE/RL reports as “revolution.”

What exactly is the audience for RFE/RL’s English-language video content promoting nostalgia for communism and why U.S. taxpayers should pay for it?

Someone needs to explain to RFE/RL managers and reporters that nostalgia for the Soviet Union plays a major part in the Kremlin’s current propaganda narrative directed against the United States and other Western and democratic nations. Even more importantly, someone needs to explain the same thing to top executives of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which runs both RFE/RL and VOA with U.S. taxpayers’ money and with Obama administration holdovers still in charge.

We are not saying that VOA and RFE/RL should not report on U.S. domestic criticism of President Trump’s policies, but they should also report on White House statements of significance to the region, to which both VOA and RFE/RL content is directed at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.

RFE/RL’s main news website in English had nothing on the November 7 White House statement on “National Day for the Victims of Communism” issued by the Office of the Press Secretary.

Neither did the Russian-language website of Radio Liberty.

Google Search for RFE/RL, National Day for Victims of Communism Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9:56 PM ET.

The Voice of America (VOA), another international media outlet entity funded by U.S. taxpayers and also mismanaged by the Broadcasting Board of Governors with its $740 million annual budget (FY 2017), likewise had nothing on November 7 on its main VOA English-language news website on the “National Day for the Victims of Communism.”

Google Search for VOA, National Day for the Victims of Communism, Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 7.05 PM ET.

The VOA Russian Service posted a news item on the White House “National Day for the Victims of Communism” statement, but it did so a day late, on November 8, thus missing the November 7 anniversary, in response to which the U.S. government proclamation was written.


Some of the few RFE/RL journalists who understand what their mission is and what U.S. Congress and U.S. taxpayers expect it to be are appalled by how public money is wasted on producing content that plays into the hands of Putin’s propagandists working for the Kremlin.

These critics point out that if Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors were actually doing the job that U.S. taxpayers pay them to do, they should have been able to investigate and uncover Russian government’s interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and report on it in real time, especially the purchases of political ads, so that the Russian meddling could have been exposed and stopped as it was taking place. This did not happen despite the presence of a large number of Radio Liberty reporters in Russia. But let us not forget that some Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America top officials want to continue to pursue their private corporate or family investments in countries like Russia or China ruled by authoritarian and communist regimes.

When it comes to useless and counterproductive videos, nothing beats the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Voice of America Russian Service video about a Russian cat who has his own Red Army tank as a toy. The same video was originally used for propaganda purposes by the Kremlin’s RT and SPUTNIK multimedia outlets. SEE: SPUTNIK and RT take Voice of America for a ride in a “Russian Cat Tank,” BBG Watch, December 11, 2016.

Here are some of the comments we have received in response to these RFE/RL, VOA, and BBG videos.

After liberally using the term “revolution” in describing the Bolshevik putsch of 1917, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) manages to again offend those who lived under communist regimes and who used to the very RFE and RL during the Cold War to find hope. Bizzarrely behaving like an advertising agency, RFE and RL are peddling the pitiful product of the long-dead East German Communist regime, the Trabant, in videos and photo-galleries, as if it were a much-missed wunderkind, not the hated stillborn whom those behind the Iron Curtain wanted to get rid of, together with the oppressive Communist regime it came to symbolize. This may have been an attempt at producing a poor man’s Top Gear (cui bono?), but it resulted in exposing once again the lack of steering – let alone power steering – of the U.S. taxpayer-funded RFE/RL. Such media products show the lack of basic understanding on the side of the current management of the very mission of the of U.S. international broadcasting: those who grew up under the oppressive communist regimes of Eastern Europe do NOT joyfully mark the 60th birth of the Trabant, they joyfully celebrate almost three decades since its demise. Affectionately calling the communist cardboard coffin “iconic”, or the “Trabi”, strikes the wrong chord with those who couldn’t wait to get rid of it. This is not Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

The race to the bottom between VOA and RFE/RL continues. While Moscow’s propaganda machine is fine-tuning itself, gaining ground to the detriment of the free world, the U.S. taxpayers’ dollars are being wasted at RFE/RL on aberrations such as videos of police arresting donkeys in Pakistan (in the time-honored tradition of RFE/RL video about the football team playing with a dead goat).

All these, on generous salaries and benefits paid by the U.S. taxpayer, while one could almost see the satisfied smirk on Putin’s face.
No fits of rage in the Kremlin, just fits of laughter…

The last one is a good commentary on the effectiveness of RFE/RL, VOA, and BBG in response to Russia propaganda and disinformation.


The VOA White House bureau chief, Steve Herman, @W7VOA, who a few days ago had posted numerous tweets about a woman cyclist showing an obscene middle finger sign to President Trump’s limousine as it passed her by near Washington, and even got his tweet picked up by The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post, which in turn generated numerous anti-Trump comments from anti-Trump Americans, had no tweets on the the “National Day for the Victims of Communism” White House statement.

The woman giving President Trump the obscene middle finger sign must have been really good propaganda for the Kremlin, because in a rare example of Russia’s RT using VOA content and not vice versa (VOA using RT propaganda content, which has been far more common), RT in this case promptly reposted VOA White House correspondent’s tweet while misspelling his name slightly.

RT Report Using VOA Steve Herman Tweet On Obscene Gesture Toward Trump Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 7:24 PM ET.

Enjoy the RFE/RL, VOA and BBG videos posted below. If you are a U.S. taxpayer, you have paid for them.




Test-Driving The ‘Trabi’

NOVEMBER 7, 2017 (Anniversary of the 1917 communist coup in Russia.)

The Trabant — an iconic East German car partially built from plastic — just turned 60 years old. We took it for a spin to see how it holds up to the requirements of modern-day driving.

The Trabant Turns 60

NOVEMBER 3, 2017

Sixty years after the first “Trabi” rolled off the assembly line in a cloud of blue smoke, we look at the little plastic car that innovated, stagnated, and was finally rejuvenated.

Horsemen Fight For Dead Goat in Kyrgyz Sport Of Kok-Boru

Kyrgyz horsemen played another fierce match of their national sport, kok-boru, in the region of Issyk-Kul. Players must try to drag a dead goat toward a goal, fighting on horseback along the way. (RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service).


Russia Cat With Tank

A cat in Russia has her own “tank”.



See the same VOA Russian Service video in a BBG Watch compilation with BBG CEO John Lansing touting the success of the agency’s digital outreach.

BBG Watch

Voice of America Russian Tank Cat Video





The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

November 07, 2017

National Day for the Victims of Communism

Today, the National Day for the Victims of Communism, marks 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution took place in Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution gave rise to the Soviet Union and its dark decades of oppressive communism, a political philosophy incompatible with liberty, prosperity, and the dignity of human life.

Over the past century, communist totalitarian regimes around the world have killed more than 100 million people and subjected countless more to exploitation, violence, and untold devastation. These movements, under the false pretense of liberation, systematically robbed innocent people of their God-given rights of free worship, freedom of association, and countless other rights we hold sacrosanct. Citizens yearning for freedom were subjugated by the state through the use of coercion, violence, and fear.

Today, we remember those who have died and all who continue to suffer under communism. In their memory and in honor of the indomitable spirit of those who have fought courageously to spread freedom and opportunity around the world, our Nation reaffirms its steadfast resolve to shine the light of liberty for all who yearn for a brighter, freer future.