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Buried in the latest iteration of the National Defense Authorization Act is a provision that gives the federal government its very own Ministry of Truth.
The annual legislation to fund the nation’s military operations signed by the president at the end of last week includes provisions which mirror the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act introduced in Congress earlier this year.
The provision, which was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has two stated goals, outlined thusly by the lawmakers:
The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering … foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages [SIC] against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.
The legislation, in other words, will establish a partnership between federal agencies and major media outlets to ensure that federal messages are hammered into the minds of media consumers throughout the world via a new Global Engagement Center.
Despite the federal promise that the legislation will only be used to “proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests,” language within the NDAA makes pretty clear that the goal is a full-fledged government propaganda machine.
And though the language supporters of the efforts have used to describe the effort makes it seem that the propaganda efforts will be aimed outside the U.S., language within the NDAA suggests U.S. citizens will be the target of some of the activity.
For example, one stated goal calls on officials to “identify the countries and populations most susceptible to propaganda and disinformation based on information provided by appropriate interagency entities.”
That could include the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election based on information the federal government and the Clinton campaign insist came from Russian hackers and digital media manipulators.
The NDAA provisions also open the door for the federal officials to crack down on alternative media out of step with the government’s official message by simply declaring that their information was sourced from foreign propagandists.
All the while, the legislation allows for the federal government to proactively manipulate mainstream media reporting to support its desired outcomes.
Another of the legislation goals: “As needed, support the development and dissemination of fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at the United States and United States allies and partner nations.”
Relevant information about the government’s propaganda efforts can be found on page 547 of the NDAA.