If you're like most Americans you probably don't spend much time thinking about Voice of America (VOA), our country's international broadcasting arm. But you should, for at least three reasons. First, it is responsible for presenting the policies of the United States to the world. Second, you pay for it. Third, the organization currently faces significant challenges relating to its content and oversight.
According to its 1976 charter VOA has a three-fold purpose: to serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news; to represent America by presenting a balanced and objective projection of significant American thought and institutions; and to present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.
In recent times, VOA has failed to meet all three of these objectives. Consider the case of Mullah Mohammad Omar. On September 21, 2001, just ten days after the 9/11 attacks, VOA intended to air excerpts of an interview with the Taliban leader. After various State Department officials objected, VOA pulled the program. This proved to be a temporary flirtation with wisdom, however, as four days later VOA changed course and ran the interview. Here's a sample of what Mullah Mohammad Omar had to say on American airwaves:
America controls the governments of the Islamic countries. The people ask to follow Islam, but the governments do not listen because they are in the grips of the United States. If someone follows the path of Islam, the government arrests him, tortures him or kills him. This is the doing of America. If it stops supporting those governments and lets the people deal with them, then such things won't happen. America has created the evil that is attacking it."
Or consider the broadcasts of VOA-Persian, a network whose reach includes Iran. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), writing in a letter to President Bush in February 2007, detailed various ways in which VOA-Persian distorts or opposes U.S. policies—and in some cases gives voice to America's enemies. For example, Coburn noted that after the president's State of the Union address a VOA-Persian anchor—that is, a person whose salary is paid by American taxpayers—said that "America opposes the president." Coburn goes on to say that the anchor offered the comment without a poll or "any other [factual] basis." Coburn also said that he discovered that VOA-Persian "gave a significant amount of airtime to guests and content that undermine U.S. policy on Iran, often even supporting the propaganda of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Is the war against Islamic radicalism really not difficult enough that we need to serve as a de facto marketing firm for our enemies?
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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