Rachel Marsden

Even when an event occurs overseas, as in the case Thornberry cites, whereby Sirius Satellite Radio couldn't get the green light under the Smith-Mundt Act to carry live Voice of America broadcasts in the Creole language from the 2010 Haiti earthquake zone, I'm sure there are foreign correspondents, credible freelance journalists and other reliable independent analysts who would provide an adequate, objective take on events. If any of them prove inept or biased, then the free market will weed them out. Americans who are interested in such coverage will find the best alternative available to them. It's not only unnecessary for the government to create legislation in order to insert itself into this domain, but also a slippery slope.

Moreover, a peacetime natural disaster is a horrible example, since it represents the sole instance in which it's already legally acceptable for the government or military to conduct an information operation on a domestic audience to support noncombat activities such as evacuations, per a Clinton-era executive order. If that's still insufficient, then how about amending just that part?

I don't doubt that Voice of America journalists are as credible and objective as their counterparts elsewhere, and this isn't about Americans having access to journalism. It's about the possibility of opening a Pandora's box whereby the federal government would be able to produce content for an American audience via an entity over which it has full control, and which has historically served as an official government communications instrument.

Worse, it won't be operating domestically as a stand-alone station. Instead, content would be seamlessly rebroadcast through private media outlets, possibly without the viewer being fully aware of its provenance. The U.S. Army's psychological operations manual qualifies psychological warfare (PSYOP) and information operations (IO) as "influencing the behavior of foreign target audiences to support U.S. national objectives." A "white" official PSYOP product with a clear source risks turning into a "gray" PSYOP product as the source becomes murkier, non-official, and dissolves into the domestic mass media.

Rachel Marsden

Rachel Marsden is a columnist with Human Events Magazine, and Editor-In-Chief of GrandCentralPolitical News Syndicate.
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