He said, in a speech he gave in April of this year, that he supported the practice.
Propaganda has been used around the world as a powerful tool by many governments since the invention of the printing press and the spread of literacy. It’s been used to do everything from motivating a nation’s civilians to rally behind a war effort to encouraging bigotry toward ‘undesirable’ segments of a population.
Americans like to think that the government doesn’t produce propaganda for their consumption, except for the usual, things like recruiting posters for the armed forces and similar pieces. However, Richard Stengel, who served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs during the Obama administration, not only said he supported government producing “propaganda” for American citizens, but that he was what people jokingly referred to as ‘chief propagandist.’
Was he trying to say that Americans are dolts who could be ‘easily controlled,’ or who should be easily controlled?
Richard Stengel has spent a lot of time as a writer in the United States. The Rhodes Scholar joined Time Magazine in 1981, and stayed there until 1999, when he left to be a chief adviser and speechwriter for Bill Bradley, who failed to get the democrat nomination for the 2000 presidential election.
In 2000, he returned to the magazine that had paid his bills before, and became the managing editor for four years, until he left to become the President and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Two years later, in 2006, he returned to Time, once again serving as managing editor, until he left again on September 12, 2013, to work as the ‘chief propagandist’ for the Department of State.
This is the same man who, during an April 2018 forum about ‘fake news,’ held by the Council on Foreign Relations, said that he was in support of the “use of propaganda on American citizens.”
This is interesting, because a small act, called the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, passed around the time he took that position in the Barack Obama-era federal government.
That act overturned a legal prohibition against domestic propaganda in the United States that had been in place since the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948.
Specifically, it allowed the government to authorize the domestic distribution of ‘material’ about the United States of America that was primarily intended for consumption by foreign audiences.
An unnamed official in the Pentagon at the time said that the law would remove protections for American citizens, while also removing oversight for the people who would put out this kind of information.
This act was originally passed in response to a number of worries, which date back as far as the Woodrow Wilson presidential administration.
During World War I, Wilson established, via executive order, the Committee on Public Information, which was purposed with influencing the American public to support the war effort in Europe.
Specifically, the organization was trying to support American involvement in the war, which more than a few Americans suggested was a European war which the nation didn’t need to have any part of.
In 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the ‘Office of War Information,’ again by executive order, with the goal of ‘truthfully’ informing American citizens about the ongoing war in Europe.
In 1946, democrat Representative from New York Sol Bloom introduced a bill that would allow the government, via the Secretary of State, to fund the production, through both private and public organizations, of ‘informational’ pieces.
This bill began to solidify an opposition to the practice of propagandizing the American people. Eventually, that resulted in the 1948 Smith-Mundt bill being passed into law.
Now, less than seventy years later, the American public is again ‘fair game,’ it would seem, for the government to propagandize.
Indeed, it sounds like, according to his own statements, that Stengel, who worked for the State Department, produced propaganda while working for the Obama government.
It’s not bad enough that the Obama administration did things like lie to the American people about the cause of the riots in Libya (claiming that it was some YouTube video by some no-name content creator instead of a planned terrorist attack to take out an American ambassador).
Many people feel that the government doesn’t need to be in the business of producing propaganda pieces disguised as ‘news reports.’
Sometimes, politicians give the federal government, and executive agencies like the State Department, powers that they know could easily be abused. They do this because they see that their preferred ‘team’ is in power, and they have a hard time believing that the other party could ever wrest power away from them again.
All that does is create an opportunity for the other side to abuse the same powers the next time the occupant of the White House changes.