There was talk back when it looked like Trump’ wouldn’t be president (remember those days/) that he was angling to form some sort of TV network or program or YouTube channel or maybe something nasty with sock puppets. He was really only running as a publicity stunt anyway. Well, now he’s president and it’s come true. In the last defense appropriations bill was a provision to make some changes in the Voice of America service. VOA was a propaganda arm of the American government meant to spread our message of freedom to communist countries and anybody else who was not otherwise tuned in to freedom. Not a great way to spend around $800 million but this is in the defense budget, remember. You can’t buy socks for the DOD unless they cost a million dollars a pair. For comparison the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which brought you Downton Abbey and A Prairie Home Companion had a budget of about $300 million while the National Endowment for the Arts got by on less than $150 million. Both are on the chopping block in the current budget talks.
But it’s not the money that VOA gets that is worth noting; it’s the changes in its mandate. What used to be a propaganda machine directed externally is now going to be turned inward on the homeland. Is this what Trump meant by “American First. Always America First”? You see, the new VOA is going to be allowed to operate in the United States and it is no longer going to be run by an independent board of governors. It will be headed by a CEO appointed by the president. Yes, it’s Donald Trump’s personal broadcasting network, just like he wanted during the campaign, but paid for by you and me—we who can’t afford PBS and NPR at half the cost. But what propaganda could the VOA broadcast to people who already believe in freedom?
Maybe that they should believe in it less. Happy listening!