The Worst of Times

VOA building in Washington, D.C.
VOA building in Washington, D.C. Logo. & Free Media Online Blog  The Federalist Commentary, January 8, 2009, San Francisco — This commentary is by The Federalist, one of our regular contributors with inside knowledge of US government bureaucracy.


The Worst of Times

by The Federalist


“US international broadcasting is being led by people not interested in its mission or in sustaining its programs.”


This applies to all levels of US international broadcasting, from the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs down to managers within the broadcasting entities, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).  When it comes to public diplomacy, the greatest detriment to the national and public Interest may, in fact, be these officials.


Time and again, they have demonstrated an extraordinary disregard for the power, consequence, and significance of silence.  In public diplomacy and in international broadcasting, silence equates with failure, abandonment, and a loss of international power and prestige.


These officials have systematically engaged in silencing US international broadcasting assets: in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, India and Pakistan…all flashpoints for much larger conflicts.  Worse, they do so with extreme arrogance, without regard to painful realities around the world.  They do not understand the necessity of a strategic triad of broadcast mediums that allow for a flexible and fluid response to changing situations.  In their decision-making, they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are shortsighted, unimaginative, and inflexible…the perfect faults to exploit by forces intent upon defeating the reach of US international broadcasting assets and the US public diplomacy effort.  Discrediting the United States is made a whole lot easier by the ineptitude exhibited in these processes.


In the face of deteriorating circumstances, these officials have embraced an all-or-nothing strategy based on using the Internet as their sole source for audio, video and text.


Let us disabuse the notion that this strategy is groundbreaking, trendsetting or staying ahead of the technological curve.  US government computer systems are vulnerable to cyber warfare.  Recently, a high level briefing was provided the outgoing Bush and incoming Obama administrations regarding the vulnerabilities of and threats to US government computer systems.  The threat is real and substantial.


No doubt, those responsible for Internet security for US international broadcasting would claim that its systems are secure.  However, it should be remembered that a culture of deceit permeates many levels of the US international broadcasting entities…the same kind of deceit that attempts to cover up embarrassing failures of its operations, such as with alHurra television, until the cover-up effort was trumped by  the release of the Annenberg Report on alHurra credited to the Obama transition team.  Claims of cyber security for US international broadcasting systems should be met with great skepticism.  Be mindful of the admonition: consider the source.


One more point: the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, James Glassman, thinks that “we’re Coke and they’re Pepsi.”  Perhaps Mr. Glassman doesn’t have a television and hasn’t had the opportunity to watch footage of the current round of conflict between Hamas and the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip, or the widening of the conflict by rocket fire now coming from southern Lebanon into Israel.  Or perhaps Mr. Glassman can inquire of Hamas or Hezbollah if they think they are Coke or Pepsi. 


The point is this: the analogy is idiotic…under almost any circumstances but especially those of the present.


These are not the best of times for US international broadcasting.  Maintaining the status quo, through the twits and tweets of a fairy tale world view pontificated by inept political appointees or senior officials covering up the multi-million dollar failures of its high profile projects like alHurra, is the short march to the worst of times.


The Federalist 2009