Controlling the message

Dictators have known for centuries that controlling the content and flow of information is crucial to maintaining power. Fortunately for us Americans, a Constitutional guarantee of a free press protects us from such power in the hands of an angry and frustrated president.

For most of his three and a half years in office, Fox News has faithfully provided Donald Trump most of the information control he craves, eagerly spreading his views far and wide. Until now. Lately, its reporters and commentators have more freely criticized his words and actions. This is unacceptable to a bully with a fragile ego.

Where does he turn for solace?

Voice of America (VOA), a multimedia agency operated by the U.S. government since 1942, produces digital, TV, and radio content in 47 languages around the world. Its programming has an influence on public opinion everywhere regarding the United States and its people.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media, an agency of the U.S. government, oversees VOA, and Congress provides the funds. When Trump took office, VOA was broadcasting an estimated 1,800 hours of radio and TV programming each week to approximately 236.6 million people worldwide with about 1,050 employees and a taxpayer-funded annual budget of $218.5 million.

VOA’s Best Practices Guide claims: “The accuracy, quality and credibility of the Voice of America are its most important assets, and they rest on the audiences’ perception of VOA as an objective and reliable source of U.S., regional and world news and information.” Surveys show that 84% of VOA’s audiences say they trust VOA to provide accurate and reliable information, and a similar percentage (84%) say that VOA helps them understand current events relevant to their lives.

That all ends now.

the other day, Trump fired Amanda Bennett, the highly respected Pulitzer Prize-winning editor who headed VOA. He also fired or forced the resignations of the heads of all related networks around the world, all gone suddenly.

Our U.S. Senate quickly confirmed the appointment of Michael Pack, protégé of Steve Bannon (remember him?), to head all of these news agencies and chair all of their boards of directors, all of which are now populated by right-wing sympathizers, none of whom have any journalism or diplomatic experience.

Trump, who calls Voice of America “disgusting,” now has commandeered control of a media empire whose reach extends around the world. It has taken more than three years for this presidency to become a dictatorship, but here we are.

If this doesn’t alarm you, nothing will.



One thought on “Controlling the message

  1. it is extremely alarming…and just the latest in this administration’s undermining of institutions that a civilized democracy must have to protect its citizens. It will take decades to, if it can be done, restore integrity to so many of our institutions.


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