If you’ve ever wondered what a Trump Presidency might be like if in addition to the traditional powers of the Federal Government the president also commandeered control of a media empire for his own purposes, an empire with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, with hundreds of staff, with a reach that not only spans the globe but also broadcasts into the United States, well, wonder no more.
Trump has taken over US government-funded news organization Voice of America.
Voice of America is a US multimedia agency that serves as the United States government institution for non-military, external broadcasting.
It is the largest US international broadcaster, producing digital, TV, and radio content in 47 languages, which it distributes to affiliate stations around the globe.
Born during World War II at a time when Nazi’s made listening to shortwave radio punishable by death, VOA saved lives by giving the oppressed correct information when Germany was trying its hardest to spread only propaganda.
VOA has been a non-partisan media outlet responsible for keeping a democratic voice alive in a communist world during and since Word War II.
It was a trusted source of information around the globe.
Just this month, Amanda Bennett, Director of VOA and her deputy, resigned last minute with no explanation.
VOA is just one network that runs alongside all the other international broadcasting entities; the US Government’s Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Asia, and The Middle East Broadcasting Service.
Up until now, these entities have all been insulated from any domestic partisan politics in the US, they act as straight news organizations that bring both the values of a free press and actual free unbossed journalism to the world, courtesy of the American people.
Last week that all changed.
All network heads were fired. No reason.
Within 48 hours of Amanda Bennett’s resignation, all the network heads of all the networks (Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Asia, and The Middle East Broadcasting Service) were fired, as were the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors for these media organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) have a say on who is selected to become leaders of the companies they represent.
Who is Michael Pack?
Well, first off, Michael Pack is suck-up sycophant to Steve Bannon.
Bannon is just one of the men responsible for delivering Trump the presidency, along with Putin’s interference in the 2016 election, FBI Director James Comey’s inflammatory decision to step outside the bounds of his job, and Bernie Sanders’s constant false attacks against Hillary Clinton.
If just one of these guys had not done his part in handing Trump the presidency via their misogynist, egomaniacal meddling, we wouldn’t have an additional two conservative Supreme Court justices on the Court. We would have a national protocol and policy to stop the spread of COVID-19, resulting in fewer deaths. We would not have immigrants locked in cages gassed with poisonous chemicals. We would have bent the curve of misogyny by having the first female president. Misogyny kills.
Micheal Pack, a right-wing-anti-gay-nut who refers to Bannon as his “mentor,” is now in charge of Voice of America.
Out of the blue, the White House oddly published a newsletter type blog post with the headline, “Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda,” April 10, 2020.
Denouncing the VOA because they ran a story by The Associated Press on their website with the title “China’s Virus Pandemic Epicenter Wuhan End 76-Day Lockdown.”
It is not unusual that VOA ran a story from the Associated Press; it’s a reliable news organization. Trump was just ginning up phony hysteria, his favorite past time besides playing golf.
Washington insiders believe the president started mounting criticism of VOA because he wanted to goose momentum and interest in Bannon acolyte, Pack.
Trump wanted Pack’s nomination to be pushed through by the Senate, as the head of the agency — which oversees all these broadcast networks — by priming people for bottled outrage over something where no outrage was required.
Senate Republicans dutifully obliged. Michal Pack was confirmed 53–38.
Steve Bannon, expert media manipulator (not sure if this is Bannon’s actual job title) — who excels at confusing the American public even more so than Trump does — is still guiding Trump behind the scenes.
Trump may not care about anything or know how anything works, but Steve Bannon does; he is hell-bent on returning the West to nationalism and has an uncanny ability for riding right-populist waves rising across the globe.
According to Vox, “Steve Bannon, who was deeply involved with getting Trump to nominate his ally Michael Pack, sees the ousters as a reckoning for an agency that he believes has been too soft on covering China.”
Like Bannon, Pack spent his early career making strange right-wing movies about things like the tyranny of the gays on college campuses by Campus Culture Wars, Manifold Productions, INC., with ideologies akin to Bannon’s, like how white male Christians are the only people who are really discriminated against anymore. OK. Interesting take.
Pack is the man who has taken over the agency that oversees VOA Radio Free America and other entities.
Slash and burn
Immediately upon arriving at Voice of America, Pack fired everyone — all the heads of the networks, and all the Board of Directors who advised all the networks under the USAGM umbrella. He has replaced them with Trump loyalists and those with ties to anti-LGBT groups.
“We are going hard on the charge,” Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and executive chairman of Breitbart, told me. “Pack’s over there to clean house.” — Vox
Very basically — before a Republican Senate confirmed Pack — these networks were advised by senior and bipartisan people experienced in journalism and diplomacy. Pack has fired all seasoned journalists and handpicked and replaced them with a group of inexperienced people with zero journalism and diplomacy experience.
Including an anti-transgender activist who writes for a right-wing blog, an anti-gay activist lawyer, and advisor to Ben Carson, who already has a full-time job in the government, and someone who works full-time for Mick Mulvaney’s office.
None of the replacements Pack has chosen to be on these boards and advising these networks have any journalism experience whatsoever nor do they possess any State Department (diplomacy) experience.
Michael Pack has chosen himself to be the chairman of all of these boards advising all of these networks.
And then this.
The White House’s criticism of Voice of America has led the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to blacklist VOA reporters formally. VOA reporters are no longer allowed interviews with CDC officials. During a global pandemic.
This tells you what the CDC has been reduced to during the Trump administration.
Trump apparently has time to play these reindeer games during a global health crisis that has killed over 120,000 Americans. The CDC is spending its time blacklisting VOA reporters because the White House has called them communists.
This is where we are.
Think about the potential implications here.
VOA, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Asia, and The Middle East Broadcasting Service are all supposed to be insulated from domestic politics dedicated to a free press.
If you have ever wondered what a Trump Presidency might be like with a massive media outlet added to it, well, let us see, because that is what just happened — a hostile media takeover of the US Agency for Global Media. A sudden decapitation of its leadership, the removal of experienced advisors, and the installation of Steve Bannon’s guy to run it all.
A free press is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy, it is the life blood of a democratic society.
Vote for Joe Biden in November if you care about democracy and a free press.
One cannot survive without the other.
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People on the edges of society don’t have that luxury.
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Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering Type A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.