Much is being made in the alternative media about the Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill, a piece of legislation that is designed to “help American allies combat foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations.”
The White House released a statement on the Defense Spending Bill, but made no mention of the Portman-Murphy provision of the bill. That was made in a separate announcement from Senator Portman. The absence of this announcement is being used by some as proof of nefarious intent from the White House.
The bill is being viewed by many as an Orwellian crackdown on Freedom of Speech, and not totally without merit. Critics point to the infamous Washington Post article, which sited controversial watchdog organization PropOrNot as a source. The agencies’ figures have been called into question for their suspect methodology. Indeed many trusted, valuable news sources landed on the list, along with many admittedly dubious muckraker sites. The concern of those who take this view is that giving the government too much power in deciding what is newsworthy is a slippery slope. A free press is vital to functioning democracy, and alternative news sources can play a crucial role.
It’s a Fake…
A large piece of the puzzle is the shifting paradigm of media consumption, with more people turning to social media sites like Facebook to get their news. The profit driven model of social media sharing is no doubt enabling the spread of this kind of false information. I saw tons of it leading up to the election, and laughed it off, thinking that kind of nonsense will be seen for exactly what it is. Now I’m not so sure…
I believe in free speech absolutely, and think in a robust marketplace of ideas that “fake news” will be exposed as such, and its effect limited. However, no one could have foreseen even a few years ago the awesome effect of algorithmic marketing combined with profit motive and moral indifference.
The Final Analysis
Is it the responsibility of the government to determine what is newsworthy? Does that not cut to the very heart of a free press? In a vacuum, yes. But like all stories, this one is complex, and is in desperate need of context. The actual wording of the bill is important. It specifically states that this apples only to foreign sources of misinformation, and does not apply to American independent or alternative media. That certainly does not mean this can’t change.
Americans should all pay close attention to these issues. These are the kinds of things the politicians would all rather us not know about. It is up to us all to spot false information. This is how we can keep our discourse productive, and allow us to act as a collective safeguard against propaganda.
Here is the full bill for your review:
This was originally sourced to me from PaulHiatt.com. Check out his stuff I highly recommend it!