Today, the House quietly passed HR 6393, which targets sources of “media manipulation” deemed to be spreading “Russian propaganda”.
Since the US election concluded, “fake news” and “Russian propaganda” have become commonly cited by Clinton supporters and parroted by the corporate media as the scapegoat for Trump’s “shocking” victory. However, as recent articles from the corporate-owned media have shown, the “Russian propaganda” and “fake news” have both become umbrella terms for a range of opinions that are critical of the US government and its policies. Now, the US government has officially intervened with the passage of HR 6393, titled the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” The bill, which passed on November 30th, touches on several intelligence-related issues, including managing the effects of “propaganda,” specifically that directly or indirectly funded in some way by Russia.
Section 501 of the bill deals specifically with countering “active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments.” These active measures, according to the bill, include “activities intended to influence a person or government that are carried out in coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation” even if the “role of the Russian Federation has been hidden.” Among the examples of such activities are “covert broadcasting,” “media manipulation,” “disinformation,” and “incitement.”
The use of incitement is particularly interesting as this term was also used by the state of Israel to crack down on dissent on Facebook, which led to the banning of several accounts belonging to Palestinian journalists and news agencies. The term “disinformation” is also riddled with problems as the term could easily be used to censor any information that runs contrary to the government’s own narrative. “Media manipulation” and “covert broadcasting” are both sufficiently broad as to include a story that the government finds to be working against its interests. According to the bill, these “active measures,” whether there “hidden” ties to Russia are proven or not, will be investigated and “countered” by an inter-agency committee set to include appointees of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of the Treasury among others. This committee’s main duty will be to “expose falsehoods,” though the President “may designate” other relevant duties to the group.
Some corporate media outlets have already shown how this bill could be used to silent dissenting viewpoints under the guise that they are unwittingly serving Russian ends. The Washington Post recently published a piece by Craig Timberg titled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election,” which cited a group of “experts” who have claimed that reputable, independent news organization such as Counterpunch, Zero Hedge, Truthdig, True Activist, and the Drudge Report among others are all part of a “sophisticated” Russian propaganda campaign.
The organization cited in the article, known as PropOrNot, has already had its credibility shredded by the New Yorker and the Intercept. However, that hasn’t stopped major journalists and even politicians from sharing the Washington Post’s story as a stunning exposé. The most dangerous thing about PropOrNot is that they argue that exhibiting a pattern of beliefs, including anti-interventionism and anti-GMO, is enough to risk being labeled a Russian propagandist. This organization has called for those they have placed on their “list” to be investigated by the FBI and DOJ for violations of the Espionage Act. Could this latest bill be the government’s first step in following through with this suggestion?
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