A stinging report was issued yesterday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The report, titled “Analysis of the First Year of the Obama Administration: Public Relations and Propaganda Initiatives,” outlines a host of propaganda activities conducted by the Obama administration at the direct expense of the American taxpayers. It notes in part,
“The Obama Administration frequently used federal resources to promote the President’s agenda. In many cases, the Administration relied on the reach and resources of federal agencies and their personnel to promote certain of the President’s favorite programs. The White House also leveraged ties to the arts and entertainment community to embed propaganda in the content of television programming and artwork. These propaganda efforts violated appropriations riders and federal law prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes.”
“The White House also used its inherent visibility advantages to multiply the effectiveness of websites containing misleading and controversial information. The White House used its resources to push visitors to websites that urge grassroots activism based on false and misleading information. The President’s right to sell his policy recommendations to Congress and the public is not disputed; however, using the resources of the federal government to activate a sophisticated propaganda and lobbying campaign is an abuse of office and a betrayal of the President’s pledge to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
Among the charges made in the report are the misuse of federal agency resources to publicize the President’s agenda, as well as capitalizing on the President’s visibility and pre-existing campaign relationships to push traffic to websites containing propaganda. The report offers numerous examples to support such charges, including a few notable instances:
- The unlawful use of the National Endowment for the Arts as “the de facto strategic communications firm of the White House”. Note that BigHollywood’s own Patrick Courrielche broke this story this time last year, with his post entitled “The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?” after he was invited to participate on a joint conference call hosted by representatives from the NEA, United We Serve, Rock the Vote, Russell Simmons’ company, and by Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (a department headed by Valerie Jarrett). The purpose of that call: to gather artists and entertainers “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.” Hosts encouraged participants to create art that would serve to move the President’s agenda forward. As proof of this abuse, Courrielche published a follow-up post that contained the full audio and transcript of that call. Since NEA receives federal funding, the use of its artists and entertainers to support the President’s agenda is also highly inappropriate.
- Intentionally skirting around anti-lobbying laws and the Hatch Act by using First Lady Michelle Obama to promote the administration’s iParticipate initiative, a program that “conservatively amounts to $240 million of free advertising for the President’s service and health care agendas.” BigHollywood’s own John Nolte exposed this initiative and an apparent pattern of federally funded propaganda in his post entitled “LEAKED NETWORK MEMO REVEALS: Obama Controls Your Television Set,” which outlined the collaboration between the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and the administration to “organically create and produce as many stories as possible about service and volunteerism and connect them in the plots of network dramas, comedies and reality shows.” The leaked memo obtained and published by Nolte identified several policy areas on the President’s agenda around which the TV networks were to build the storylines of these programs. The BH post also ties in additional collaborations with CreateTheGood and Serve.gov, as posted by other Big site bloggers.
- The “deployment of Justice Department resources to generate clandestine comments on message boards and blogs,” which refers to activities conducted by Tracy Russo, New Media Specialist for the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. According to the report, Russo, the former Chief Blogger and Deputy Director of Online Communications for the John Edwards for President Campaign, and former blogger for the DNC, is alleged to have been “covertly attempting to shape public opinion by searching online for articles, blogs or other entries critical of the Administration and then anonymously, or through the use of a pseudonym, posting comments to those sites attacking the author or contents,“ a practice that the report charges is a highly improper use of the Department’s resources.
Perhaps one of the most familiar policy themes we’ve recognized in so much of the propaganda has been that of Health Care reform. Many of the administration’s activities in this policy area actually spilled out into the media and into other areas of public communication.
Take for example Jonathan Gruber, a MIT health care economist who, according to Issa’s report, was contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide financial analysis on the cost changes of health insurance coverage under Obama’s health plan. Gruber was paid a total of nearly $393,000 for this and another project he conducted for HHS. Until it was finally forced to be revealed by way of a NEJM publication, members of the administration, and Gruber himself, failed to disclose this relationship to numerous outlets, even while the administration and Democratic members of Congress relied repeatedly on Gruber’s work to support the President’s health care agenda. As the Issa report indicates,
“While under contract with HHS, Gruber authored several editorials advocating on behalf of the President’s health care plan. Gruber was frequently used as a source for journalists writing about health care. Gruber’s status as a paid consultant to HHS was not disclosed in interviews with Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the New Republic, and elsewhere.
The Obama Administration relied on Gruber’s commentary to promote the President’s health care agenda. Gruber’s study, for which he was paid $297,600 by HHS, figured prominently in a piece by Ron Brownstein that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. Gruber did not disclose his status as a paid consultant to Brownstein while being interviewed for that piece.”
Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake published an enlightening detailed post on January 13, 2010 that outlined exactly how this feedback loop worked.
“Well, take Gruber’s appearance before the Senate HELP Committee on November 2, 2009, for which he used his microsimulation model to make calculations about small business insurance coverage for his testimony. On the same day, Gruber released an analysis of the House health care bill, which he sent to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. Ezra published an excerpt.”
“White House blogger Jesse Lee then promoted both Gruber’s Senate testimony and Ezra Klein’s article on the White House blog. “We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day” he said, pointing to Gruber’s “objective analysis.” The “transparent” part apparently stopped when everyone got to Gruber’s contractual relationship to the White House, which nobody in the three-hit triangle bothered to disclose.”
Hamsher then describes in great detail the domino effect of the information flow of Gruber’s analysis. For example, on November 20, 2009, two days after the Senate unveiled its version of the Health care bill, Gruber published “Impacts of the Senate High Cost Insurance Excise Tax on Wages: Updated.” From there, that one report alone spread like wildfire to become the definitive case to support Democrats on their health care policies. All without the disclosure that Gruber was contracted by the White House. And throughout this contract, Gruber published multiple reports and analysis. I created this graphic to help illustrate the process:
This sort of structured information flow is extremely similar to the inner-workings of other propaganda initiatives we’ve seen from the left to support this President’s agenda. If you’ll recall, it’s precisely the way that members of the Cry Wolf Project – many of its members distinguished college professors, historians and researchers – planned to assemble and distribute analysis and commentary on the policies that make up the Obama agenda.
It’s just the kind of propaganda that has been widespread in this administration and extends far beyond just what’s indicated in Issa’s report.
Prior to this report being released, the “Big” sites have already observed many examples of Research-Propaganda – much of it publicly funded – being spun and fed to the media to support the same initiatives. Fictional or flawed statistics like the medical bankruptcy numbers, which have been repeatedly debunked, were regurgitated as fact over and over by groups like SEIU and the AFL-CIO, and even by the President himself. In some instances, there even appears to possibly have been a concerted effort on the part of special interest groups like big labor to manufacture some issues for permanent political sustenance.
Take an organization like the AARP, which has received nearly $400,000,000 in federal funds over the last eight years. We’ve seen this organization’s definitive support for this administration’s agenda through its joint initiatives like Divided We Fail, with SEIU, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and Business Roundtable. And just one arm alone of SEIU received over $5,000,000 in federal funds over the last eight years; the labor union has received even more under other organizations and programs by alternate names. Such joint partnership projects like those from AARP-SEIU have worked together on studies, some of which are mentioned in SEIU: Building a New American Health Care Empire, including from Families USA and Americans for Stable Quality Care. While these two massive organizations rake in millions in taxpayer dollars separately, they are jointly complicit not only in endorsing political agendas, but in collaborating on and distributing supporting propaganda, especially on behalf of this administration.
Let’s also not forget all of the cover that’s been provided by so many of the left-leaning outlets on behalf of this administration and its propagandist allies. On numerous occasions, Media Matters jumped to defend the SEIU, even when the timeline indicated that it was quite possible the two organizations – and possibly many other liberal journalists and White house staffers – were colluding together.
But there is one other important issue that cannot necessarily be addressed in a report like Issa’s.
While the spending during the Bush administration on similar activities was inexcusable and irresponsible, both fiscally and morally in some sense, there is one distinct difference in the type of propaganda that this administration engages in, and in the level of collusion involved. Seldom has there been a time in history, if any, when a sitting President has actually taken aim directly at certain citizens of this country, based upon their political beliefs. When the political elite become so disconnected from the voting citizens of this country, it becomes easy to demonize and attack those who oppose you, as though they’re inanimate objects. For the propagandist, doing this makes it that much easier to inflate an issue and create an environment of intense emotion that polarizes people, while you step away as the emotions cause people to fight and your base to mobilize. The penchant for this administration to directly attack citizens who disagree with the policies is all but unprecedented. This is what largely differentiates the propaganda activities of the Obama administration from any others mentioned in the Issa report.
While the left will incessantly demonize anyone who disagrees with Obama’s policies, insisting they’ve been brainwashed by FOX News or “evil Republicans”, but all I hear from that side of the tracks are the same words that have been uttered by our favorite billionaire, George Soros, for the last ten years now.
And as we all know, he’s the master of propaganda. Which leaves me to wonder: Who’s brainwashing who? But if you don’t believe me, see it for yourself.