Earlier this week Congress made headway on what might be described as a Ministry of Truth bill.
A measure in the National Defense Authorization Act “calls on the State Department to lead governmentwide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years,” reports Stars and Stripes.
The bill passed in the House on Wednesday. It will move to the Senate next and, if it passes there, will be presented to the president for his signature.
In March, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., authored the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.” It was initially intended to combat Russian “propaganda” in Ukraine, Moldova, and Serbia.
The focus changed after the Democrat party said Russian propaganda had an effect on the election and helped Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
“In the wake of this election, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. does not have the tools to combat this massive disinformation machinery that the Russians are running,” said Murphy.
Specifically, the bill will expand the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. The center focuses on “empowering and enabling partners, governmental and non-governmental, who are able to speak out against these [terror] groups and provide an alternative to ISIL’s nihilistic vision,” reports Disinfo.
The government supported center will offer services ranging from planning thematic social media campaigns, to providing factual information that counters disinformation, building capacity for third parties to effectively utilize social media, and research and evaluation writes Harry Henderson.
In other words, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center acts as a Ministry of Truth, the government bureau responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism in George Orwell’s classic novel on totalitarianism, Nineteen-Eighty Four.
The legislation that passed through the House calls for an executive branch effort to combat “Russian manipulation” of the media. It says “active measures” are required to fight against information at odds with what is reported in the United States by the government through the establishment media.
“There is definitely bipartisan concern about the Russian government engaging in covert influence activities of this nature,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “If you read section 501 of this year’s intelligence authorization bill, it directs the President to set up an interagency committee to ‘counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence over peoples and governments.’ So that shows you that senators from both parties are clearly concerned about Russian covert influence efforts.”
Following Clinton’s defeat, an anonymous group of self-proclaimed “experts” said alternative news websites act as “useful idiots” for the Russians.
The group, PropOrNot, posted a long list of websites it says are dupes for Russian propaganda. The Washington Post gave credence to the unsubstantiated claim when it published a story highlighting the efforts of the anonymous group.