500 million dollars. That's the sum of money the US congress planned to allocate to churn out negative news coverage on China. First reported by American Prospect on Feb. 9, the bill was stuffed into the China-centered America COMPETES Act that just got passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this month. A majority of the half-billion-dollar fund will go to the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a state-run media service that oversees Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Radio Free Asia (RFA), which have a record of "blurring the line between objective news coverage and pro-American propaganda," the article wrote.
The malicious plan constitutes a flagrant departure from the principles of "media independence" and "media objectivity" that are self-proclaimed by many in the US. It is tantamount to state-sponsored propaganda, which the superpower has borrowed—along with other dishonorable tactics, e.g., setting up a spy mission center targeting China—from previous approaches adopted during the Cold War era.
[Related Reading: CIA's new China mission center takes a page from America's cold war playbook]
As early as 1946, a bulk of 19 million dollars was appropriated by the US Congress to offset the Soviet Union's "misrepresentation of the United States." Two years later, Congress passed the Smith–Mundt Act and earmarked 30 million dollars to "promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries." In 1953, a specific propaganda institution—the United States Information Agency (USIA)—was established to counter Soviet Union influence while seeding American values, which Dwight Eisenhower, then American president, described as "aspirations for freedom, progress, and peace."
Meanwhile, RFE and VOA, the driving forces of America's propaganda machine, continued to extend their antennas behind the Iron Curtain. While both RFE and VOA purported to tell the "truth" to the world in an objective manner, they in practice "created an aura of American infallibility in which all of its opponents [were] portrayed as evil and grasping," as wrote Ralph A. Uttaro in his essay The Voices of America in International Radio Propaganda. Throughout their operation during the Cold War, RFE and VOA had repeatedly crossed the line between information and incitement (for example, RFE's broadcasts ahead of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 was viewed by many as encouraging citizens to revolt) and allowed the US government to heavily manipulate and fund their broadcasts, especially during the McCarthy era.
The arrival of the 500-million-dollar bill to direct disinformation against China suggests that the US is preparing to reopen its Cold War toolbox to wage yet another propaganda campaign. Under the disguise of the "free press" and "objective reporting," the US is now eyeing a chance to sponsor its media squads to re-enact their role as an instigator rather than as a reporter. The concepts of journalistic credibility and independent reporting inlaid in the motto of American outlets like VOA couldn't be more ill-founded and satirical with the passage of such a propaganda bill. Anyone in the US who advocates for objectivity and neutrality in journalism should feel embarrassed.