The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 went into effect July 2, allowing the U.S. Department of State to share propaganda with Americans that was once meant only for foreign audiences.
Under the law, the Broadcasting Board of Governors can now broadcast Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other networks that inform listeners on freedom and democracy.
Proponents say allowing broadcasting in America will be an effective tool in discouraging recruitment advances made by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups on American soil.
“Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front and center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected populations,” said Washington Rep. Adam Smith, referring to the Somali-American population in Minnesota.
After al-Shabaab and other extremist groups targeted the population, lawmakers were prevented from broadcasting the American propaganda because of the original Smith-Mundt Act.
“This gives Americans the chance to see what the State Department is saying to people all over the world,” said Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry.
Proponents of the act call it an attempt at transparency because it allows taxpayers who pay the bill for its broadcasting to tune in, though former Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright said the broadcasts belonged in the graveyard of Cold War relics.
The idea that the American government would use propaganda to persuade its own citizens is a sensitive idea, especially at a time when the popularity of the president and Congress are both low.
However, Broadcasting Board of Governors spokeswoman Lynne Weil said to call the broadcasts “propaganda” would be an insult to the journalists who create its content, who sometimes put their lives at risk to do so.
She added they encouraged open debate — a facet of media that is unheard of in some places.