by Emma L Briant
Claims were once made about a 'democratic propaganda model' which protected the domestic media from propaganda for the enemy (Snow & Taylor, 2006). While this was far from an accurate description of 20th Century propaganda, since 9/11, mass surveillance and the explosion of the internet, led UK and US government planners to argue existing propaganda doctrine (and in the US, laws) were out-dated, standing in their way. Traditional distinctions between propaganda for foreign audiences - Public Diplomacy and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) - and propaganda for the US public and international media - Public Affairs (PA) - were seen as preventing effective propaganda at home and abroad.
Significant changes were pushed forward, particularly since 2005:
· Use of British - US propaganda exchange relationship (See Briant, 2015)
· In US & UK propaganda 'streams' were increasingly coordinated ('strategic communication') to ensure the messages would not contradict and to maintain strategic control of messages for different audiences, particularly online in counter-terrorism (See Gardiner, 2003; Miller, January 2004; Snow and Taylor, 2006; Briant 2015).
· Hybrid forms of communication also developed such as US Military Information Support Operations which emerged in 2010.
· The US Smith-Mundt Act was amended in 2012 to allow Public Diplomacy media previously restricted domestically to be disseminated within the US.
Informal and semi-formal networks were used for coordinating activities to challenge formal 'restrictive' processes. One new example is the Senior Information Operations Advisory Council which seeks to shape and influence a better coordinated future US propaganda. Legally speaking, changes were more awkward to implement in the US than in Britain due to British reliance on doctrine and US processes being legally enshrined. Britain still relies on doctrine and doctrine is non-binding on practice. This led to a situation where the UK was seen as 'useful' to the US due to its different rules and lack of legal audience restrictions. Yet this and revelations from Snowden also shows how easy it is for governments to evade national propaganda rules using informal and formal international relations. Formal claims made by doctrine have proven far from the reality of practice and in reality informal struggles within the propaganda elite evolve and then embed new practices (Briant, 2015).
There is a lack of recognition or awareness of the extent of recent changes in propaganda and what they mean among journalists. Should this be further embedded into journalism teaching? Journalists often perceive journalism as the 'solution' to propaganda and there is a failure to realise the changing government propaganda playing field is not just 'more of the same'. This means 'better' journalism may not be enough: In relation to intelligence and security, journalists are always limited in their 4th estate role. Citizen journalism and sousveillance also show limited potential to redress the balance and ensure 'equiveillance' and accountability (Bakir, 2010). A possible balance of formal and informal governance of government propaganda is an important area for us to cover in this seminar. While there is a need to deal with genuine online threats, security does not excuse the trampling of accountability and democratic debate. The public and media should demand real oversight that will ensure laws and rules are not a sham. We need to ask: What are the limits for government 'influence' or propaganda in a democracy? And revisit the debate over territorial and other audience protections. Would legislative change in the US/UK be desirable and what might this and/or other solutions look like? This may also rest on academics, activists, journalists and other concerned actors finding new ways to organise for change.
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