The US is losing the global information war, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared while appearing before a congressional committee to ask for extra funds to spread US propaganda through new media.
Clinton said existing private channels are not good enough to handle the job, naming as rivals Al Jazeera, China’s CCTV and RT – which she watches, she added.
Clinton was defending her department’s budget in front of the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.
Clinton said the US should step up its propaganda effort and get back “in the game” of doing “what we do best.”
“During the Cold War we did a great job in getting America’s message out. After the Berlin Wall fell we said, ‘Okay, fine, enough of that, we are done,’ and unfortunately we are paying a big price for it,” she said. “Our private media cannot fill that gap.”
“We are in an information war and we are losing that war. Al Jazeera is winning, the Chinese have opened a global multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive,” she stated.
Things have changed a lot since the days when Western media outlets, including BBC and CNN, had a monopoly on the coverage of world news. More and more viewers across the world tune into various foreign media to get a fresh take on events.
It is all in the numbers. For instance, RT’s presence on YouTube is a real hit: almost 300 million views, when CNN International is struggling to reach 3 million.
RT’s constantly growing audience is an indication that the days of media monopoly are over and that people are demanding more multi-polar thinking.
One of the latest examples is Al Jazeera’s coverage of the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, which by most accounts outshone the US media’s presentation of events.
Not everyone, however, is happy with the wider variety of media options. The head of the federal agency that manages the US’s government-run international broadcasting has basically called all those foreign media enemies.
Last year Walter Isaacson, who heads the federal agency that manages the US’s government-run international broadcasting, including the Voice of America, warned against the influence of foreign media.
“We can’t allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies,” he said, in a now-infamous pitch to get his agency more funding. He did, however, later backtrack on his statement, saying that he was misunderstood.
Journalist and filmmaker Danny Schechter says the US can no longer maintain a monopoly on information.
“The United States feels defensive in part because it can no longer monopolize not only the terms of authority in these countries, but also the terms of the debate,” he said. “There is other information out there. There are other points of view and those points of view are profoundly damaging to a country that believes that its point of view is the only point of view.”