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Rep. Adam Kinzinger proposes erosion of standards to start mysterious new counter-propaganda campaign

The congressional bill H.R. 5181 is so new that its text is not yet available from the Library of Congress. But Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger has written a pretty darned interesting press release to euphemize his bill (entitled “An Act To Counter Foreign Disinformation and Propaganda, and For Other Purposes”). The press release reads:

“Yesterday, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), joined by Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), introduced legislation that creates a comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter disinformation and propaganda around the world. The bill, H.R. 5181, the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016’ would incorporate a whole-of-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions, as well as innovative partnerships to combat foreign disinformation and manipulation that have a negative impact on stability and security around the world.

“‘As Russia continues to spew its disinformation and false narratives, they undermine the United States and its interests in places like Ukraine, while also breeding further instability in these countries,’ Kinzinger said. ‘The United States has a role to play in countering these destabilizing actions of propaganda, which is why I’m proud to introduce the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016.’ This important legislation develops a comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter disinformation campaigns through interagency cooperation and on-the-ground partnerships with outside organizations that have experience in countering foreign propaganda. At a time when countries like Russia and China are engaging in hybrid warfare campaigns, the United States has a unique opportunity to respond to foreign manipulation by encouraging the free flow of truthful information. This can further prevent conflict and ensure future stability.’

“The United States needs the proper tools to defend its interests against this type of foreign manipulation and effectively defeat these new and emerging threats, while also utilizing on-the-ground communities who are targeted by these disinformation campaigns. This bipartisan House bill is a companion bill to S.2692 introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) back in March.

“‘From Ukraine to the South China Sea, foreign disinformation campaigns do more than spread anti-Western sentiments—they manipulate public perception to change the facts on the ground, subvert democracy and undermine U.S. interests. In short, they make the world less safe,’ Lieu said. ‘That’s why the ‘Countering Foreign Disinformation and Propaganda Act’ is so important. The Act ensures that the U.S. uses all the tools at our disposal to disrupt these vitriolic propaganda campaigns and empower those being manipulated with truthful information.'”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger writes of "bureaucratic restrictions," "innovative partnerships" and "outside organizations" in counter-propaganda campaigns. What does he mean by these slippery euphemisms?

Let’s not mince words here. With H.R. 5181, Adam Kinzinger is proposing a new wave of U.S.-sponsored propaganda to counter other propaganda.  What will that propaganda campaign look like? We don’t know yet — the public hasn’t yet been given the text of the bill.  But Rep. Kinzinger tips his hat with key phrases:

without the bureaucratic restrictions

innovative partnerships

outside organizations

proper tools

all the tools at our disposal

utilizing on-the-ground communities

“Innovative partnerships,” “outside organizations” and “on-the-ground communities” could mean independent contracting corporations paid by the government to conduct propaganda campaigns. It also could mean propping up authentic-sounding “local voices” to manipulate the news environment.

More clearly, references to “proper tools,” “all the tools at our disposal,” and “without the bureaucratic restrictions” indicate that the government has enacted laws or regulations to prevent certain kinds of propaganda campaigns by the U.S. government.  Rep. Kinzinger wants those laws or regulations to go away.  But someone thought they were a good idea.  Who was that?  What negative outcome do these laws or regulations prevent?  Why is Rep. Kinzinger so eager to go out of these normal bounds?

We don’t know.  We don’t yet have Kinzinger’s text.  But when the bill’s text does become available,  a thorough read would be a pretty good idea.  This legislative effort has a whiff of the sneaky about it.  Pay attention and stay tuned for updates.

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