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From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House

I don’t know about you, but I take a teeny weeny bit of offense when a guy in a glass house lobs a great big stone and expects me not to notice the sound of shattering.

Which brings me to National Public Radio. When the ubiquitous news and public affairs network announced the appointment of a new CEO, it noted that John Lansing made his mark in his current job with “stirring defenses of journalism, free from government interference.”

This had me picking through the shards when they went on to explain that Lansing comes to NPR from the United States Agency for Global Media, a federally-funded organization whose express mission is to interfere in journalism by doing it, in such as way as to promote American policy values all across the world.

NPR’s new CEO story came with a picture of Lansing in his capacity as CEO of USAGM, testifying in Congress about the scourge of Russian media meddling. “The Russian government and other authoritarian regimes engage in far-reaching, malign influence campaigns,” he said.

The high dudgeon ill suited a man who, as he spoke, oversaw an empire of federally-funded influence campaigns with origins in Cold War US psy-ops: The Voice of America, Radio y Televisión Martí, and Radio Free Europe, as well as Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Persia. According to Yasha Levine at Pando, when Lansing took the reins of this holding company, which was then called the Broadcasting Board of Governors, it had a budget of $721 million, reported directly to the Secretary of State, and was managed by a revolving crew of neocon and military think tank experts, including Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Recently, Lansing has been under criticism after scandals involving fake news and fleecing at Radio Martí – scandals he says he took action on. But it’s not the scandals, it’s the routine at the US media agency that makes Lansing’s stone-throwing so obnoxious. The propaganda past in Latin America, Cuba, Africa, and Cold War Europe is clear. In the Obama/Clinton years, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe actively ginned up support for war against Putin’s Russia. Now, as the Intercept reported just last month, VOA Persia has become a Trump channel to vilify Iran.

Lansing’s not the first NPR director to come from VOA. Nor is he, of course, the first stale, pale male heading up an organization that claims it wants to move into the 21st Century. But jeez. The hypocrisy is hard to take. What next? A Morning Edition report on kettles being black?

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Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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