Thursday, May 3, 2012

Internews: "These Morons Don't Even Know We Exist" (2005)

Editors' Introduction: In his revealing 2006 study on the role of the media and Western funding during Georgia's Rose Revolution, Harvard scholar David Anable wrote:

In the months and years that lead up to Milosevic's defeat in the election of October 2000, Serbia's media was a complex mix of independent newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, and an array of outlets that had been co-opted by the regime...But B-92's Veran Matic set up a regional broadcast, print and news agency network, ANEM, which continued to provide critical coverage of the regime, as well as encouragement for those who opposed it.  ANEM and other independent media were the recipients of substantial Western--U.S., European, and Scandinavian--development assistance.  In 1999, the year before Milosevic was ousted, the U.S. spent more than $1 per Serb on media assistance programs, for a population of roughly 10 million.  And this was matched by significant European funding.
B-92 itself was kept alive, with Western support, on the Internet.  When silenced at home, it fed its news back into Serbia via rebroadcasts on Voice of America and the BBC...

This issue of Western support of media in pursuit of "regime change" was taken up more recently by Shadi Hamid in his Brookings Institution 2011 report, The Struggle for Middle East Democracy.  He wrote:
Rustavi-2 logo
"During the Colored Revolutions, the West...[offered] critical support not just for change but regime change. In both the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the trigger was stolen elections. Independent media played a key role in publicizing the fraud. The founder of Rustavi–2, one of Georgia’s most watched channels and the voice of the opposition, had set up the station with the assistance of a USAID-funded nonprofit called Internews. On November 2, 2003, the day of the contested polls, and during the vote count, Rustavi–2 ran a scroll on the screen comparing the official results to the parallel vote count and exit polling, which was funded in part by Western governments and NGOs. 

David Anable's 2005 report was more explicit:
Rustavi-2 was founded in 1994 in the town of Rustavi, not far from Tblisi...It's main founder, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, with help and advice from the U.S. media assistance nonprofit Internews, set the station on a course of professionalism and independence...

...Internews not only provided Rustavi-2 with training and guidance but also mobilized local and international support to fend off attempts to close it down.

In the ten days before the November 2 [2003] parliamentary election, the station broadcast several times the documentary "Bringing Down a Dictator."  Made by director/producer Steve York, it portrays in detail how the Serbs had carried out their nonviolent revolution against Slobodan Milosevic...


The documentary's lessons did indeed sink in.  "Most important was the film," Ivane Merabishvili. general secretary of the National Movement party that led the revolt, told the Washington Post.  "All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed...the film on their revolution.  Everyone knew what to do.  This was a copy of that revolution, only louder."

In "The Causes of the Rose Revolution," Cory Welt, a fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., refers to Rustavi-2 embracing "an activist platform" during the November 2003 election crisis, and "openly siding with the opposition and encouraging public involvement in protests."

Former U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles, says Rustavi-2 was, "almost over the top in trying to promote Shevardnadze's overthrow."  The TV station was "important" in the revolution, and certainly played a "role in the opposition's ability to keep people's attention on what was going on and in keeping people on the streets" despite the bad November weather.  "In that sense, it was instrumental," he concludes.

Internews 2011 Egypt PDF
Unsurprisingly, a detailed study of the history of Western "democracy promotion" reveals a massive, multi-faceted, well-funded organizational infrastructure that has had as its main purpose to wage ideological and cultural warfare against indigenous power structures in countries that have been targeted for "regime change."

Unfortunately, few critical researchers have yet opted to delve into this area of research.  As such, critical treatment of even general features of this topic has been shallow, monopolized entirely by sycophantic journalists, official regime change practitioners, and those self-interested organizations that finance and support their activities.

Internews 2011 Russia PDF
To underline our point, consider the case of Internews.  Since its founding in 1982, Internews has operated in dozens of countries around the world (including almost all of the political hot spots), wielding an annual budget in the tens of millions of dollars, providing crucial technical and material support toward the building of oppositional media culture in many countries that have boasted (or aim to boast) "regime change" successes.  So far as their historic role in "regime change," one can find evidence of Internews on the ground providing a tactical and strategic function in the months and years before a "regime change" operation has gone live; and for years afterward, playing a leading role in the building of the newly established media environment, helping cement a new political and commercial status quo.  And yet, despite this overwhelming power and presence, outside of think tank documents, financial disclosures and governmental reports, Internews is virtually invisible to researchers, it simply does not exist.

The following article, published in 2005, was one journalist's attempt to raise questions pertaining to this little-known international media outfit.  As the author himself concludes, plenty more work needs to be done.        


What is Internews?
By Jeremy Baker aka Darkprints
Originally published on his blog
May 2005
Images and captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics

Internews is a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) based in the tiny, remote northern California coastal community of Arcata, its “world headquarters.” Their mission—to “foster independent media in emerging democracies, produce innovative television and radio programming and internet content, and use the media to reduce conflict within and between countries”—is made possible with a yearly budget of $20 million, money Internews has used to set up outposts in 46 countries around the world. But even a cursory examination of their website (and a brief glance at their books) paints a different, somewhat less altruistic picture.

Few would argue that, of all the products and services that the United States exports, a U.S. based entity aggressively promoting the advance of western-style media network building (TV, radio and internet) into politically hot areas of the world (the Mideast, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia) is, at the outset, a suspicious sounding phenomenon fraught with conflict of interest issues and the potential for abuse. The possibility that opportunists might commandeer such an organization to exploit foreign airwaves for propaganda purposes—not to mention vast profit—is, understandably, a very relevant concern.

So it makes sense to begin the Internews story on the money trail. The $20 million Internews annual budget is in part supplied by some of the most familiar names in philanthropy: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Kellogg Foundation, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and almost a hundred other agencies, funds, businesses, even foreign governments, all listed on the Internews donors page on their website []. Corporate funding includes a who’s who of western big media concerns like AOL/TimeWarner, GE, Microsoft, even Dow Jones and Company. Many of these corporations have, at one point or another, written one-time checks for various projects that may have been completed years ago. But these donors combined yield only about 20% of the total Internews budget. This “non-governmental organization” goes straight to the U. S. State Department for the other 80% (plus) of its working capitol.

Most of this State Department money is funneled through USAID (the United States Agency for International Development), a foreign “aid” agency infamous for its CIA ties. “The only thing developed by [USAID] was U.S. corporate control…” says David Ross, an Arcata writer and talk radio host: “AID worked hand in glove with the [CIA] to subvert national movements for democracy.” Under the aegis of USAID was the Department of Public Safety that “trained hundreds of thousands of military, police and paramilitary soldiers in over 17 countries in Latin America.” According to Penny Lernoux in her book “Cry of the People,” the USAID Public Safety Program “encouraged the use of torture and assassination by Latin American police and paramilitary organizations.”

John Joyce Gilligan
“Many [USAID] field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people” adds a former director of USAID, John Gilligan. George Soros has taken an interest in Internews as well. According to Covert Action Quarterly, Soros funded NGOs train legions of “influence agents” and sends them to targeted regions to “philosophically smooth the inroads for Western multinational corporations.”[my emphasis]

“Millions of dollars of AID money was used to subvert elections in Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile and recently in Yugoslavia…” adds Ross; chilling confirmation of what was told to me by a source who claims that “Internews has a virtual stranglehold on media in Afghanistan… if it wasn’t for [Internews] stations blasting out pro-Karzai election propaganda the man would [not have been able to] avoid a runoff against a stronger candidate.” This same source also made the following stunning statement: “…the head of Karzai’s Presidential office was paid his monthly salary directly by Internews,” a man who is now the Afghani ambassador to the U.S.

But Internews’ “non-profit” status is equally suspect. Listen to this from a 1995 Wired magazine article: “The IBS (Independant Broadcasting System), a prized project of Internews [Russia]…that’s linked 120 independent stations…[is] taking a 180 degree turn to make a profit…attracting heavyweight advertisers such as Coca-Cola, Johnson and Johnson, Revlon, Cadbury, Schweppes and Proctor and Gamble…this anomalous collection of idealists are exploiting every angle it can find to steer the course of TV in Russia.”

Internews trainers teaching Russians how to make TV ads has raised more eyebrows than mine. The same Wired article put it best; “…many might look at [Internews president and co-founder David] Hoffman’s history of absconding with U.S. public monies to infiltrate Russia’s airwaves and to establish mega-advertising nodes among millions of new consumers as suspicious and ethically complex.” More than one journalist has commented on Internews’ “secretive, incognito status,” hardly the demeanor you’d expect from a philanthropic outfit on such a noble mission—particularly one touting media ethics. In all the years that I lived in Arcata, I rarely heard a word about Internews. I’ve spent years on the web researching political and media related issues and have never stumbled upon a single word about Internews. Only a tiny fraction of the media professionals I’ve approached on the subject have heard of them either, an odd thing considering the fact that Internews is apparently a major player in the establishment of global media policy.

Internews co-founder, David Hoffman
I asked Internews’ VP for communications about their claim that its president, David Hoffman, had “written widely” on issues involving “media and democracy, the internet and the importance of supporting pluralistic media around the world.” I asked because I’d found little evidence of this, and no wonder. Hoffman had, in fact, only written a handful of op-eds and one article appearing in, of all places, Foreign Affairs, the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, the governments foreign policy think tank.

I also asked her about another claim made in Hoffman’s Internews bio—that he had “completed doctoral work in the Social and Intellectual History of the US at the University of Colorado.” But no. According to this official Internews spokeswoman, he hadn’t actually completed his doctorate after all. Repeated phone inquiries to the registrar’s office at UC confirmed that Hoffman had apparently been enrolled in the doctoral program but had in fact not completed his doctorate.

The Wired magazine article quoted above also included this; “Few former peaceniks carry the clout and budget Hoffman now commands, and probably even fewer would take up the government banner as avidly.”[my emphasis] And how many former peaceniks, anti-nukers and union organizers would boast of this: “I even [organized a union] at [the top secret] Lawrence Livermore National Labs. The first union of nuclear weapons scientists.”[my emphasis]

David Hoffman (L) with former President Ronald Reagan

As strange as these words may sound coming from a peacenik anti-nuker, Hoffman also apparently believes that: “Conservatives are right on some things…I’ve become much more of a hawk.” Apparently his peacenik days are over. In response to questions about Internews’ dependence on government monies, he responds, “I don’t get much pressure.” Why would he? Hoffman’s and the State Department’s rhetoric seem one and the same. And when Andrew Meier, the journalist from Wired magazine flew to Arcata and first sat down with Internews’ enigmatic President, Hoffman apparently began the interview by saying “I hate that word—peace.”

“It seemed an odd opener” said Meier, author of “The Russian Media Revolution.” According to Meier, Hoffman was apparently referring to the media bigwigs from whom he solicits funding. They are the ones who really hate the word. But he didn’t say that they hate the word peace; he said that he hates the word peace. The best you can say about this offensive statement is that it was a shockingly careless and irresponsible thing for the president of an aid agency to blurt out in an interview, on the record. If it was meant as a joke, it was a bad one. It’s like the president of the NAACP stating publicly that he’s uncomfortable around black people.

Propaganda issues mount as we see the State Department’s history of decidedly pro-Israel conduct expressed in the rhetoric and behavior of this overwhelmingly government funded “NGO.” In addition to Hoffman’s predilection for scolding Arabs for inflammatory hate-speech, listen to this baffling statement included in another of Hoffman’s op-eds: “The State Department has been complicit in turning a blind eye to racist, anti-semitic propaganda that regularly flows over government run media in [Arabic] countries.” Does this sound right to you? When has the State Department ever turned a blind eye to Muslim effrontery? Typically it’s been Israel’s propaganda and bigotry that this government has turned a blind eye to while Muslim shortcomings rarely go uncensored. Hoffman’s rhetoric seems to violate the impartiality you’d expect to see in a man at the helm of a philanthropic group expounding “free and open” media abroad.

Covert operations not infrequently make use of shell organizations that effectively conceal shady, unscrupulous behavior. Often these store fronts are mysteriously dormant and quiet. Internews’ original “world headquarters” (a small, old house in downtown Arcata) was always shut up tight every time I walked by on my daily walks through town. The mini-blinds and windows (upstairs, downstairs, front, sides and rear) were always, without exception, completely drawn and shut, no one going in or out, ever. I walked by that house literally hundreds of times over the years, at all times of the day, and it was always the same—total lockdown, complete inactivity, every single time.

Arcata, California: little-known international media powerhouse (and asset of the U.S. foreign policy complex) for years wielded its multi-million dollar budget from this tiny house?? 

A covert operation masquerading as an aid agency might also showcase various accomplishments in order to legitimize its image; the “good work” they do is an essential ingredient in the deception. In this light, whatever accomplishments Internews can boast, they unfortunately exist side by side with a host of alarming revelations. If indeed Internews is serving as a Trojan Horse for various propagandists and multi-nationals bent on the “Americanization” of the planet, not to mention profits in the many hundreds of billions of dollars from programming and advertisements, would these “idealists” blink at the cost of, for example, broadcasting the trials of Rwandans accused of genocide or springing the occasional dissident from jail?

One of the most geopolitically strategic and resource laden regions in the world today is Central Asia. The Caspian Basin countries of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan have long been acknowledged as objectives for American foreign policy—and Internews is, quite literally, obsessed with the “Stans.” Internews workers focus their attentions on four major activities in the areas they have targeted; training, production, media law and internet policy. In many regions they conduct perhaps one or two of these training exercises. But in the “Stans” (all profoundly Muslim states) they are unusually busy and work hard to accomplish all four objectives.

We also see the perennial ‘problem, reaction, solution’ shell-game at work in these regions. If a government reaches out to foreigners to offer help and the aid is honestly proffered, that may be one thing. But if a government aided and abetted the very illnesses that it’s offering to cure, that’s another thing altogether. For years, the U.S. was Saddam Hussein’s most ardent supporter, another in a long line of Washington-subsidized thugs installed by our “democracy” in coveted areas of the planet. But when Saddam’s usefulness had come to an end, we, under the rubric of “regime change,” bravely took him out and added Iraq to our portfolio. In Uzbekistan, the U.S. has supported the dictator, Islam Karimov, for years. Washington has contributed $500 million to the regime and has, despite their abysmal record on human rights (Karimov is infamous for actually boiling dissidents in oil), quietly removed Uzbekistan from the official list of countries that stifle freedom of religion. Of course, this State Department sponsored persecution sets the stage for the work of State Department sponsored Internews, an “NGO” that would like to have us believe is making better use of its Washington money than Uzbekistan’s junta!

“When any political system implodes, frequencies become available” says Evelyn Messinger, one of three co-founders of Internews, in The Nation Magazine. But with all the evidence we have of U.S. complicity in the looting and implosion of the Russian economy after the cold war, are we really to believe that State Department fueled, corporate sponsored, Soros mentored Internews is really riding to the rescue?

Nowhere is the Internews schizophrenia more neatly illustrated than in a Toronto Globe and Mail article entitled “The Dream Merchants.” This upbeat, jingoistic story leads a cheer for U.S. “aid” work in Central Asia and spouts points of view that exemplify the heavy handed encroachment of western culture in these regions. “We pick them up by the scruffs of the neck and show them how to do this stuff…We create them.” “Americans care about this whole democracy thing, far more than the Europeans or Canadians do.” “But today, it is the Americans who buzz importantly around this city [Baku, Azerbaijan]…and they struggle to…import American ideas and implant an American-style democracy in a long hostile land.” You may find this article’s tenor and blind support for anything American a little disturbing. Judge for yourself. You can find it posted on the Internews website (“Articles about Internews.”).

The odd thing is that Internews is only briefly mentioned in the piece , so mustn’t the Internews people have approved of its smug, racist tone, enough to include it on their website? Would you post an article on your website that so distorted your intentions and corroborated your worst critic’s most damning suspicions, just because the author mentioned you in passing—unless, of course, the article didn’t distort your intentions at all but, rather, expressed them all too well?

Is this the home of a small town newspaper like, say, "The Arcata Advertiser"?  No.  This is actually the WORLD HEADQUARTERS for (what appears to be) the largest and most clandestine media operation in the Western hemisphere.  Take a look at the board of directors (listed below) and feel free to ask the obvious question: what the heck are these super-high-powered suits all doing meeting in a ramshackle dump like the one above?!? Yeah we're only guessing....(although we're pretty good at it)....but this looks like a Spook Farm to us!

In 2003, Internews moved to upscale new offices [pictured above] next to the Post Office in rural, downtown Arcata. Once, during a brief visit, I couldn’t help but notice that, at a time when most social programs have their backs against the wall financially, Internews seems oddly well endowed. One of the few things I ever heard from anyone locally about Internews was from a friend who did some bookkeeping for them. He mentioned to me one day: “you know, they’re all republicans.” To whatever extent this may be true, they certainly do seem to have blossomed since the Bush administration took charge, a presidency that’s not exactly known for its magnanimous foreign policy and media openness. Given this administration’s “secretive, incognito” status and renowned attempts to control and manipulate the news media, Internews’ recent unthwarted ascension and overwhelming State Department funding become increasingly at issue.

The question begs itself: Why did Internews choose tiny, remote Arcata California for its “world headquarters”? (I once called their Washington D.C. offices with some questions, but they told me I had to call Arcata!) Well, besides the obvious point that a secretive organization might want to hide out, safely cloistered behind the “redwood curtain,” consider this: if one was to shine some light on this enigmatic outfit (as I attempted to do with my original article Internews: Friend or Foe, published in a small local weekly) how would one go about it? My story, followed two weeks later with an eloquent piece by David Ross (who echoed my concerns and elaborated on the history of USAID’s ties to the CIA), generated almost no feedback of any kind. Rural areas often have few if any influential newspapers or magazines.

But certainly setting up shop in a nationally recognized liberal oasis like Arcata, California—home of the anti-patriot act resolution, the recommendation to impeach the president and the recent “safe haven” measure for Iraqi war resistors—does much to enhance Internews’ radical, do-gooder facade and, of course, enhance its “cover.”

Internews may very well technically meet the requirements needed to legitimize its “non-profit” status, but what does that matter if they are in fact covertly operating as an agent for various billion dollar multi-nationals? Wouldn’t an activist outfit committed to media reform find no better place to focus his or her attentions than right here at home in the U.S., a culture that has raised news media manipulation to a high art? Certainly the overwhelming support this “NGO” receives from the State Department must confuse foreign trainees when Internews workers advise them about the necessity of working independently from governmental influence.

As revealed by the images above (published in Internews' report from MAY-JUNE, 2011) Internews started building alternative (oppositional) communications infrastructure IMMEDIATELY after NATO-backed rebel forces took control of eastern Libya, only two short months after the rebellion even began.  It follows that Internews' role in Libya was PROACTIVE...not REACTIVE...   
Do you remember Bush’s pre-Iraq invasion speech to the UN in which he warned us about the dangers of “outrageous conspiracy theories” in relation to 9/11? To many, it seemed like an odd, out-of-the-blue kind of remark. But listen to this from David Hoffman in a “Letter from the President [of Internews]:” “Terrorism and war feed on propaganda, conspiracy theories and messages of hate.” Terrorism and war feed on conspiracy theories? This is the first I’ve heard of this obscure phenomenon. This pre-emptive strike on those of us who are asking the pesky questions creates more doubt than it dispels and makes me want to keep these “free speechers” under the microscope all the more.

Certainly Internews requires continued scrutiny, not blind trust.

Editors' Addendum: So who's behind this outfit?

Internews Officers:

Jeanne Bourgault Corporate Secretary/President
  • Former strategic advisor for media development programs in post-war Kosovo
  • Former manager of USAID "democracy assistance" portfolio in Moscow
  • Former consultant for Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Research Triangle Institute, the United Nations' Centre for Human Rights 

David Creekmore Treasurer/Chief Operating Officer
  • Former Chief Financial Officer, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Former consultant/director of IT implementation and strategy at the Council on Foreign Relations and Citizen Exchange Council

David Hoffman Co-founder/Chief Executive Officer/Board Member
  • Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Global Forum for Media Development
  • Organized first union of nuclear weapons scientists, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

Internews Board of Directors: 

Chris Boskin
  • Currently on the Board of Directors for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Former advertising director and publisher for Countryside
  • San Francisco, Pacific Northwest, and Asia Manager for Hearst Magazines
  • Pacific and Asia manager for New Yorker Magazine

Simone Otus Coxe
  • Currently on the Board of Directors for the World Affairs Council
  • Former CEO (and co-founder) of Blanc & Otis, a public relations firm (since acquired by Hill and Knowlton)

Kathy Bushkin Calvin
  • Currently the Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation
  • Former President of the AOL Time Warner Foundation
  • Former Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of America Online
  • Former Senior Managing Director at Hill and Knowlton
  • Former Director of Editorial Administration for U.S. News and World Report
  • Former press secretary for Senator Gary Hart's 1984 Presidential campaign

Douglas Carlston
  • Currently the Chief Executive Officer (and co-founder) of Tawala Systems
  • Current member of the Board of Directors of Salzburg Global Seminar, the Albanian American Enterprise Fund, the Ploughshares Fund, MoveOn PAC, and others.
  • Member of the Board of Advisors of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
  • Former member of the Board of Directors of the American Bank of Albania

Greg Carr
  • Currently the Director of the Carr Foundation
  • Co-founder (with Samantha Power) of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University

Lorne Craner
  • Currently the President of the International Republican Institute (IRI)
  • Current member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Formerly the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for the United States Department of State (under Colin Powell)
  • Former Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council (under Brent Scowcroft)
  • Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs

Larry Irving
  • Currently the President of The Irving Group
  • Former Vice President for Global Government Affairs at Hewlett-Packard Company
  • Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information (under President Clinton)

Jillian Manus
  • Currently the President of Manus Media and Literary Agency
  • Former director of development at Warner Brothers and Universal Studios
  • Served for seven years as Chair for The Women's Conference (under Maria Shriver)
  • Married to Alan E. Salzman, founding partner of VantagePoint Venture Partners

Maureen Orth
  • Currently a Journalist, Author and Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair
  •  Former Senior Editor for New York Magazine
  • Former writer for Newsweek and New York Woman
  • Former NBC-TV Correspondent

James H. Rosenfield, Sr.
  • Currently the President JHR and Associates
  • Formerly President of CBS Television Network
  • Former Chairman and CEO of John Blair Communications
  • Currently a Board member of the Advertising Council
  • Past President of International Radio and Television Society (IRTS)

Sanford Socolow
  • Currently the Vice Chair and Executive Producer of Cronkite Productions, Inc.
  • Founding executive producer of "World Monitor," a production of the Christian Science Monitor
  • Former executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
  • Former executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
  • Former CBS London Bureau Chief and supervisor of news gathering activities in Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Soviet Union
  • Former producer for CBS "60 Minutes"

Cristiana Falcone Sorrell
  • Currently the Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the World Economic Forum USA Inc.
  • Strategy and business development for global corporations (SONY, Shell), international organizations (ILO, IFAD, FAO, UNDCCP), and media (RAI, Gruppo Espresso)

John Walsh
  • Currently the Executive VP and the Executive Director of ESPN, Inc. 
  • Founding editor of Inside Sports magazine
  • Former managing editor of U.S. News and World Report
  • Former managing editor of Rolling Stone magazine
  • At ESPN, Walsh oversaw the founding of ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Radio