Swans Commentary » swans.com October 6, 2008  



Imperial Media Manipulators
The Center for International Media Assistance


by Michael Barker





(Swans - October 6, 2008)   Supported by Democrats, Republicans, big business, and big labor (i.e., the AFL-CIO), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is an influential government funded "nongovernmental" group that actively promotes imperialism. In summary, the NED's operations allow the US government to export low-intensity democracy through the provision of selective support to ostensibly independent civil society groups all over the world. The cooptive repertoire of strategies presently employed by the NED build upon those same manipulative techniques that were fine-tuned by so-called liberal foundations, big labor, and the CIA during the twentieth century to ensure that the grassroots of democracy could be utilized in the service of imperialism, instead of against it. As discussed elsewhere, the manipulation of global media systems played a key role in these groups' activities, thus it is little surprise that since its founding (in 1983), the NED has funded all manner of global media projects. Indeed, as the NED's president, Carl Gershman, has observed:

In a world of advanced communication and exploding knowledge, it is no longer possible to rely solely on force to promote stability and defend the national security. Persuasion is increasingly important, and the United States must enhance its capacity to persuade by developing techniques for reaching people at different levels. (1)

Writing for In These Times in June 2008, Jeremy Bigwood highlighted the multitude of problems associated with the "democratic" manipulation of global media systems, and he was the first journalist to draw attention to the antidemocratic nature of the NED's newly formed Center for International Media Assistance. Curiously, Bigwood's critique of various US-based media manipulators failed to draw upon my own work that has explicitly focused on the NED's manipulation of independent media groups, see:

•   September 2007 -- Washington Promotes "Independent" Media in Venezuela.

•   December 2007 -- Reporters Without Democracy.

•   February 2008 -- Democracy or Polyarchy? US-Funded Media Developments in Afghanistan and Iraq Post 9/11.

•   March 2008 -- Media Manipulation and the United Nations.

•   April 2008 -- Media Watchdogs or Imperial Flak Machines.

•   March 2008 -- Media Manipulation and Human Rights.

In addition, since Bigwood published his own article (in June), I have published a further two related articles, the first is Instrumentalizing Press Freedom: "Independent" Journalism Organizations and the National Endowment for Democracy; and the second article was titled The Soros Media "Empire": The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent, an essay that examined George Soros's role in supporting so-called independent media projects around the world. The latter Soros article is of most interest to this article because Soros's philanthropic work is almost identical to that of the NED's, yet owing to the private nature of his massive philanthropic network he has also had the luxury of supporting US-based media groups. Consequently, in addition to financing many NED-financed foreign media outlets, Soros has funded many well known progressive media projects based in the U.S., like the Center for Media Education, Free Press (the group presently leading the US media reform movement), the Independent Media Institute (whose best known service is AlterNet), and the Pacific News Service, to name just a few. (2)

Given George Soros's activities in the U.S., and the close relation between his work and that of the NED's, it is fitting that the inaugural report of the NED's Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) (3) -- published on July 16, 2008 -- pointed out that in 2006 that after the US government, the next most significant funder of independent media was George Soros's Open Society Institute, which distributed $40 million (or two-thirds of all private funding to support such media-related activities). The CIMA report noted that the total US government spending on international media assistance programs was just under $70 million, with another $13 million of government funding going towards funding the NED ($11.7 million) and its sister organisation the US Institute of Peace ($1.3 million). (4)

The critical role played by international financiers, like George Soros, in manipulating global media systems is problematic for a number of reasons, not least of which is that while publications like In These Times appear willing to publish the odd article that criticizes the NED, they never provide regular and systematic criticism of liberal philanthropists (for more on this see footnote #1). However, although Soros's media-related activities are both interesting and important, the main focus of this article is on CIMA.

Formed in 2006, the Center for International Media Assistance is an "initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy, [which] aims to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of media assistance programs throughout the world." The NED go on to note that, "CIMA brings together a range of media experts with the objective of strengthening support of free and independent media throughout the world. CIMA works to facilitate cooperation and collaboration among funders, implementers, and researchers in the sector of media assistance." Given that CIMA is a relatively new organization, this article will now put some more flesh on Bigwood's limited critique of this organization by reviewing the backgrounds of the seventeen individuals who presently serve on their advisory board.

David Anable -- is the recently-retired president of the NED-funded International Center for Journalists. He also serves as a director of the Institute for Global Ethics -- a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1990 and notes that it is "dedicated to promoting ethical action in a global context."

Patrick Butler -- is a director of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and became a vice president at The Washington Post Company in 1994. He also serves as a trustee of the Media Institute, a group that was formed in 1979, and whose Web site suggests that it "exists to foster three goals: freedom of speech, a competitive media and communications industry, and excellence in journalism." The type of media freedom this group promotes is evident by its choice of recipients for its annual media awards. Thus in October 2007, the Media Institute gave awards to two conservatives, Kenneth Lowe, the president and CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company, and Tony Snow, the former press secretary to President George W. Bush. Even more controversially, in October 1999 the Institute gave its Freedom of Speech Award to the Republican and then-FCC Commissioner Michael K. Powell.

Esther Dyson -- is a director of the NED, and since 1999 has been a director of WPP -- a leading communications services group that according to some critics should be referred to as World Propaganda Power. Given these manipulative connections it is interesting to note that for a couple of years, in the 1990s, Dyson served as the chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Dyson presently also serves as a director of the Sunlight Foundation, which is again intriguing because they provided grants in 2006, 2007, and 2008 to support the Center for Media and Democracy (which is the group that published the previously cited critique of WPP, and also runs the SourceWatch project).

William A. Galston -- is a director of the NED, a senior fellow at the "establishment's think tank" the Brookings Institution, and he directs the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement -- an "organization he founded [in 2001] with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts." Galston also serves on the national advisory board of AmericaSpeaks, a nonprofit organization that notes that it "engage[s] citizens in the public decision-making that most impacts their lives." Carolyn Lukensmeyer, who is the president and founder of AmericaSpeaks, also chairs the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.

Suzanne R. Garment -- is a director of the NED, formerly served as The Wall Street Journal's associate editor of the editorial page for 10 years, and also formerly acted as an adjunct scholar of the neoconservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

Karen Elliott House -- is a former senior vice president of Dow Jones & Company and publisher of The Wall Street Journal. In 1984, she received the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting, is an emeriti trustee of the Asia Society, has served a director of the Soros-funded Committee to Protect Journalists, and between 1987 and 1998 acted as a director of the imperial brains trust, the Council on Foreign Relations. Presently she is a trustee of another imperial think tank, the RAND Corporation.

Ellen Hume -- is a director of US-government and NED-funded Internews project, and from 1996 to 1998 she served as the executive director of PBS's Democracy Project, where she "developed special news programs that encouraged citizen involvement in public affairs." Hume is married to John Shattuck, who from 1976 to 1984 served as the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and went on to act as the Assistant Secretary of the US Government's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (the Bureau that funds the work of CIMA) (from 1993 to 1998), and then as the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic (from 1998 to 2000).

Gerald (Jerry) Hyman -- "served with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from 1990 to 2006, and was director of the Office of Democracy and Governance from 2002 to 2007." He is currently listed as an expert for the neoconservative think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Alex S. Jones -- is a director of the Soros/NED-funded International Center for Journalists, worked for The New York Times between 1983 to 1992, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and is presently the Director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy (where fellow CIMA advisor, Ellen Hume, serves on their advisory board). Jones also serves on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, and acts as a member of the Press Commission for the American Institutions of Democracy project that ostensibly "works to enhance the public's appreciation of the nature and function of democratic institutions."

Susan Robinson King -- is vice president, external affairs, and Director, journalism initiative, special initiatives and strategy for the Carnegie Corporation of New York (which is one of the most influential liberal foundations). "King is a founder of the International Women's Media Foundation and until recently served on its board. She has worked in the philanthropic world with the Independent Sector and the Council on Foundation's Media and Public Affairs Committees. King is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations." She also serves as a trustee of the BBC World Service Trust, a group that in 2006 received a $50,000 grant from the NED to "raise public awareness of citizens' rights, including awareness of avenues through which disabled and other citizens can gain access to the legal system [in China]. The BBC World Service Trust will establish a legal-awareness telephone hotline and create innovative media programs with the goal of fostering uniform standards of accountability and access to the judicial system."

Richard Lugar -- is the Republican Senior Senator from Indiana who is a former director of the Center for Democracy. In 2001 he received the NED Democracy Service Medal, and he presently serves on the international advisory board of the Freeman-Spogli Institute and the International Executive Service Corps (which was founded by David Rockefeller in 1964).

Eric Newton -- is the vice president of the Knight Foundations Journalism Program, which since 1950 has "invested nearly $400 million with 1,000 partners to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression worldwide." Newton is also the founding managing editor of the Newseum, which bills itself as the "world's first interactive museum of news" that was created by the misnamed Freedom Forum.

Adam Clayton Powell III -- is vice president of technology and programs at The Freedom Forum, a director of the Public Diplomacy Council, and serves as a senior fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy -- a group that was "established in August 2003 as a partnership between the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California".

Monroe Price -- is the Director, Project for Global Communication Studies, at the Annenberg School for Communication; and from 2007 to 2008, he served as a fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Amongst his many academic publications, in 2001, Price coedited a book titled, Media Reform: Democratizing Media, Democratizing the State. The acknowledgements of this book point out that the "book began with a roundtable discussion at the Freedom Forum" and was "partly inspired by Ann Hudock, then a democracy fellow at the Democracy and Governance Center of USAID."

Adam Schiff -- is a Democrat who has represented California in the United States House of Representatives since 2001. He also serves on the Congressional advisory board of the Humpty Dumpty Institute. (5)

Kurt Wimmer -- is senior vice president and general counsel of Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the United States. He is a former director of both IREX and the aforementioned Media Institute.

Richard N. Winfield -- teaches media law at the law schools of Columbia University and Fordham University, and serves as the chair of the NED-financed Fund for Peace. The Fund for Peace was founded in 1957 by Randolph Parker Compton ("a well-heeled liberal Republican investment banker and one worlder"), and their Web site describes the Fund as a "research and educational organization that works to prevent war and alleviate the conditions that cause war." Nina Solarz is the Fund's executive director, and she is married to "democratic" notable Stephen J. Solarz. According to their 2006 annual report (pdf), the Fund for Peace receives support from corporations (e.g., American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, and the Newmont Mining Corporation), foundations (notable ones being the Asia Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund), government agencies (e.g., Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Defense University, and NATO), and numerous other organizations, which count among their ranks the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Open Society Institute, and the US Institute of Peace. In addition, it is significant to note that between 1992 and 1998 the Fund for Peace received 21 grants from the NED for projects it undertook in Africa.

Empowering Independent Media?

Published on July 16, 2008, CIMA's inaugural report, Empowering Independent Media: US Efforts to Foster Free and Independent News Around the World, provides an informative, albeit celebratory, review of the NED's democracy-manipulating activities: yet most intriguing of all is the fact that CIMA were able to recruit a well-known investigative journalist to produce their report. As CIMA's Director, Marguerite Sullivan, notes in the report's foreword: "We owe special thanks to veteran investigative journalist David E. Kaplan, who took our concept, outline, and reports and shaped them into a coherent final document. Dave served as managing editor and principal writer, overseeing a team of CIMA researchers and reporters." (6)

Kaplan's service to the imperialistic CIMA is particularly ironic because in April 2008 he was named the new Director of the Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- a group that "was launched in 1997 to globally extend the Center for Public Integrity's style of watchdog journalism in the public interest". (7) That said, this link should not be particularly surprising given that the primary supporters of the Center for Public Integrity's work include some of the US's most influential liberal foundations. Moreover, the Center for Public Integrity's founder (and executive director until 2004), Charles Lewis, presently serves alongside NED director, Esther Dyson, on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation, and is the president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism. Lewis's role at the latter Fund is noteworthy because the chair of their board is Bevis Longstreth, a person who formerly acted as a director of the Winston Foundation for World Peace, (8) and presently serves as a director of the important democracy manipulating group, the Foundation for a Civil Society. (9) In addition, one notable member of the Fund for Independence in Journalism's three person strong advisory council is Harold Hongju Koh, who served as the US government's Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (1998 to 2001), and presently is a director of the NED-funded group, Human Rights in China, and of the core NED grantee, the National Democratic Institute.

Given the evidently uncritical relations that exist between investigative journalists, like Kaplan, and imperial democracy manipulators, like the NED, it seems unlikely that mainstream media outlets -- or elite-supported alternative media outlets -- will provide serious solutions to the humanitarian variant of imperialism that is promoted by groups like CIMA and all manner of other related liberal philanthropists. Consequently, it is more vital than ever that Swans readers and all other concerned citizens provide financial remuneration to the few truly independent media projects that provide them with the intellectual tools that enable them to counter the pervasive propaganda emanating from the multitude of less reliable media outlets (both mainstream and alternative).

Fortunately, the Internet does presently enable those who cannot afford to pay for journalism to benefit from Swans' keen political insights; however, it is important to remember that useful journalism does and, if it is to be sustainable, should cost money. This fact is especially pertinent if we wish to encourage a greater number of the poorer, less privileged, and more time-stressed members of our communities to contribute their time and energies to our media projects.

As many people are well aware, most of the content of a typical mainstream newspaper is paid for, and effectively written, by and for corporations. Therefore, it is vital that independent media that is paid for and written by progressive citizens -- to help empower people to effect progressive social change -- should obtain the same, if not more, funding from its readers, than the amount of money they presently provide to mainstream media outlets. Indeed, only when progressive readers begin to demonstrate their appreciation of the true cost of radical journalism, will progressive voices be able to seriously expand their outreach. Enabling them to present a viable and sustainable challenge to the hegemony of forward thinking imperial funders, like the NED, who have long recognized the critical importance of well-funded media projects.




1.  Gershman cited in William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony, (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p.2.  (back)

2.  Given that Soros is a capitalist hero of many US Democrats it is consistent that he should be linked to publications like In These Times. Thus one of the latter magazines senior editors, Salim Muwakkil, served as a 2000 Media Fellow of the Soros's Open Society Institute, while another, Lakshmi Chaudhry, served from 2002 to 2005 as a senior editor at AlterNet. In addition, In These Times' relatively new managing editor, Sanhita SinhaRoy, until recently served as the editor of the Progressive Media Project (which obtains support from many of the most influential liberal foundations, e.g., Ford and Rockefeller), while the magazine's editor-at-large, Jessica Clark, is also the director of the Future of Public Media project at the Center for Social Media -- another group that receives support from the like of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations'. The Center for Social Media is headed by In These Times senior editor, Patricia Aufderheide, who amongst various other progressive connections -- many of which connect her to liberal foundation-supported groups. Such links between In These Times and liberal philanthropists does not mean that the magazine does not provide examples of excellent investigative journalism, but questions should be asked as to what topics remain off limits within the magazine's reporting. This is because as Christopher Hayes -- who serves as a senior editor at In These Times observed in a rare In These Times article titled "The New Funding Heresies" that: "Progressive activists, organizers and leaders are rarely in a position to openly criticize their funders. (That includes In These Times -- here's hoping that the foundation that pays my salary admires our bracing honesty.)"  (back)

3.  The NED's Center for International Media Assistance should not be confused with the US nongovernmental organisation that shares the same acronym, that is, the Center for International Media Action. Despite receiving ongoing funding from the Ford Foundation, the Center for International Media Action is at least willing to critically reflect upon this problematic relationship. I say this because earlier this year they reposted an article I wrote on their Web site that critiqued the Ford Foundation's manipulation of US media projects.  (back)

4.  According to CIMA: "The U.S. government spends considerably more money on international broadcasting than on developing independent media around the world. Media-development advocates argue that this constitutes a failure to capitalize on the opportunity to build democracy through support of local, indigenous media overseas. In 2006, the U.S. Government spent $646 million on international broadcasting operations through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) -- nearly five times what was spent on media development. Among the BBG's operations are Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Martí."  (back)

5.  The Humpty Dumpty Institute was created in 1998 and their Web site states that it "forges innovative public-private partnerships to find creative solutions to difficult humanitarian problems" around the world -- which it does by working closely with various departments of the US government. The Institute was co-founded by Constance J. Milstein (who is a director of the core NED grantee, the National Democratic Institute), Michael W. Sonnenfeldt (who is a director of the Synergos Institute and former chair of the Israel Policy Forum), William J. Rouhana, Jr. (who is a director of Business Executives for National Security), and Ralph L. Cwerman (who is senior vice president of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, and is a senior aide to Benjamin Netanyahu). The Institute's four co-founders are joined on their board of directors by leading inhumanitarian Richard C. Holbrooke and Benjamin A. Gilman (who is a trustee of the Lockheed Martin-funded Meridian International Center, and winner of the International Campaign for Tibet Light of Truth Award).  (back)

6.  Sullivan also thanked report reviewers: "Enrique Armijo, associate with Covington & Burling LLP; Luis Botello, senior program director for the International Center for Journalists; Meg Gaydosik, senior media development advisor with the U.S. Agency for International Development; Shanthi Kalathil, World Bank consultant; Persephone Miel, senior advisor for Internews and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School; and Mark Whitehouse, director of media development for the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX)."  (back)

7.  Earlier this year I published an article titled "Investigating the Investigators: A Critical Look at Pro Publica" (Part 1, 2 & 3), which demonstrated how liberal foundations played a key role in setting up the recently launched US-based investigative journalism group, Pro Publica.  (back)

8.  Formed in 1986, the Winston Foundation for World Peace was formerly an important supporter of international affairs, and in 1998 they ranked among the top 50 foundations (pdf) awarding grants for international affairs. From 1986 to 1999, John Tirman was executive director of the Foundation, an individual who currently serves as a trustee of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a "highly-compromised" group (according to Edward S. Herman and David Peterson) that lists among its international partners the International Crisis Group, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, and the following NED-linked media organizations, Article 19, the International Federation of Journalists, International Freedom of Expression Exchange, Internews, Panos UK, and Reporters Without Borders.  (back)

9.  Wendy Luers is the president of the Foundation for a Civil Society, a group that was established in 1990 to support "projects that strengthen the forces of democracy, civil society, the rule of law and a free-market economy in the Czech and Slovak Republic." "Democratic" directors of the Foundation for a Civil Society include James F. Hoge, Jr. (who is chairman of the NED-funded International Center for Journalists, a director of both the American Ditchley Foundation and Human Rights Watch, and is the editor of the Council on Foreign Relations' magazine, Foreign Affairs), Robert DeVecchi (who is a president emeritus of the International Rescue Committee, and an emeritus director of Refugees International), M. Bernard Aidinoff (who is a director of Human Rights First), Adrian Basora (who is a director of IREX, served as US ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1992 to 1995, and is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute -- which according to former member Daniel Pipes has a "strong interest in the promotion of democracy, free-enterprise, and the rule of law"), and James Greenfield (who is president of the NED-supported Independent Journalism Foundation, and serves on the media advisory council for IREX).

Luers' biography notes that she has worked on "numerous other nonprofit boards" that include the Fund for Free Expression (now Human Rights Watch's Free Expression Project) and Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch), and in the late 1980s she also served as director of special projects at Human Rights Watch. Luers is also a member of the Henry Kissinger-linked International Rescue Committee's leadership council on children in armed conflict, and in 1996 she was a member of the presidential delegation (led by the prominent inhumanitarian Richard Holbrooke) to observe the Bosnian election. Interestingly, she has also been a cultural correspondent for Venevision Television in Venezuela, a media outlet that played an important role in supporting the attempted 2002 coup in Venezuela. Furthermore, Luer's husband, William H. Luers, in addition to having many "democratic" links, was the US Ambassador to Venezuela from 1978 to 1982, and then to Czechoslovakia from 1983 to 1986. For further details about Czechoslovakia's -- or more precisely, Vaclav Havel's -- link to the democracy manipulating establishment, see my article "Promoting Humanitarian Imperialism in Cuba and Beyond."  (back)


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Internal Resources

Armies of Compassion: The Missionary, the Businessman and the Military - Gilles d'Aymery, August 2000.

The Circle of Deception: Mapping the Human Rights Crowd in the Balkans - Gilles d'Aymery, July 2001.

Sharp Reflection Warranted: Nonviolence in the Service of Imperialism - Michael Barker, June 2008.

The Soros Media "Empire": The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent - Michael Barker, July 2008.

Waging Democracy On China: Human Rights and an Endowment for Democracy - Michael Barker, July 2008.

The Project For A New American Humanitarianism - Michael Barker, August 2008.

Activism under the Radar Screen

Patterns which Connect


About the Author

Michael Barker recently completed his doctorial thesis at Griffith University in Australia, where he studied the influence of the National Endowment for Democracy on global media systems. He is currently co-editing a book with Daniel Faber and Joan Roelofs that will critically evaluate the influence of philanthropic foundations on the public sphere.



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Published October 6, 2008