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更新时间:2016-12-14 10:28:51 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

All the President’s Propaganda

It didn’t take long for President-elect Donald J. Trump to claim his first triumph on the foreign trade front. In a series of Twitter posts on Nov. 17, he announced he had successfully lobbied Ford to keep its “Lincoln plant in Kentucky — no Mexico.”

候任总统唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)没过多久就宣告取得了外贸战场上的首个胜利。11月17日他在Twitter上用一系列推文宣布对福特(Ford)进行了卓有成效的游说,后者将让“生产林肯(Lincoln)的工厂留在肯塔基州——不去墨西哥”。

As several news outlets subsequently reported, this was not quite true. Ford had never intended to close its plant, only to shift production of one vehicle line to Mexico and to increase production of another in Louisville. No jobs would have been lost.


Such “truthiness” is nothing new for Mr. Trump. After all, this is a man who, in the 1980s, pretended to be his own spokesman on phone conversations with reporters. And as we’ve seen in the weeks since, self-laudatory, truth-bending tweets will likely be part of the president’s M.O.


And Twitter is just the beginning: Come Jan. 20, Mr. Trump, with the help of the former Breitbart executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon, will have his hands on the levers of the government’s $1 billion-plus public communications machine. It is a disturbing prospect. Information is one of our republic’s greatest and most underappreciated vulnerabilities.

Twitter只不过是个开始:等到明年1月20日,特朗普将在布莱巴特新闻(Breitbart)前董事局主席史蒂芬·K·班农(Stephen K. Bannon)帮助下,操纵每年耗去美国政府逾10亿美元的公关机器。这一前景令人不安。信息是我们的合众国最大但也最受忽视的软肋之一。

A healthy democracy depends on the provision of government information. Elected leaders cannot be held accountable if citizens don’t know their policies and plans, and their progress in implementing them. Government must be transparent about how much it spends, and for what. Beyond this, the ability of government to collect and analyze accurate data helps the public make informed decisions: Business relies on Commerce Department trade statistics to assess foreign markets. The National Weather Service tells us if we need to take an umbrella when we go outdoors.

健康的民主制度以政府信息的提供为基石。如果民众不了解民选领导人的政策和规划,也不了解其政策和规划的实施进展,就无法追究他们的责任。与政府花了多少钱、花在了什么地方有关的信息一定要透明。此外,政府应该具有搜集和分析准确数据的能力,帮助公众作出明智的决策:企业要依据商务部(Commerce Department)的贸易统计信息来评估海外市场。国家气象局(National Weather Service)会告诉我们,如果出门是否需要带伞。

But democracy is distorted when the government uses our tax dollars to shape our opinions about what government should do, and how it is performing. And whatever Mr. Trump does with these tools, he won’t be the first to manipulate the government’s informational power.


The Department of Labor is running a public-relations campaign to pressure Congress to increase the minimum wage, which is set by law. “See how raising the national minimum wage will benefit America’s workers,” the agency’s web page proclaims. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has pointed out that raising the wage would eliminate some jobs; nonetheless, the Labor Department’s web page labels possible job losses a “myth.” Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency was flagged by the Government Accountability Office for running a covert propaganda campaign for a controversial environmental rule. And, of course, George W. Bush’s administration manipulated intelligence to drum up public support to invade Iraq.

为了推动国会提高法定最低工资标准,劳工部(Department of Labor)正在开展一场公关运动。“看看提高全国最低工资标准将如何让美国工人受益,”劳工部在其网站上表示。无党派倾向的国会预算办公室(Congressional Budget Office)指出,提高工资会导致部分工作岗位流失;但劳工部网站称工作岗位可能出现流失是一个“讹传”。去年,环境保护局(Environmental Protection Agency)就一项颇具争议的环境规定开展了隐蔽的宣传活动,因此受到了政府问责局(Government Accountability Office)的指责。别忘了,乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)政府还曾篡改情报,为入侵伊拉克的决定争取公众支持。

The beginnings of such efforts date from the earliest days of the republic. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton generated favorable government reports to promote his pro-industrial policies. But it wasn’t until World War I that the nation saw the beginnings of a systematic, pervasive program of government propaganda. The Committee on Public Information, which tried to drive support for the war, was headed by President Woodrow Wilson’s own Bannon, the journalist George Creel, whose approach was emotion-laden and often coercive. “There was no part of the great war machinery that we did not touch,” Creel said, “no medium of appeal that we did not employ.”

这些做法发端于合众国建立伊始。为了推行促进工业发展的政策,财政部长亚历山大·汉密尔顿(Alexander Hamilton)炮制了有利于此的政府报告。但直到第一次世界大战之际,美国才启动一项系统性的、全面的政府宣传计划。当时的公共信息委员会(Committee on Public Information)曾竭力争取世人对这场战争的支持,其主席是记者乔治·克里尔(George Creel),伍德罗·威尔逊(Woodrow Wilson)总统麾下一个相当于班农的人物,他采用了一种富有情感色彩并且常带点胁迫的方法。“大战的战争机器没有哪一部分是我们没触及到的,”克里尔说,“没有哪一种有助于赢得支持的手段是我们没使用过的。”

Today, the G.A.O. estimates that the salaries for government public relations employees exceed $400 million per year. By our tally, executive agencies spent $800 million this past year on advertising and public relations contracts. Every federal agency has an internet presence. The Justice Department has a YouTube channel. The E.P.A. has about two dozen Twitter accounts. President Obama established a White House Office of Digital Communications in 2009, some of whose occupants had used those skills to get him elected.

据政府问责局估算,现如今,负责公关事务的政府雇员每年的工资超过4亿美元。据我们统计,过去一年中,行政机构在广告和公关合同上花掉了8亿美元。每一家联邦机构都会进行网络宣传。司法部(Justice Department)有一个YouTube频道。环境保护局有两个Twitter账户。奥巴马总统在2009年设立了一个白宫数字通讯办公室(White House Office of Digital Communications),该办公室的一些人员曾利用这些技巧助其胜选。

The lines between salubrious and unwholesome government information are not easy to draw. Should the government, for instance, seek to dissuade people from eating trans-fats? Still, there are some very basic steps that can help curb propaganda.


The first is to get a sense of the volume. We have no good measure of how much information the government generates, who provides it and for whom it is intended. Such data could be added to the items the White House must submit with its budget request to Congress.


The few laws that exist are inadequate and anachronistic. A 1913 statute, still on the books, sought to thwart propaganda by forbidding the hiring of “publicity experts,” a ban that has as much to do with modern communication as cuneiform tablets. A 1919 anti-lobbying statute bars agencies from whipping up citizens through telegrams but not via the internet. These laws do not define “publicity” or “propaganda,” or hint at the differences by providing distinguishing criteria (e.g., government communications should be balanced and written in a tone that doesn’t extol the agency or its activities). Updating and expanding these laws would provide an institutional counterweight to propaganda, and provide watchdogs with the information to fight it.


Mr. Trump’s inclination to play fast and loose with the truth, even after being elected, should elevate our concerns about the dangers of largely unchecked governmental power to propagandize citizens. Whether or not one likes Mr. Trump as tweeter in chief, the potential for abuse is bipartisan. When his time in office is over, the problem of errant government communications will become more dire thanks to rapid advances in information technology. Why not start to fix it now?