The Coalition Against Censorship and Propaganda

Dear Friend:

Beginning in 1998, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy undertook to review the scripts and make suggestions for stories and dialogue in many of America's most popular television shows. The television networks received important financial concessions in exchange for conforming their artistic and entertainment works to the governmentís anti-drug messages. The artists and the public were not told that government reviewers rewrote or approved the presentations. Over the last year, at least six high-profile magazines attempted to qualify for government financial credits via the same federal advertising program.

To address this ongoing problem Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (CJPF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other groups have formed The Coalition Against Censorship and Propaganda (CACP) [formerly Emergency Coalition Against Censorship and Propaganda (ECACP)].

In our democratic republic, the government derives its legitimacy from the informed consent of its citizens. The exercise of democratic rights depends upon unfettered access to ideas. Artistic expression communicates truths about humanity, society, and the world no less than the communication of data and scientific research. To convert art and entertainment into covert government propaganda is as nefarious as the censorship of textbooks, scientific journals, or newspapers and magazines. The story of this propaganda and censorship program by Dan Forbes is found at Salon.comís ongoing special investigative series on the issue:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/01/13/drugs/index.html
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/01/14/payola/index.html
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/01/13/smart_guy/index.html
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/03/31/magazines/index.html
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/04/20/housman/index.html

These stories have been reported in other national news media.

Response to Date

On January 24, 2000, ECACP, spearheaded by CJPF, IPS, and American Universityís Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), sponsored a forum on the government's clandestine censorship practices. The forum was timed to precede a speech by Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Barry McCaffrey at American University. Speaking at the forum were:

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, President of the Media Access Project
Robert Corn-Revere, Former Chief Counsel of the FCC and member of the Hogan and Hartson law firm
Roger Pilon, CATO Instituteís Vice President for Legal Affairs
John Dinges, Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
Jamin Raskin, Professor of Law at American Universityís Washington College of Law
Patricia Aufderheide, Professor at American Universityís School of Communications

Daniel Forbes from Salon.com who broke the ONDCP censorship story and top ONDCP aide Robert Housman also attended.

Robert Corn-Revere called the ONDCP campaign "pretty insidious. Government surreptitiously planting anti-drug messages using the power of the purse raises red flags. Why is there no disclosure to the American public?"

Andrew Jay Schwartzman declared, "The idea of the government attempting to influence public opinion covertly is reprehensible beyond words. Itís one thing to appropriate money to buy ads, another thing to spend the money to influence the public subliminally. And itís monstrously selfish and irresponsible on the part of the broadcasters."

"This is worse than a slippery slope, itís an invisible precipice," said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. "We could have plunged headlong over the cliff separating the media and the state and we would have never known about it because the arrangements were secret."

The Latest

CACP has been working to gain the support of leading First Amendment organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This has resulted in revision of the Consensus Statement.

What You Can Do

1) Please review the new Consensus Statement and join the coalition. To join the coalition, simply reply to this email stating that you agree to the Consensus Statement. Please make sure to provide us with as much contact information as possible - organization, name, address, telephone number, fax number, email address, and website information.

2) Please pass this message along to colleagues, friends, and other interested organizations. There is great strength in numbers. CACP is attempting to reach every organization interested in protecting First Amendment freedoms, but surely there are those which we have inadvertently omitted.


CONSENSUS STATEMENT

The Coalition Against Censorship and Propaganda

Beginning in 1998, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy undertook to review the scripts and make suggestions for stories and dialogue in many of America's most popular television shows. The television networks received important financial concessions in exchange for conforming their artistic and entertainment works to the governmentís anti-drug messages. The artists and the public were not told that government reviewers rewrote or approved the presentations. Over the last year, at least six high-profile magazines attempted to qualify for government financial credits via the same federal advertising program.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, directed by General Barry McCaffrey, defends this manipulation as simply a public health campaign - akin to programs to promote seat belt use or blood pressure checks. This is clearly different. Those public health campaigns were not covert campaigns in which the government provided financial incentives to induce the entertainment industry to carry its approved message. Each advertisement in those campaigns was clearly identified as written and funded by a government agency. This most recent campaign, however, entered citizensí homes clothed as entertainment after having been surreptitiously manipulated by the government.

It is axiomatic that the First Amendment "means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content." Police Department v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 95 (1972). The First Amendment is designed to "foreclose public authority from assuming a guardianship of the public mind" and from "protect[ing] the public against false doctrine." Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 545 (1945)(Jackson, J., concurring). "Entertainment, as well as political and ideological speech, is protected" under the First Amendment. Schad v. Brough of Mount Ephraim, 452 U.S. 61, 65 (1985).

Some may claim that financial incentives do not amount to government censorship. However, the First Amendmentís prohibition against government regulation of speech includes both direct government censorship, as well as "more subtle governmental interference." Bates v. City of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516, 523 (1960). It protects against "inhibition as well as prohibition." Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301, 309 (1965) (Brennan, J., concurring). Granting financial incentives to those who agree to spread the government gospel is clearly a violation of the First Amendment.

This is not to say the government is prohibited from speaking on matters of importance. Had the government purchased advertising, and the advertising was labeled as such, there would have been no problem. Here however, the government sought to insinuate its message into entertainment using financial incentives to accomplish its goal. Thus, rather than the artists and writers selecting and presenting their own messages, the government offered incentives to the networks for conforming those messages to the government agenda.

In our democratic republic, the government derives its legitimacy from the informed consent of its citizens. The exercise of democratic rights depends upon unfettered access to ideas. Artistic expression communicates truths about humanity, society, and the world no less than the communication of data and scientific research. To convert art and entertainment into covert government propaganda is as nefarious as the censorship of textbooks, scientific journals, or newspapers and magazines.

We the undersigned organizations and individuals oppose surreptitious government manipulation of public opinion and vow to defend arts, entertainment, scientific research, news and communications from government censorship.

Sincerely,

Eric E. Sterling, President
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
1225 Eye St., N.W., Ste. 500
Washington, D.C. 20005
Tel: 202.312.2015
Fax: 202.842.2620
Email: cjpf@igc.org
Web: www.cjpf.org

Sanho Tree
Director, Drug Policy Project
Institute for Policy Studies
733 15th St., NW, #1020
Washington, D.C. 20005
Tel: 202.234.9382 ext. 266
Fax: 202.387.7915
Email: stree@igc.org
Web: www.ips-dc.org

Marv Johnson
Legislative Counsel
ACLU
122 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
Tel: 202.675.2334
Email: mjohnson@dcaclu.org
Web: www.aclu.org