Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Obama's Not-So-Open Government

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Obama's Not-So-Open Government

"The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made, and whether their interests are being well served." - Obama

Obama vowed that transparency would be the touchstone of his Presidency but has that occurred? When this article had been written, The Obama Administration had just released information about the implementation of three significant steps toward openness in government. These three steps were:

1. A request for public input: to increase transparency, participation and collaboration throughout the Federal Government.
2. Data.gov : a new Web site intended to be a vast public repository of federal data and presented in a format that could easily be used by the public.
3. A memo sent to all agency heads: giving them 90 days to suggest ways to reduce over-classification of documents, ease declassification and prohibit reclassification.

Accusations made by this particular journalist, Dan Froomkin, regarding the lack of transparency and follow through on this particular matter by the Obama Administration consisted of:
-The example being set by the White House regarding this matter is short of what Obama led the public to expect
-Internal records have stayed internal
-The distribution of key public document are less reliable than it was during the G.W. Bush Administration (low blow)
-The White House Blog is "mostly window dressing, rather than window."
- The amount of White House Aides authorized to speak are too few and will only stick to talking points, creating spinning and useless sound bites

The Froomkin presents his information in an interesting way. First he lists his grievances regarding the lack of follow through on the part of the Obama Administrations promise of government transparency with the public. Next, the article goes on to say that the media does not have an obligation to play along in deceiving or informing the public of what goes on in the White House. Yet, Froomkin addresses "political media culture" which he suggests rewards those politicians who do "control the message" are rewarded by good, positive media coverage verses politicians who voice "off message," are forthcoming and frank in regards to political matters. Lastly, he precedes to explain how declassifying and transforming our government to being interactive and transparent is not simple by any means. 

Although this article was written almost 3 years ago, 05/28/09, in my opinion not much has changed. Based on my exploration of the websites cited in this article, 2 of which I have included the links of within this post, they are just smokescreens and have no valuable, "declassified" information posted for the public. Government transparency sounds like a wonderful idea and something that can easily be obtained by changing around a few policies and putting together a new staff (as suggested by the journalist, not of PR professionals but rather journalists and internet disclosure teams) but based on the little legislation that has passed this term are we surprised this issue has not changed or made too much progress?

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