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Mike Pompeo slams tech titans for ‘authoritarianism cloaked as moral righteousness’ in VOA speech

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to U.S. government-funded airwaves on Monday where he described recent actions by tech titans to curb free speech including on platforms like Twitter and Facebook as being ‘a kind of censorial instinct that is dangerous.’

Pompeo used the speech on Voice Of America to deliver a full-throated defense of the Trump administration’s presentation of its foreign policy and its support for democracy abroad, but he also used his time to attack VOA employees who had sought to block his speech from being broadcast live. 

Employees were concerned the speech would come across as propaganda rather than as balanced news coverage, but Pompeo rejected the complaints and compared them to the actions of Twitter and other social media outlets to ban Trump from its platforms.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blasted ‘wokeness’ during a speech on the broadcaster Voice of America

‘I read that some VOA employees didn’t want me to speak today,’ Pompeo said. ‘They didn’t want the voice of American diplomacy to be broadcast on. … the Voice of America. Think about that.’ 

‘It’s morally wrong. And it’s against your mandate. Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction – authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness. It’s similar to what we’re seeing at Twitter, and Facebook, and Apple, and on too many university campuses,’ Pompeo railed.

‘We are all parts of institutions with duties and responsibilities higher than any of us,’ he said. This is not who we are, as Americans. It’s not what Voice of America should be. It’s time to put woke-ism to sleep.’

The conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet Monday over ties to last week's siege on the U.S. Capitol

The conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet Monday over ties to last week’s siege on the U.S. Capitol

Parler CEO John Matze warned in his final post before Monday's 3am deadline that 'we will likely be down longer than expected' as tech firms distance themselves from the site

Parler CEO John Matze warned in his final post before Monday’s 3am deadline that ‘we will likely be down longer than expected’ as tech firms distance themselves from the site

Pompeos comments come days after Twitter permanently suspended President Trump’s personal account and on the same day as Apple, Google and Amazon banned Parler from their app stores due to a failure to moderate ‘egregious content’ posted by users related to the violent siege on Congress last week. 

Trump was blocked from Twitter and Facebook on Thursday, after he was deemed as being a threat to the nation, inciting unrest. Twitter lost $2 billion in value on Monday after Trump was kicked off the platform.

The president’s supporters abandoned the social media giants in protest, and flocked to Parler – increasingly a refuge for extremists and pro-Trump voices. 

The company’s chief content officer, Amy Peikoff, further said that social media firms forcing Parler from their platform was Orwellian.

‘The tech giants want their model to be the standard for the entire internet,’ she said. ‘And to us, we think that that takes Orwell’s 1984 from a dystopian novel and turns it into an instruction manual for everybody to follow.’ 

During Pompeo’s address broadcast live across VOA’s English and foreign language services, he stood by the parent agency’s embattled director, Michael Pack, who has been accused by lawmakers and others of trying to turn the U.S.-funded international broadcaster into Trump propaganda outlets. 

Pompeo also denounced protests by some VOA staffers who complained that live coverage of his speech would violate VOA’s mandate to present unbiased news to foreign audiences.

‘It’s not fake news for you to broadcast that this is the greatest nation the world has ever known,’ Pompeo said, without directly mentioning Wednesday’s deadly attack on the seat of the U.S. Congress.  

Pompeo said that 'wokeness' was happening 'at Twitter, Facebook, Apple and on too many university campuses'. Pictured above, President Trump's suspended account

Pompeo said that ‘wokeness’ was happening ‘at Twitter, Facebook, Apple and on too many university campuses’. Pictured above, President Trump’s suspended account

‘I’m not saying ignore our faults. Acknowledge them. But this isn’t the Vice of America, focusing on everything that’s wrong with our great nation. It certainly isn’t the place to give authoritarian regimes in Beijing or Tehran a platform.’

But, he said VOA had forgotten its mission in that it had allowed foreigners with suspect loyalties to represent it, and had become too focused on American deficiencies.

‘We allowed security protocols to lapse, and VOA lost its commitment to its founding mission,’ Pompeo said. ‘Its broadcasts became less about telling the truth about America, and too often about demeaning America.’

Those allegations have been forcefully denied by VOA staffers, lawmakers and others. But, Pompeo said VOA journalists should emulate his example in extolling U.S. virtues.

‘Your mission is to promote democracy, freedom and American values in the world,’ he said. ‘This is what sets VOA apart from the MSNBCs and Fox News alike. You can give voice to the voiceless in dark corners of the world. You’re the voice of American striving. You’re the voice of American exceptionalism. You’re the tip of freedom’s spear.’

Some VOA employees, however, were not impressed by the message or plans to deliver it in person in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pompeo' made the address to VOA staff which was broadcast live on the network. Some staff had argued that the speech was 'propaganda' but Pompeo said those wanting to block it had a 'dangerous' instinct toward censorship

Pompeo’ made the address to VOA staff which was broadcast live on the network. Some staff had argued that the speech was ‘propaganda’ but Pompeo said those wanting to block it had a ‘dangerous’ instinct toward censorship

In a message sent to Pack and new VOA director Robert Reilly on Friday, a lawyer for a group of VOA employees objected to Pompeo’s plan to speak at the agency, saying it ‘endangers public health and safety, violates law, rule and regulation and grossly wastes government resources.’

‘A broadcast speech by the outgoing secretary of state on topics on which he has been widely covered should be seen for what it is: the use of VOA to disseminate political propaganda in the waning days of the Trump administration,’ said the letter, signed by attorney David Seide of the Government Accountability Project.

‘As proposed, the planned coverage by language services will be one-sided and lacking the necessary objectivity protected by the firewall. It is political meddling,’ he said.

There was no immediate response to the letter of complaint from VOA or from Pack, who runs the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the network and its sister outlets.

It was Pompeo's first remarks since last weeks riot at Congress but he did not refer directly to the what happened during his speech

It was Pompeo’s first remarks since last weeks riot at Congress but he did not refer directly to the what happened during his speech 

Pack, a conservative filmmaker, Trump ally and onetime associate of former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, has made no secret of his intent to shake up the agency since he became CEO of USAGM after a long confirmation battle in the Senate that finally ended after Trump and his allies launched a series of attacks on VOA and demanded new leadership.    

Pompeo’s speech also reaffirmed his loyalty to Trump at a time when Democrats are calling for Cabinet members and Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.    

Less than a week after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to subvert the results of an election that saw President-elect Joe Biden win, Pompeo told staff at the Voice of America that America retains the credibility and standing to defend democratic values abroad. And, he said, they should amplify it.


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