by Alan Simpson
President Reagan and Global Political Television
The global image and understanding of the USA is at an all time low, and in the exchanges during the Presidential elections there have been numerous references to the communication skills of President Reagan.
I feel obliged to add more and reveal the workings of the greatest mechanism for getting the message out to the world, and obtaining political feedback from every center of population around the world, created for President Reagan and squandered by Bush 1, and Clinton. It would have solved many of our image problems today, had it been left in it's original form.
The network was called WORLDNET and during it's creation took me to 125 US Embassies and Consulates around the world, and to hundreds of meetings with Ambassadors, Ministers and key telecommunications leaders worldwide. making it a reality.
So this is not third hand, but first hand information on an opportunity wasted.
President Reagan wanted to project his message to the four corners of the Earth, and not have it changed, quoted out of context, or manipulated by journalists and editors, especially those who opposed his anti-Soviet and anti-Cuban stance.
He had just suffered two incidents that showed him the message was not getting out, and that the world was turning against the US, even when it was trying to help others.
The first incident was the killing of 240 US Marines in Beirut on October 23rd, 1983. The second was the world condemnation, even ridicule of his invasion of the small island of Grenada on October 25th, 1983.
He saw that the world did not understand him, and worse were turning against his beloved United States of America. Instead of lying, spin doctoring and grinning at the camera he demanded a medium to be created to get the message out. He called upon Hollywood producer, and long time friend Charles Z. Wick, to develop a global media network. Some Liberals would call it a propaganda network.
At the end of 1983 such an idea was regarded as being in the realms of science fiction in the policy "Think Tanks" of Washington, DC and in the boardrooms of the telecommunications giants who were so out of touch with the real world it was painful!
Finding no ideas at home he looked towards London, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He would scour the world for the team who could explain that America were not the Bad Guys! At stake was his vision for ending communism and the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
One cold damp morning during the time the "Experts" in Washington and the multi-billion telecom companies had advised President Reagan that global satellite networks were impossible, both technically and politically, I had given a presentation on global television news potential to VisNews the BBC/Reuters news organization in London. My point was it was technically possible, but needed political clout beyond the British Government. I returned to my fledgling telecommunications intelligence consultancy in rural East Anglia.
A few days later I was on a train to London to explain my plan to the US Government, as the new Global Satellite Consultant for Visnews.
The plan was cutting edge technology, and needed a world leader with vision, a cause and commitment, together with negotiating skills to persuade governments to allow me to enter their country and threaten their monopoly of satellite telecommunications.
President Reagan through Charlie Wick never faltered and everything I requested was there.
In the UK, out of sight of Democratic Congressmen, I created two new centres, one for global operations and bringing together all the data, political input, legislation and everything needed to develop the first global network, and TV studio to develop procedures and product. The operations centre was designed on the many military intelligence operation centres I had worked at, or visited.
Today I hear Competitive Intelligence Managers in industry ridiculing military intelligence, but trust me their proven techniques are the only ones that will work in major global projects, against ferocious opposition, dirty tricks and a shrinking timescale. Keep in mind all the major US telecommunication corporations said it was impossible!
In record time we had satellite links in all the European Embassies, Consulates and USIS Centres.
But nobody in the USA heard a whisper of this, the largest global information network to get the US message out to the world. For when the United States Information Agency was create it was forbidden to publicize it's activities to the US public. The most powerful tool to bring information of freedom to millions behind the Iron Curtain was known by everyone there but kept secret to the US public by an old, badly written law hoping to prevent politicians using the media to promote themselves. That concept really proved effective!
Daily there was videoconferences where local media, politicians and citizens around Europe could listen to, and question the policymakers in Washington. The feedback was invaluable, as was the distribution on thousands of local TV stations of reporters quizzing Secretary of State George Schulz, or Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
The network was extended through Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and South and Central America.
The original concept was beginning to get lost as the network matured to the end of the second term of President Reagan, and the dynamic safety valve and political real time intelligence was beginning to be lost. Our work was incrementally taken over by legions of government employees in DC and the innovative spark was eventually extinguished.
During the days of President Bush 1st I visited the studios several times, and direction was missing. In fact few even knew what we had achieved in creating their network. President Bush was no global leader.
Under President Clinton the whole mechanism was dismantled and given to State Department in a turf battle. Eventually the whole of USIA was absorbed by State and years of cultivating cultural relations were destroyed and put behind bulletproof glass windows, and armed guards. The two massive studios, the best in DC were closed and the US lost it's best political voice relayed by thousands of TV stations worldwide.
Control of the image of the United States was handed to Tel Aviv and their agents.
Today we see no counter to the powerful images portraying the US as a bullying evil empire hell bent on destroying the world. There is no mechanism to stand up and demand that "Mr Gorbachev, Tear down that Wall" to be cheered by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world. Instead we see the talking heads of pundits discussing the policies of the US and it's enemies, without having the first clue of life outside the Beltway, Manhattan or LA.
We see retired Generals pontificating about military matters without having an international audience capable of saying "Bullshit, Lootenant I was there and you are wrong!" Instead we are fed a constant stream of propaganda spun by the likes of Karl Rove and James Carville. There is no response from global leaders correcting them, or supporting them as was with the original WorldNet.
The liberal media professors disliked WorldNet and claimed it was propaganda for the masses. It smoothed the way for the collapse of communism, and showed billions the kind face of America. If that is propaganda, it was to show the best America can offer.
But as George Bush smirks at the camera, and John Kerry points at it, to speak to the unwashed masses, I wonder if we have made a huge blunder by destroying the two way mirror envisaged by President Reagan. The media safety valve on global politics.
Unfortunately the American public can't comment, for they were never told of the project, and how it spread the good word of hope for a desperate people around the world. All we can do now is bomb them with precision munitions.