Renewed USAGM Needs Its Own TikTok to Fight China

July 8, 2020 Updated: July 12, 2020


By now, most realize our country is engaged in a growing Cold War with communist China for the hearts, minds, and economies of the world.

(Russia is largely an also-ran to all but the likes of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).)

In the midst of this, a Beltway uproar has arisen over the nomination and the (finally—after three years) June 2020 confirmation of Michael Pack as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

The USAGM is the umbrella that oversees, among others, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Open Technology Fund, and, of course, most of what we beam into the People’s Republic of China.

For a number of years, most of these outlets have ranged from vaguely listenable drivel to self-critical blather of the tedious virtue-signaling sort, as if the VOA were the broadcast arm of The New York Times.

No good could come from that for the United States. And we were paying for it.

Is Pack the man to fix this?

I have met him and can say an emphatic “yes.”

But more importantly, I have seen some of the documentaries he wrote, produced, and directed. They are excellent, including one on Hamilton that is vastly more informative, and just as entertaining in its way, than the musical. His most recent is “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.”

Pack has now become that rare thing in a bureaucracy—a talented and creative outsider, just the kind of person to effectuate change. (A good interview with him is here.)

And now, he’s gone and done just that—effectuate change, that is—by firing the heads of all the USAGM entities (the head of Voice of America resigned in anticipation of her firing), creating the expected consternation.

The Open Technology Fund attempted to enjoin these firings in court but was rejected by the judge, twice. (These rejections were “omitted” by the NY Times in its critique of Pack, you will be astonished to hear, despite repeated importuning from people working with Pack.)

Further, a group of eight Deep State-reliable, bipartisan senators, including (predictably) Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and (shamefully) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have written a letter of protest.

But I’m going to skip by all that—you can find information at the interview link above—and cut to the proverbial chase.

I have some unsolicited advice for Pack (much of which he probably already knows).

First, think TikTok.

As you are well aware, the minds of America’s youth are being beguiled and subtly dominated by this Chinese social media company that is leaving us far behind in the hip/trendy category.

Besides the obvious—access to huge amounts of data about young Americans and just about everybody else—the implications of this are ominous.

(Yes, their executives make all sorts of claims of innocence, but we all know how far those assertions go in the online world.)

More than anything, more even than the vaunted Belt and Road Initiative, this is preparing our country and the world for Chinese hegemony. TikTok could even be more dangerous than Huawei, because it’s unsuspected.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, we are considering banning TikTok. That’s a worthwhile thought. But we should also consider imitating it, finding our own—more transparent and more honest—way to compete in this increasingly dominant playing field.

In other words, we must beat them at their own game. But in an American way, with American values.

This should be part of the USAGM. Social media is global media, like it or not.

Of course, as Pack has indicated in his interview and elsewhere that the news should be reported more accurately and fully than it was hitherto by the VOA and the other outlets during what we might call (politely) their “fallow years.” He seems intent on ending the disingenuous even-handedness (actually anti-Americanism) that infiltrated our own outlets over the years.

I fully subscribe to all the other proposals he made in the interview, with a special nod to his interest in renewing that distinctly old media—shortwave radio. It’s a great way to get by the censors. (Okay, who’s consistent?)

Nevertheless, during those fallow years, the modern world—whether we like or not or approve of its direction—also went fallow for us. We need to play catch up.

That may mean hiring some clever 16-year-olds, if we can find some who are still sufficiently patriotic and haven’t been brainwashed beyond recognition by our educational system. Or by TikTok itself.

When dealing with the communists, as they say, “by any means necessary.”

Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and co-founder of PJ Media. His most recent books are “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic If It Hasn’t Already” (non-fiction) and “The GOAT” (fiction)

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.