Richard StengelPosted 10 months ago under Government, Politics
Richard Stengel (born May 2, 1955) was born and raised in New York City. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1977, after which he won a Rhodes Scholarship and proceeded to study English and history at Christ Church, Oxford.
Stengel’s career began when he joined Time Magazine in 1981. He worked as a contributor until mid-1980s, covering articles on topics like South Africa, before he became a senior writer and essayist for the magazine, working on the 1988 and 1996 presidential campaigns. At the same time, he also wrote for The New Yorker, The New Republic, Spy, and the New York Times.
In 1999, Stengel left Time to become the senior adviser and chief speechwriter for Bill Bradley during his bid for the democratic nomination in the 2000 presidential elections. After this, Stengel returned to Time where he held many different positions, including managing editor and national editor. However, he left the company once again to become the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Scandals faced as managing editor of Time
After just two years at the National Constitution Center, he went back to Time and became its managing editor during a critical time where many print publications suffered from a decline in circulation. During Stengel’s tenure as managing editor, he changed the focus of the magazine into hard news, like global warming, climate change, and the Iraq war.
Although there have been significant improvements in the magazine during Stengel’s time as managing editor, there were also many criticisms and controversies regarding some of its content. This included Stengel’s selection of “You” as “Time’s Person of the Year” and the substitution of the American flag for a tree in a version of Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photograph that was used for the magazine’s cover.
In addition to these, Stengel was called out for making factual errors in his article on the U.S. Constitution, which was published in Time Magazine in 2011. An article posted in Breitbart pointed out that there were 14 errors in this specific article, including statements that the Constitution does not limit the Federal Government and that it is not law. In addition to this, Huffington Post called out Stengel in an article entitled “Stengelgate” for “inaccurate statements he made” while taking about the prosecutor purge on the Chris Matthews Show.
In 2013, Stengel was once again bound to leave Time Magazine, this time for a position at the State Department. However, before leaving, he faced another scandal when The Washington Times revealed that as Time was freezing pay and getting rid of some staff to close a budget gap, Stengel was still in line to receive a big bonus worth $100,000 to $250,000, based on his government ethics filing following his nomination for Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department. This was on top of his $700,000 base salary and a $289,000 bonus that he already received the previous year. Instead of addressing this issue, Stengel and Time refused to comment.
In response to the issue, Edward J. Wasserman said that Stengel and other important people in the media followed the example set by Wall Street executives on big payouts, which have become “standard practice.” He added that, “It offends our sense of justice. Some people are not just escaping, but walking away in terrific shape financially, whereas others get a fairly minimal severance and no safety cushion at all.”
Richard Stengel’s stint in public office
As the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Stengel’s job revolved around the media, policy, and politics. He described his job as being the “Chief Marketing Officer of Brand USA.” During his stay in public office, he launched numerous programs and initiatives that aimed to counter fake news and propaganda, especially by the Islamic State and Russia. This includes the Global Engagement Center, a stand-alone anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) disinformation entity, and the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, which is a joint anti-ISIL messaging hub. He claimed that the truth is losing and that the“post-truth” world is now rising.
Although his efforts to prevent fake news in an information-saturated society may seem valiant, there is also reason to question his actions while he was still the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. In a panel by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018, which already after Stengel’s time at State Department, he appeared to support government propaganda use against the country’s citizens.
He said, “Basically every country creates their own narrative story. My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke [call] the chief propagandist job. I’m not against propaganda, every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”
This can make people wonder if the “truth” that he claimed to support during his stint in public office was real or manufactured by the government.
Involvement in the Atlantic Council and NewsGuard
Stengel served as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs until the end of Obama’s administration ion 2016. After which, he joined many other efforts to get rid of “fake news,” including the Atlantic Council and NewsGuard. This could help him spread his propaganda further since he once said that defending the truth must be “independent” of the government, which many people don’t trust.
The Atlantic Council, which was established in 1961, is a group of people who aim to “shape policy choices and strategies to create a more secure and prosperous world.” Stengel is a distinguished fellow of the Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which he claims is “at the forefront of using cutting-edge techniques to expose disinformation and falsehood around the world.”
In 2018, the Atlantic Council was given the power over censorship in Facebook, the world’s largest social media network. But it’s difficult to believe that the Council will truly battle fake news and not just spread propaganda, especially since it is funded by manufacturers of weapons, branches of the U.S. military, and Middle Eastern autocratic regimes.
The goals of the Atlantic Council are very similar to NewsGuard, a “news rating agency” that uses a color-coded system and detailed “nutrition labels” to show a site’s credibility. Their ratings have also raised the suspicions of some people since websites like CNN and The Washington Post both received very high marks even if they have been proven to publish fake stories in the past, while others that are known to be credible are given bad marks. However, this bias makes sense when one looks at the many people behind NewsGuard. The agency has been shown to have ties with the U.S. government, neoconservatives, and monied interests. Aside from Stengel, other questionable members of its advisory board include Tom Ridge, the Secretary of Homeland Security during George Bush’s administration, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Hayden, Don Baer, Elise Jordan, John Battelle, and Jessica Lessin. Furthermore, one of the biggest NewsGuard investors is the Publicis Groupe, which works with many big corporations and governments that have their own interests to preserve.
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