Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans

Two congressmen are attempting to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization act that would allow the Department of Defense to subject the US domestic public to propaganda. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” And mind you, they want to use our own money to wash our brains!

As Will Rogers observed, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”

I love our guys and gals in uniform, but they can be extremely obnoxious in any discussion about US government policy that ‘gets off point’ or ‘doesn’t serve the mission.’ At Washington think tank events, I’ve seen them repeatedly close down discussions among e.g. State Department foreign service officers. You don’t want most of the DoD types providing information to us, because it won’t be in any way balanced.

Of course, having a Pentagon propaganda unit at all is highly anti-democratic. The best defense of the truth is a free press. It should also be remembered that nowadays everything in Washington is outsourced, so government propaganda is often being turned over to Booz Allen or the American Enterprise Institute, which have a rightwing bias.

Doing propaganda abroad has the difficulty that it doesn’t stay abroad. False articles placed in the Arabic press in Iraq were translated into English by wire services, who got stung.

Then, another problem is that the Defense Intelligence Agency analysts *also* read the false articles placed in the Arabic press by *another* Pentagon office, which they did not know about. So the analysts were passing up to the White House false information provided by their own colleagues!

I was told by an insider that one reason Washington analysts often read my blog in the Bush years was that I had a reputation for having an accurate bull crap meter, and thus my judgments on what was likely to be true helped them fight the tendency to believe our own propaganda!

Not only should this amendment be gotten rid of quick, but their constituents should please vote out of office Reps. Thornberry and Smith next November.

44 Responses

  1. “I was told by an insider that one reason Washington analysts often read my blog in the Bush years was that I had a reputation for having an accurate bull crap meter, and thus my judgments on what was likely to be true helped them fight the tendency to believe our own propaganda!”

    So, let’s get this straight.

    When various agents of a foreign government (AIPACish) opposed your move to Yale via intimidation of their administration and disinformastion, (for being insufficiently collegial, IIRC), and you merely kept this blog going among your other daily activities as a professor at UMich, one of the beneficiaries was the White House, indirectly, by having reports prepared by analysts who used your blog to filter through their own disinformation.

    Boggles, yea verily.

    • Dr. Cole

      While the late Cmdr Jeff Huber (pen and sword blog) did not like you all that much, I think on this subject you two would have gotten along very well.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    We already discount many sources such as Fox News and Wall Street Journal. Much discussion exists on Facebook regarding the distortions in the Main Stream Media regarding Syria over the past year.

    link to english.al-akhbar.com

    What this is doing is pushing us to using secondary sources as our primary source of news. This makes us vulnerable to a possible lack of journalistic ethics and editorial control at these secondary sources.

    Formalising the broadcast of Newspeak to the US as well as the rest of us will inevitably lead to lots of us doing time in reeducation camps modeled on Guantanamo.

    • You’re right. Alternative media that avoids the influence of the controlling monied interests needs to fill the credibility void, meaning it still needs to be big enough to have quality control and editorial consistency. EVen a well-run blog by one analyst leveraging a strong network of colleagues can do so, but it’s vulnerable in a variety of ways. I don’t know how this evolution will occur, but it has to, or we are we will continue our perceptual slide into the world of Orwell.

  3. We can only assume that any propaganda unit the DoD attempts to set up this time around will be a little more sophisticated than the one Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz set up under Doug Feith. It was called the Office of Special Plans and was designed to tell the biggest porkies to the world about Saddam’s WMDs just prior to Iraq’s destruction.

    I doubt anyone with a skerrick of snese will fall for that stuff again… Mind you, what’s all this about Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons program’?

    Apparently, some 63% of Americans support attacking Iran to stop it getting a bomb.

    Who needs a propaganda unit in the DoD when America’s mainstream media are already doing such a great job.

  4. “skerrick of ‘snese’…? If I had any ‘snese’ myself I’d check my spelling before hitting the send button!

  5. I took a PsyOp course through the JFK Center back in the 1970′s. Based on what I learned back then, DoD’s entire “Strategic Communications” effort qualifies as “propaganda.”

    How I see it: simply by labeling the effort in Afghanistan as “counterinsurgency,” the Government is deceiving the American public about the purpose and nature of the fight.
    And rebranding it as “counterterrorism” would be even farther from the truth.

    Since at least 2005, our military has been there to occupy and subjugate, the opposite of the SF motto, “de opresso liber.” We are trying to build up Vichy surrogates who will betray their fellow Afghans.

    If you think domestic support for the war is low now, what do you think would happen if the American public was to get straight talk out of our Government on this topic ?

    • “Since at least 2005, our military has been there to occupy and subjugate,”

      Afghanistan has unmeasured and unknown quantities of rare earth minerals necessary for the transition off oil and onto electrico-mechanical devices such as wind powered generators and storage batteries.

    • The phrase “Straight Talk”, is in itself a lot easier said than done. Things can be viewed honestly from different perspectives, and the interpretation of a single word can tilt an observation one way of the other, best intentions aside. But even that assumes good faith.

      Professional reporters are supposed to fill this need. Even if they have a bias, it becomes recognizable and readers can factor that in. But even these guys, when working in good faith, should cover the various perspectives before laying out their logic and judgement on what they see as The Truth. Again, such people are at least operating in good faith.

      But what we now see in MSM are not reporters, but stenographers. What you see on a lot of MSM is in fact very deliberately designed by a program’s Producers, and the talking heads are nothing more than that. In the best case these Producers are aiming for ratings in a given demographic (or set thereof); in the worse case, don’t ask, but view their output critically and the answer will be clear enough. Even Bill Maher is not immune from this sort of control

      What I get from a disciplined viewing of the Fox network (which is not easy) is nothing short of admiration for the “discipline of their messaging”, as they say in circles that actually study manipulation along these lines. It’s a well-paid trade, often practiced by those with a calling.

      It strikes me that this is all symptomatic of a rapid acceleration of our collective social evolution. The forces of autocratic consolidation, abetted by hard technology and advanced management practices, are gaining an ever-firmer control over the masses. But this trend is only sustainable if they don’t press it too far, and if can keep people down forever. The trouble is that this is a matter of collective power hunger and greed amongst a certain set of people, and nothing will be enough for them but more and faster.

      This is not some long range policy of a bunch of oligarchs, but a simple reflection of greed, where those who acquire something find it feels good and want more. They then get antsy they’re taking too much and they start wanting to consolidate their gains, meaning they need even more in the accounts and even bigger/stronger security systems. This is what Jeffersons was getting at in the prior post.

      We now have another episode in the ongoing conflict between one set of people (and in todays system, their many, prideful dupes), and those who still have a sense of smell and know they’re getting shafted. Expect this trend to continue, but as a matter of physics, once pressure builds far enough (which may be a long time while in this “great” country), the worm will turn. It always has.

      • Guess that should be JFK rather than Jefferson. But the point now becomes quite clear: the US government (or who they actually represent), are now evidently afraid of the people.

  6. *…So the analysts were passing up false information to the White House which was provided by their own colleagues.”
    This is the silver lining to authoritarianism. The authorities end up choking on themselves. Stalin killed many who had been his best supporters. The Chinese under Mao’s guidance killed many of their comrades. Abandoning truth and rule of law creates an environment in which a fire can erupt which burns the people who thought they were in control.

  7. I am not sure we need an office of propaganda at the Pentagon.

    Mainstream media is already doing such an excellent job, there really is no reason to spend more money.

  8. And here you thought “1984″ was supposed to be a cautionary tale.

    Turns out it was a how-to manual.

  9. Mr. Romney practices in public openly what his family has practiced with-in their religious faith for decades. Spins, manipulation, deflection, projection and silencing, making one ponder if Cathy O’Brian is correct in what she states she over- heard George Romney say.

    Our nation back extreme and ruthless tortures, Americans are being spied on, invasive and molesting TSA pat down that would have sent our grandfather’s into a fist fight if someone tried to touch their them or their family in such a disrespectful manner. And over all Americans don’t care about one another, it is win by intimidation, demand what one wants – even if the demand is out of place, inconsiderate and wrong. Rand’s Fountain Head has taken hold of America and Americans have embraced it, something several generations ago would have not.

    link to youtube.com
    Mike Wallace: “Through- out the U.S. a new small pockets of intellectuals have become involved in a new philosophy and unusual philosophy that seems to strike at the very roots of our society.”

    “If Ms. Rand’s philosophy takes hold is would revolutionize our society. “

    Rand states she challenges altruism, she challenges government controlled capitalism
    The first five minutes of Rand’s stating her objectives is unbelievable – and our nation has embraced it.

    • The claim of the extreme libertarian Right is that government served the sole function of protecting property. To square that with a police state, all you need to do is convince property owners, especially the owners of just a little bit of cherished, ego-boosting property, that all other humans in American and in the rest of the world are criminal welfare pinkos, meaning the N-word, who do nothing with their lives except plot to steal from the haves. At that point, an infinitude of repressive measures can be justified, as long as they tend to harm the have-nots more than the haves. The military can take over the “rest of the world” paranoia; we already have private and police institutions hammering home fear of our fellow citizens.

      Rand > Friedman > Pinochet. It’s easy.

      • And Mark Skousen (Heritage Foundation) > Joel Skousen (Alex Jones etc. Liberterian) > Cleon Skousen ( the man who lied about his FBI record and founder > The Center of Constitutional Studies with is horrific political influence

        Our political system is so completely influenced by elements leading back to the same sources,I am not sure we have a choice in any election.

      • Oh, I just CANNOT agree with you more.
        As this society de-volves into ALEC and other corporate “charities”, those of us on FB who “get it” are out there FULL TILT trying to expose LibertariTARD myths and their rationalizations for SELFISHNESS.
        It is highly striking that we are finding that police forces/fusion centers are getting forcefed ideas that #occupiers are “trashy” “dirty” “layabouts” “addicts” as we exposed the DRE program. They broadcast these myths/stereotypes through law enforcement magazines, too.
        Extreme rightwing Tea Parties types SCREAM for small governement except when it comes to THEIR property (which includes public thoroughfares these days) and if threatened want the National Guard brought in for THEIR salvation. Orwellian world much?

      • True enough. But a libertarian leftist (if there are any out there) could point out that a real respect for private property would mean that there would not have been the forcible taking of homes in poor neighborhoods to make room for baseball stadiums. A real respect for the free market would mean an end to harassment of poor street vendors. In our country, the state steals the private property of the poor through $500 traffic tickets and such. A radical capitalist could point out that the real welfare kings are the defense industry engineers and security firm owners.

        • That will never happen, because our history has never been about a struggle over liberty, but over power. There are no natural rights; the only thing that could be regarded as “natural” for humans is the hunter-gatherer band. We tossed that overboard by inventing agriculture, and thus gaining the power to store wealth, and use it to accumulate leverage over the less fortunate.

          That being the case, we can only compare the well-being of ordinary people in wildly unequal societies with less unequal societies. Once the normal advantages of being rich have made a few very, very rich, they will manipulate all other institutions in society – government, religion, and culture, to gain a perpetual monopoly of power, including the ability to change the definition of words like “liberty”. There are no principles as to how much government is right, or what the relationship of government power to religious power must be, there are only Darwinian experiments that produce more “successful” societies or less so. But that’s a rigged game since our institutions work together to indoctrinate us in what qualifies as success. The final arbiter would be a model that succeeds in world conquest and elimination of all alternatives. Yet modern evolutionary theory suggests that such a monoculture will become a species-endangering disaster.

          So that leaves us with the balance of terror between the classes and nations. If the humans who live for endless conquest and exploitation are willing to sacrifice more in pursuit of their sick desires than the rest of us are willing to sacrifice to defend what we call our basic rights, the bad guys will win whether they call themselves corporations or empires or messiahs.

  10. Unfortunately, we have baby’s EVERYWHERE in Washington D.C., with more coming in 2012. The question we have to ask ourselves is: “Who’s passing out all these hammers?

  11. What I wonder is, did the two congressmen come up with this brilliant idea on their own, or did someone put them up to it, and if so, who?

  12. Why would they bother? The MSM does that for them already, with the help of shills like Barry McCaffrey. It’s like the double-secret N. Carolina amendment disallowing gay marriage: overkill. (Yes, I know, not really secret.)

    wrf1984

  13. “Then, another problem is that the Defense Intelligence Agency analysts *also* read the false articles placed in the Arabic press by *another* Pentagon office, which they did not know about. So the analysts were passing up to the White House false information provided by their own colleagues!”

    I’m reminded of a story told by Jack Parr, original TV talk show host, about how he started a rumor. Not long after someone asked him if he heard about this rumor and if there was any truth to it.

  14. Is this targeted propaganda anything new? From being told to duck and cover when the Reds strike in a mad psychotic anti-capitalist frenzy, to the all too smug protestation against the views expressed in JFK , the Oliver Stone movie? The label of conspiracy theory has managed to band-aid the actual conspiracies taking place on a daily basis.

    Probably with those theories is they can neither be proved nor disproved. But one has to read with one eye shut to see major US media report foiled terrorist attacks and the like…most of which sound like reasons for more taxes for more military. A military which by the way seems more involved each day into ripping a new one into civil rights?

    When it comes to propaganda, the US has been at it for ages. The only question for me is…are they actually getting better, or worse at it? It starts to look like the latter under the guise of the War on Terror. I see a panicked mob of publicans these days with no real interest in being credible. They would rather prey upon the fears of their citizens to promote a booming arms trade, pipelines of oil from Central Asia to the Mediterrean and beyond, and …oh yeah. Let’s not forget the stifling of dissent, which has always been a core value of US ‘liberties’ ….the dissent I mean, not the stifling….

    • Well, it does look more and more like an end game to extract the maximum amount of consumption from Americans, lock that into shareholder wealth, while enabling it by creating private debts that one day must either be written off or repaid via some form of serfdom. If the propagandists are getting worse, it’s because they don’t expect to stick around the USA for the aftermath. If there are a group of propagandists who are getting better, however, one must consider the possibility that they intend to be the last oligarchs standing, holding title to all us serfs. Since we could hardly afford our present hegemonic military in such a scenario, the generals must be in the former group. They don’t care about the long-term survival of any form of America.

  15. I spent 9 of my first 11 years out of the states .. I didn’t realize there was a time when the US did not propagandize. Came to the states the first time in the late 50′s .. land of the free .. if you where a white male .. opps they left that out of the propaganda. Came to the states again in early 60′s .. from central america that time to hear how we had to have the coup’s in central america because the commies were taking it over .. excuse me, they were legally elected governments that were really only interested in taking care of their own people rather than pandering to US interests. I assumed that the lack of world news was the US form of propaganda in the states .. coupled with the constant “america is the greatest” “all other countries suck” that was the constant in news stories.

  16. It’s pretty clear that the majority of US government and military propaganda has been aimed at Americans for some time. The idea that US propaganda is primarily aimed at other countries is itself propaganda. That these two legislators want to to make it official shows they are pretty dim. I assume, however, that THEY want the real scoop, not the invented stuff.

  17. My sense is that they’re feeling left out as tha Israelis and Saudis already have so much say in our press, or they maybe they’re really scared about their upcoming cuts and feel a need to lubricate those pocketbooks with a little fear mongering. In any case according to a poll only 20% of the public believes the press, they’ll need a lot more than money to make their case.

    Who should we invade, er who will threaten us next?

  18. Propaganda has always targeted the US domestic population. Who else would believe the crapola? Does anyone honestly think the Pentagon was trying to convince the Vietnamese we were there to preserve their freedom or promote democracy? Does anyone think we are fooling the Iraqi population or the Afghans or even trying to? Seriously?

    We are subjected to it constantly. Hollywood churns the stuff out on a regular basis, always thanking the DOD for their “cooperation” in making their recruitment and other films. The press prints it daily either out of misplaced patriotism, laziness or ignorance.

    It’s also called Public Relations or advertising. Your product, your candidate, your army, whatever, has a need to be shown in the best possible light while hiding all the nasty blemishes. There are untold thousands with various degrees and job experience eager to go to work on the problem. America has the best bullshit artists on the planet. In this we are unquestionably number one.

    So it strikes me as laughable that there is some kind of sacred principle that the DOD never directs propaganda at the US population. To even say that is itself propaganda of the crudest type, like claiming Kim Jong Ill can dunk a basketball around Kobe.

    To anybody that is “shocked, just shocked” that this can happen I can only say ” Where have you been? Are you paying attention?”

  19. Considering that ‘most’ people only read / look at mainstream media, they are already ‘lost’ to rational informed debate anyway. In the UK, we have three principal political parties, all with a ‘globalisation / everything must be privately owned’ philosophy, and the mainstream media, if they want to get advertising revenue / public awards, will churn out why that philosophy is ‘a good thing’.

    Maybe this proposal is actually a false flag, so that when it is shot down, the establishment will be able to tell the voters that ‘democracy’ is safe in the west.

  20. Fascist propaganda and methods of persuasion are all around us all the time. The important thing is to expose them for what they are and struggle to communicate this to the voters. We must show that these are lies and distortions that harm our liberty, even though the liars and propagandist are doing so with genuine belief and equal love for country and liberty. Not all of them are alien monsters. They are us with a different and dangerous perspective and a closed mind.

    The important lesson that was not learnt about Hitler (perhaps due to post war sensitivity regarding Germany and its people’s support during the Cold War) was why so many decent and patriotic Germans willingly voted in Hitler and set themselves up for their own and many other people’s destruction. This is fundamental to the struggle taking place today in the West between good people who will destroy liberty for many complex reasons and good people who will fight to defend it.
    Good luck in your struggle Mr. Cole and good luck to our grandchildren.

  21. Is this not an extension of precisely what Obama engages in when he takes multiple victory laps for the killing of Osama?

    One’s propaganda is another’s official statement…

    Obama politicizes everything he does to his advantage. Note how many “I” and “me” and “myself” and “my” there are in his speechifying…

  22. As a historian who discusses propaganda, Dr. Juan may be a better judge of the most deserving…

    The intention of this award is to highlight the continuing extreme bias and misreporting of many mainstream media outlets. The prize will be given for what our readers consider the most egregious example of dishonest reporting for the fiscal year 2011-2012 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012).

    You can submit your nominations for the first annual Duranty Prize at link to pjmedia.com .

  23. I suspect that the push to legalize propaganda is a smoke screen to cover the fact that that the US is already highly propagandized. The propaganda provision will be defeated, thereby increasing the effectiveness of propaganda by enhancing the illusion that we are not being propagandized by our own government (or the corporaqtions that control the government).

  24. The Thornberry-Smith amendment gives the military industrial complex the same propaganda powers currently possessed by the ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy), a requirement to lie; to wit:

    According to Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998: H11225:

    Responsibilities. –The Director– [...] (12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–

    A. is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and

    B. has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Where prohibition is concerned, the ONDCP anti-drug/pro-police propaganda targeting legalization has been a complete failure. Marijuana is heading toward legalization, and more than half the country knows the drug war itself was lost decades ago.

    Perhaps the Thornberry-Smith amendment is meant to convince Americans that an unending war across the globe is a good thing, or that the military can do no wrong, which implies the state can do no wrong; always a futile task.

    The inevitable result of passing the amendment will be the same as it was for prohibition: as with drugs, few thereafter will believe a single word the U.S. government says about its military ventures. Reliance upon foreign news sources for information about U.S. military operations will become the norm for Americans. Fraud and illegal activities by the U.S. government will be more easily concealed. New threats to democracy will arise. The amendment will eventually emerge to have a far bigger effect, one that is greater and more harmful than the sum of its parts.

  25. Is this actually at all surprising?

    We’ve had the Pentagon and many in government doing this propagandizing “unofficially” for quite some time – including in the lead-up to the U.S. government ordered invasions and occupations of the past 11 years – quite often with the help of the ownership, upper management, and some of the “commentators” of the corporate media.

    Plus, we already have use of the U.S. military (to spy upon, and possibly later to act as agent provocateurs) to infiltrate anti-war groups and pro-peace groups, as Amy Goodman and Democracy NOW covered starting in late July of 2009.

    It was pointed out that this was a possible violation of the (restored to it’s original wording by Congress in the two years of the George W. Bush administration) Posse Comitatus Act – that is going on also under the Obama administration just the same or even more so, in some cases, than under the George W. Bush administration (which has been quite dismaying to many Americans who worked hard to get Obama into office in 2008).

    It was pointed out back in 2004, in 2008, in 2009, and in 2011 – 2012 – especially towards the “Occupy” protesters, and all along towards actual reporters, investigative journalists and their sources, that the so-called “fusion centers” and “fusion cells”, set up between the U.S. military, FBI, local and state police departments, local governments, the federal government and it’s other agencies (including the C.I.A.), and private corporations that the so-called Homeland Security Department has sub-contracted, collectively all represent mechanisms to circumvent laws, regulations, and court rulings, that are supposed to prevent severe abuses of power.

    The fact that the vast majority of what has been done and is being done, is directly aimed at the U.S. public – while dismaying, is not surprising, given how much those in the government i.e. many of the politicians of BOTH major parties, the military “leadership”, the big financial institutions, the corporate media (which doesn’t deserve to be called “mainstream” at this point), and some of the more extremist religious groups, have been part of the same large “complex” and it’s harmful “group-think” – a complex which meets the modern and past definitions of forms of “fascism” as well as “totalitarianism”…

    In the long run, only a massive change in awareness, a willingness to care about each other, a willingness to be involved long-term, and to force change (including if that means voting the majority of the politicians of BOTH major parties out of office all at the same time – over and over again, and other such things that the aforementioned “complex” collectively wishes to convince us all is impossible to even attempt) by a majority of the population, can alter the self-destructive course our nation is on – at home and abroad.

    Those lost in the two-dimensional “group-think” of the “complex”, don’t believe that “We The People” – in our nation, or in any other nation, have the determinination, self-disipline, caring, and sheer gumption, to cause real change, nor do they really understand the depths of the harm they have caused – including to themselves.

    So let’s all wake up another human being – who is not awake, to real awareness, and re-create and reshape things – not just for our nation, but for the vast humanity that we are all a part of.

    • Another thing that might happen is that like all really aggressive cancers or really obnoxious parasites, the Bigs, which I would lump together as the Kleptocracy since they steal all the real wealth to fund their pleasures, is that eventually they sap so much of the host’s body, strip so much of the stored energy, the lifeblood, that the host organism eventually coughs and dies.

      What we got going, what’s being done to us for the “life tenure” of the very few who could not care less about whatever might happen after they die, is not maintainable for much longer. link to tradicionclasica.blogspot.com You think the Kochs or Dimon or Blankfein give a rip about what comes after, or next after they leave the stage? Maybe review the back story for that desolate classic, “Soylent Green.” link to rachelaaron.net Where the corporate rulers know that they’ve facilitated the endstage of climate collapse and the using up of all the available resources, and are having to kill the few corporatists with consciences who might blow the whistle before they blow this joint. link to en.wikipedia.org

  26. Relax, everyone. Obama will veto!

    Even if he doesn’t, then you should still relax. After all, how can your Bodhisattva President advance the cause of gay marriage if he doesn’t help Congress contribute towards two or three more wars? Don’t you liberals/”retards” understand what sacrifices must be made by Serious People in the real world?

    Tactics, comrades, tactics!

  27. Two children’s stories come to mind. One is about the little boy who kept crying “Wolf” when there was none until the people he shouted to eventually realized the little boy was not to be taken seriously. This prompts the question, “Do the American people have enough sense to wise up to the BS coming out of any government or political entity?

    The other story is of the Hans Christian Andersen tale about another little boy who exposed the emperor as having no clothes. Available evidence suggests it is unlikely if we could ever get a majority of the people to pay attention to such an observation, no matter how obvious it might be to an independent minority.

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