American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s publisher, has put out a new magazine celebrating the Trump’s administration’s Space Force and bashing Elon Musk — but denies that the federal government or the private space industry had any influence on the publication.
Although the estimated $13 billion price tag for this proposed sixth branch of the US military has been met with only lukewarm support in Congress, AMI anticipated the move with 97 pages of propaganda, the "United States Space Force" magazine, on sale at drugstores and airport newsstands through April for $13.99. The cover touts “Over 125 Photos,” “Life on Mars by 2050,” and “Top-Secret Weapons Systems.”
“This is one of nearly 200 newsstand Special Interest Publications that are part of a broader editorial business of capitalizing on newsworthy and topical events and moments this year,” an AMI spokesperson told BuzzFeed News by email. “All of our Special Interest Publications are decided on, and directed by, internal editorial staff and produced without advertising support or external influence.”
A spokesperson for the Air Force, which is for now managing the Space Force, told BuzzFeed News by email: “We are not affiliated with the publication.”
These sort of one-time publications from AMI gained notice last year with "The New Kingdom," a celebration of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ruler and Trump’s ally, who has been linked to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That magazine, like the Space Force issue, had no ads and sold for $13.99.
Although AMI denied that it had any outside editorial or financial assistance for "The New Kingdom," news reports in June said that the publisher had asked the State Department if it needed to register as an “agent of a foreign principal” after it accepted edits, photo changes, and other images from a representative of the kingdom provided a draft copy.
AMI coordinated with Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, to squelch accounts of Trump’s affairs with porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playmate Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign. And Cohen and AMI’s CEO David Pecker reportedly met in 2015 to discuss ways the media company could aid him in the election.
The National Enquirer's newsstand support for Trump during the election (with headlines like “How Trump Will Win!” and “Hillary: Corrupt! Racist! Criminal!”) was a reflection of its readership’s support for the candidate, editorial director Dylan Howard told BuzzFeed News in 2017.
Howard is also at the top of the masthead for Space Force magazine. The first 60 pages of the 97-page magazine is a middle schooler’s US space history, stretching from Jules Verne to Nazi and NASA rocketeer Wernher von Braun to the moon landings, the International Space Station, and Star Wars. An optimistic survey of past US military space efforts follows, as well as a breathless endorsement of Trump’s plan to create a new armed service staffed with “black berets” recruited from video games. (That recruitment strategy doesn’t appear in any Defense Department plans for the Space Force.) The “AI Robot Army” promised on the cover appears to reference an automated plane-landing program under development by NASA. There are three photos of Trump.
The magazine ends by seemingly conflating the Space Force with US civilian space efforts — such as Elon Musk’s Big Falcon Rocket scheduled for a 2020 launch — to explore the moon and Mars. A section on “Mover & Shakers” in the space business praises Pentagon feeding-trough stalwarts Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman, while taking a shot at Elon Musk: “Musk’s desires are driven as much by profits as by patriotism.” (SpaceX will test the first US spacecraft to send astronauts into space in nearly a decade on March 2, ahead of its contractor competitor Boeing.) Interestingly enough, the magazine treats Amazon and Blue Origins rocket firm owner Jeff Bezos with kid gloves, praising his $2.5 billion investment in his own company.
The Space Force will “operate covertly on the opposite, unseen ‘dark side’ of the moon,” the text says. “This will offer the U.S. a substantial counter-strike option” to defend against Russian lunar laser attacks. (The moon, of course, doesn’t have a dark side, only a far side, which China landed a rover on late last year.) NASA has notional plans of exploring Mars in the 2030s, but no budget for it, and only this month unveiled an industry solicitation to jump-start proposals for a lunar lander. The Defense Department has not reported any plans for moon or Mars bases.
In August, Trump’s campaign manager unveiled a series of potential logos for the Space Force that appeared heavily borrowed from NASA; one has the slogan “Mars Awaits.” Along with promising a Mars colony starting in the 2030s, the magazine wraps by suggesting that by midcentury, “space soldiers” could have “superhuman powers,” and adds that the new branch of the military will contact aliens.
“And if the alien race is hostile, Earthlings will be fortunate to have seasoned soldiers on the front line!”