Thursday, October 8, 2015

Malaysia Eyes New Regional Facility to Counter Islamic State

Najib Razak image from article

Last week, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak announced that the Southeast Asian state may soon establish a regional center to counter messaging from the Islamic State (IS).
Najib told the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism at the United Nations on September 29 that Malaysia is eying the formation of a “regional, digital counter-messaging center” because Southeast Asia lacks such a facility. His remarks came after Malaysia became one of the newest members of the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, joining Singapore as the only two ASEAN states in the grouping so far.
Specifics of the proposal still remain unclear. On October 2, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel told reporters that the stationing of a messaging center in Malaysia was an idea “under active consideration.” Russel later clarified that while Malaysia was a leading candidate to serve as host for such a regional hub, no final decision had been made.
Officials say the center would be similar to the one that the United States launched together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in July this year.  ...

Commentary: Democracy is not just another ideology; freedom is not just another point of view

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Statement by Adam C. Powell III at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, October 8, 2015
Mr. Chairman, Governors, Director Lansing. My name is Adam Clayton Powell III, and I am President of the Public Diplomacy Council and a Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California.  But this morning I speak as an individual; the views are my own and not of those or any other institution.
We read of the debate about BBG mission, the debate about how to respond to untrue propaganda, and the debate about what is and isn't permitted under the VOA charter. 
As someone who spent decades at CBS News, NPR and other news organizations, it was always the highest calling of objective journalism to speak truth to power and to spotlight misdeeds wherever they may be. It is therefore the highest calling of objective journalism to draw attention to what is by any objective test illegal and to what is antithetical to the beliefs of women and men of free will.
These are not inconsistent in any way with objective journalism; quite the reverse: 
To state the obvious, not everything is true; some things are provably false. Not everything is equivalent; some things are repulsive to humanity. 
Today the choice can be very clear. Seizing neighboring countries' territory by force is not just another ideology. Shooting down civilian airliners, whether a Korean Airlines 747 or Malaysian Airlines 777, is not just another point of view. Jailing political opponents in Havana or Caracas is not just an alternative lifestyle. Mass enslavement of women and girls by ISIS is not just another way of exercising power. Mass kidnapping of African boys and forcing them to become soldiers is not just another way to govern.
These are, by any objective standard, practices which civilized people everywhere can and do condemn. These are, by any objective standard, practices that the best journalism can and should expose, to its credit. These are, by any objective standard, what America opposes.
Your challenge and your opportunity is to state this clearly and forcefully, every day, every hour.
You are the communicators of freedom, in the same tradition that 70 years ago, articulated Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear, and in the same tradition that 240 years ago, inspired communicators of freedom to write, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
Democracy is not just another ideology.
And freedom is not just another point of view.
Thank you for your time.

Author: Adam Powell

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Public Diplomacy-Related Academic Job Opening

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Shawn Powers (on Facebook)
1 hrAtlanta, GA
Hey Folks - please share widely - GSU's [Georgia State University] Department of Communication is hiring a tenure track assistant or advanced assistant professor of Global Media.
"We seek candidates with active research interests in media practices, ecologies, technologies and/or governance from a global or comparative perspective. Candidates should be able to teach courses in the Journalism (undergraduate) and Media & Society (graduate) programs, as well as develop PhD seminars in his/her particular areas of expertise. Global communication is a major area of emphasis in the Department’s doctoral program. The work of area faculty is supported by strong connections to international media and policy organizations. The candidate will be closely associated with the Center for Global Information Studies (CGIS), a recently re-launched research center dedicated to the study of the geopolitics of technology and ICT policy. CGIS receives grant support for projects on strategic communication, public diplomacy, radicalization, comparative information policies, and Internet governance."
Feel free to get in touch if you (or others) have any questions!

Classic Quotable: George Guthrie on conflicts of culture in advising and development

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Monday, October 5th 2015
Practitioners of Public Diplomacy work in intercultural settings and come to know at first hand the challenges of communication between cultures.  Much of a Public Diplomacy officer’s cross-cultural moxie comes from living and working abroad.  There’s also a large and growing body of literature on intercultural work and communication. 

Over the years the armed forces sponsored a great deal of academic research in this area.  Deployments without much preparation combined with short tours, however, have impaired their full use of the knowledge. 

While I was in Afghanistan, I was surprised that many military counterparts, facing intercultural challenges, were unaware that the archives contain many studies from, say, the Vietnam era that could still be applied in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Here are a few paragraphs from one 1966 study, “Conflicts of Culture and the Military Advisor,” by George M. Guthrie, professor of psychology at the Pennsylvania State University and a consultant to the Institute of Defense Analyses.  Even though many American “technical assistants, teachers, military advisors and Peace Corps volunteers” had been sent to developing countries, he wrote, “advising is still considered more an art than a science.”

“[A]lmost all assistance programs have ideological components,” moreover.  “We want to support and encourage friendly and/or democratic processes and factions within the recipient country,” Guthrie continued, “but we cannot do so too blatantly without defeating our own purposes.  Each of the various groups and interests with whom we must deal has its own expressed and unexpressed objectives too.  Finding common ground among stated goals is difficult . . .”

Guthrie drew profiles of three American advisors in the Philippines, India, and Nigeria.  The entire report is worth reading, but the portrait of a visiting American, “Professor Markle,” may be most suggestive for Public Diplomacy work in education and exchanges – especially during orientation sessions for newly arrived American Fulbrighters.

The next term the American was scheduled to conduct a seminar on curriculum development for which 20 students enrolled.  Trying to relate discussions to Indian rather than American problems he had deliberately resisted issuing his reading lists from home and decided to have the group define their purposes and goals.  He wanted them to develop their ideas rather than simply record his.  The first few sessions of a seminar are always rather inconclusive as people strive to know one another, and to avoid taking stands which others might attack.  But the Indian students were even more reluctant to talk, and when he pressed them they insisted that he was the specialist.  Faced with this dilemma he invited them to discuss specific problems rather than general issues.  Several students responded to this by describing complicated situations which appeared virtually insoluble and then asked for simple straightforward solutions.  He had been called an expert and the students wanted the benefit of his expertise.  The balance of the seminar was a continuing struggle with Markle wanting to discuss issues and the students wanting facts and solutions.

In the following terms Markle did more lecturing and relied less on discussion techniques.  However, the students did not respond in the way he had anticipated.  Rather than at least learn what he had to say, they began to miss classes and at the end of the term presented desperate stories of fates that awaited them if they did not receive passing grades.  When he finally failed three obviously inferior students he was called in by the administrator of the college and urged to re-examine the students' performance.  There were some hints that a left wing student group might hold a meeting protesting his attempts to indoctrinate students and a couple of critical letters were written to the cultural affairs officer at the embassy.  On the other hand several students wrote to him after he returned to New York telling him how much they had learned from his lectures and regretting that they did not have the opportunity for further study with him.

This example emphasizes the competitive struggle which may arise when host nationals are embarrassed that advisors are present.  Markle knew very little about India and Indians responded by proving that he could not solve their problems.   Furthermore he tried to use a pedagogical technique which was unfamiliar students and which would impart very little to them which would prove useful in the all-important examinations they faced later.  * * * *

At the outset, assistance activities appear to be a simple matter of those who have or know sharing with those who need.  The motivation of the giver may be honorable and unselfish.  The recipient's need for change may be apparent to all.  But helping relationships soon become complicated as the recipient resents his implied inferiority and as the donor becomes impatient for changes that do not appear.

Author: Donald M. Bisho

Quotable: Gary Grappo on why transition to democracy in Iraq proved so difficult

Monday, October 5th 2015

Ambassador Gary Grappo was Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the American Embassy in Baghdad in 2009-2010.  In an article, “On the Front Lines of American Diplomacy,” he recalled the assignment in the March, 2015, issue of his alumni magazine, Checkpoints.  In an up-close-and-personal first-hand account of working with the Iraqi government, he reflected on why Iraq’s political evolution toward democracy was so difficult.

In the post-World War I period and after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when much of the rest of the world began to grapple with revolutions, “liberalism versus conservatism,” democracy, socialism, communism, free markets, socialist democracy, environmentalism, human rights, women’s rights, et al, the autocratic governments of the Middle East cut their subjects off from such ideological corruption, usually hiding behind Islam or security.

As a result, in today’s post-Arab Spring, Arabs are just beginning to grapple with such concepts. They lack the philosophical framework and organizational structures to act on otherwise noble political aspirations. In time, therefore, as we see in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Bahrain and elsewhere—and as I personally observed in Iraq—loyalties and alliances generally fall along sectarian, ethnic and/or tribal lines.

For any nation that “lack[s] the philosophical framework and organizational structures to act on otherwise noble political aspirations,” is any part of the U.S. government more relevant than Public Diplomacy?

Quotable: "Public Diplomacy is Not ‘Propaganda'"

Monday, October 5th 2015

Some important essays and articles on Public Diplomacy in the era of the U.S. Information Agency were published in its in-house magazine, USIA World.  Copies of the magazine have never been archived on the internet, so its valuable record of USIA programs and concepts is largely unavailable for reference by scholars and practitioners. 

In 1990 I wrote out a defense of Public Diplomacy against the loose talk that it was “propaganda.”  The notion has not gone away, and every new academic course in communications, public affairs, and Public Diplomacy must mention and deal with the old charge.  I pushed back:  “The men and women of USIA are not payrolled shills for an American propaganda offensive.”

The full article, “USIA’s Work is ‘Not Propaganda,” appeared in the December, 1990, issue of USIA World If you substitute “Public Diplomacy” for each mention of “USIA,” it still makes useful points – that Public Diplomacy provides “accurate information identified by source,” that American Public Diplomacy seeks to demonstrate that U.S. proposals offer mutual benefits, and the benefit of combining “information” and “cultural” activities in one organization.  Click on the attachment below for the full article.  Here are some key paragraphs.

If "propaganda" is how information work that directly supports foreign policy goals is characterized, then it needs a new internal self-concept.

Let me suggest a new formula — that information officers are "honest advocates" of administration policies.

On one hand, USIA's information officers are advocates because they hope the facts they provide, the briefings they give, the backgrounders they issue, and the statements they give the press as official spokespersons all demonstrate the logic of American policy.  USIA is part of the Foreign Service, and information officers need not apologize that their work aims ultimately at persuasion.

Admittedly, the "U.S. policies" that information officers advocate are administration policies, and are concurrently Republican or Democratic policies depending on which party is in power.  This is because the Foreign Service is pledged to advance the policies formulated by those the American people have elected.  The entire process accords with the Constitution.  If it is this that makes an information officer a propagandist, I recommend a refresher course in the institutional processes of American foreign policy, which works to meld different political and social perspectives into a foreign policy that is far more "American" than it is politically partisan.

In addition, Public Diplomacy officers are honest advocates because American political ethics and social morality proscribe the instruments of "propaganda."

The tools and methods of U.S. information officers — open press conferences, interviews, provision of administration statements and testimony before Congress, Q&As with interlocutors representing all points of view — are straightforward and aboveboard.

Ambassadors who have been so brash as to tell the Voice of America what it should say on a given subject quickly learn that VOA writes the news based on journalistic, not political standards.

USIA has no directorate of "active measures." A Wireless File writer is not an apparatchik consulting party doctrine before writing his stories.  Information officers at embassies have no stable of paid journalists or suborned editorial writers that can echo propaganda themes on demand.  These are the techniques of propaganda, the discredited methods of the opposition.

It was not USIA that propagated falsehoods about the generation of the AIDS virus in bacterial warfare laboratories.

What a company of honest advocates doesn't need is for its work to be crippled or discredited — or its organization to be changed — because of loose thinking and careless talk about "propaganda."

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Author: Donald M. B

An Anglo contribution to be proud of

Ari Harow,

Regev image from article
A few weeks ago the government of Israel voted to appoint Mark Regev, the prime minister’s foreign media advisor and spokesman, as Israel’s next ambassador to the United Kingdom. Although not a mainstay in the domestic Hebrew media, Mark’s international media appearances in defense of the Jewish state, the soldiers of the IDF and Israel’s elected leaders have afforded him legendary status. Jews across the world stand a little taller each time Mark appears on their television screens. ...
While Israel is gaining the consummate professional in Ambassador Regev, the prime minister and the State of Israel are also losing a key cog in our ongoing hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts. This void has generated much chatter in Anglo circles. The opening of such a senior and sensitive position has created tremendous buzz and great interest in the Anglo community. ...
It is well worth remembering that Regev is far from an isolated case of Anglos in high places, be it in the Prime Minister’s Office or other key decision-making bodies. ... Our fantastic ambassador to the United States and fellow Anglo Ron Dermer previously served as Netanyahu’s senior advisor. ...
The list could go on, but the pattern is clear. For a relatively small community, English-speakers play a disproportionately prominent role in our national affairs. In many ways, they always have. Legendary figures including Abba Eban, Moshe Arens, Yehuda Avner and of course prime minister Golda Meir spring to mind.
What is the secret behind this Anglo eminence? Much of it has to do with the Zionist values which play such a prominent role in the Jewish communities in which Anglos are raised. Jews in the United States and Canada, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere are so often instilled with an innate love for the Jewish people and a deep, unshakable commitment to Israel.
Anglo Jews are invariably motivated not only to build their lives in Israel, but to make a profound difference when they arrive.
This type of motivation, though, can only flourish with the encouragement of those in power. If anyone is attuned to the skills and values that Anglos bring to the Israeli table, it is Prime Minister Netanyahu. The years that he spent in the United States helped equip the prime minister with a keen insight into the English-speaking world, and has also helped fuel the deep personal relationships he enjoys with so many Anglos. ...
This unique partnership between our prime minister and our community has inevitably prompted huge interest among Anglos to become Mark Regev’s successor, to take on the mantle of being the veritable voice of Israel to the world. The huge success of Australian-born Regev and so many English speakers in the Prime Minister’s Office and other governmental bodies is testament to this special relationship. With that in mind, you can be sure that if an Anglo does step into Regev’s role, Israel will have an outstanding public representative to be proud of.