“Amerika gave us the truth—and the illusion—of America.”
--Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, regarding Amerika magazine, published by the United States Information Agency during the Cold War; image: cover of the last Amerika issue from article
--Marty Kaplan, the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
Now This Is America - Spencer Ackerman - Firedoglake (blog): “L.A. County rescue workers dig a Haitian woman out from the rubble. The crowd reacts accordingly. This is America.
There’s a reductive argument about public diplomacy in policy circles. Public diplomacy can be a cynical thing: condescending spin that papers over real grievances about American policy. Or it can be a national-security endeavor: highlighting the perfidy and hypocrisy of American adversaries. (I rather like that, personally.) Or it can be a frivolity: nice things America does that don’t relate to people’s lives. But what it should be is what the L.A. County rescue workers just displayed. American power, effort, sweat and sacrifice for the common good. Your neighbor needs help? You stop what you’re doing and you help. Your neighbor won’t need to be sold on what you’re about, and neither will the couple down the street. Your actions ring out.” Image from
The Definition of Pseudo Aid - Una M, War and Peace: “What is pseudo aid? I would divide pseudo aid from the United States into three categories: bilateral budget support, public diplomacy, and the construction/reconstruction aspect of counterinsurgency. Why are these three things not aid? Relief and development aid are supposed to be delivered on the basis of recipients’ needs, regardless of political consequences. Budget support, public diplomacy and counterinsurgency, in contrast, are very much based on anticipated political outcomes –- in other words, they’re instruments of national self-interest.”
Obama’s Flowing Rhetoric Hasn’t Brought Real Change in Public Diplomacy - Helle Dale, Heritage Foundation: "As far as strategic communication and public diplomacy are concerned, it has been a year of many speeches and little substantive change or accomplishment."
Pakistan in Obama's Strategy: Any Success? - Khalid Rahman, Islam Online: “The year 2009 saw more than 70 US high-level delegations and visitors coming to Pakistan, including the secretary of state. Public diplomacy, to promote a softer image of US
in Pakistan and efforts to reduce anti-American sentiment, is another facet of the US involvement in Pakistan. A lavish amount of money is being spent on establishing direct contacts with NGOs, civil society organizations, professionals, media, and other important segments of Pakistani society, including tribal elders, women, youth, and even students.The promulgation of the Kerry-Lugar Law, with the so-called emphasis on economic aid promised through this law, is also an attempt in this regard. ... By every account, this is a huge engagement that apparently shows the significance the two countries attach to their relations. Many would interpret these measures as an indication of increasing cooperation between the two countries, but for many Pakistanis, there are serious questions about taking these measures as a token of genuine cooperation.” Image from
Obama must be less hazy on human rights in the Middle East - Joe Stork, Daily Star, Lebanon: “The Obama administration’s promotion of human rights with abusive Middle Eastern governments ... has been ambiguous and, in some cases, negligent, raising concern that the US is still operating in a universe of double standards when it comes to confronting serious human rights violations by important allies. Human rights have certainly not been part of the public diplomacy surrounding the president’s meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.”
A Good Thing for Guantánamo - Marisa L. Porges, New York Times: "[T]he Obama administration now has breathing room on Guantánamo closure efforts. The Jan. 22 deadline President Obama set his first day in office was a public diplomacy windfall with U.S. allies, and represented a key piece of his strategy for improving America’s relations with the Muslim world. It also served to jump start efforts within the U.S. government that are often hamstrung by bureaucracy and internal politics; one year to shutter the detention facility was a tall order from the start, but it helped U.S. policymakers needing the weight of the Oval Office to move things along.
However, it created an unrealistic timeline that, at points, prioritized momentum over long-term strategy. U.S. officials struggling with the Guantánamo problem now have a much-needed respite — time to reassess both the timeline and approach being taken. This has the added benefit of solving a looming public diplomacy crisis. Unfortunately, creating such an unattainable goal set up the president for international embarrassment when he fails to achieve the most well-known objective of his first year in office. Recent events dampen this backlash — both for the president and, more importantly, the United States overall. No one will question why Guantánamo remains open.” Image from
Column: This Muslim country wants more Americans: Indonesia is welcoming the Peace Corps back to a region teeming with moderate Muslims, but driven by dangerous zealots. Can this small injection of American ‘smart power’ make a difference? - Lewis M. Simons, USA Today: "By agreeing to dispatch volunteers to live side-by-side with Indonesians, teaching English to their children and exchanging insights into each other's cultures, the Obama administration is sending the clearest possible signal to the world's Muslims: America's fight is not with you, but with the terrorists at your fringes. The move also reflects recognition by the administration and Congress that the Peace Corps is a critical component of a new 'smart power' policy toward U.S. engagement abroad. Such an approach emphasizes public diplomacy and grassroots-level development assistance over military hard power. Acknowledging the need for this shift, Congress voted last month to raise Peace Corps funding by $60 million — the largest increase ever — to $400 million. Most critically, Peace Corps volunteers will strive to help young Indonesian Muslims extricate themselves from crushing poverty."
Does Soft Power Matter? A Comparative Analysis of Student Exchange Programs 1980-2006 - ingentaconnect.com: "Author: Atkinson, Carol Source: Foreign Policy Analysis, Volume 6, Number 1, January 2010 , pp. 1-22(22) Abstract: Democratic governance depends not only on the building of democratic institutions but also on citizens' knowledge about how these institutions should function in their everyday lives. I argue that US-hosted educational exchange programs are one mechanism whereby citizens of nondemocratic states might experience life firsthand in a democratic country. Their experiences may impact the political institutions and influence political behavior in their home countries. In order for this process to take place, I argue that at least three contextual conditions are important: (i) the depth and extent of social interactions that occur while abroad, (ii) the sharing of a sense of community or common identity between participants and their hosts, and (iii) the attainment of a politically influential position by the exchange participant when they return home. In this article, I test these hypotheses and find support for what advocates of soft power often contend: US-hosted exchange programs can play an important role in the diffusion of liberal values and practices across the borders of authoritarian states." Courtesy LB.
Panel's Ranking Member Lugar Is Veteran Pragmatist - Jessica Brady, Roll call: “Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is the most senior Member of his caucus, a one-time presidential candidate and a bipartisan lawmaker who is often lauded for his pragmatic approach. … ‘He can be stand-offish at times and doesn’t use opportunities to make news,’ an aide to a conservative GOP Member said.
‘He’s not like Jesse Helms.’ The late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the panel’s most senior Republican member for years and the chairman from 1995 until he retired at the end of 2002, ‘used the Foreign Relations Committee to push conservative principles,’ the GOP aide noted. Helle Dale, a senior fellow for public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation, said the posture of Republicans on the committee is at least partly a reflection of their current political standing. ‘I think the Republicans at this point in time feel so outnumbered that you don’t really have the initiative,’ she said. ‘You don’t have someone like Helms — there aren’t people there that are going to rock the boat.’” Lugar image from
Forming a Region-Centric State Department –– From the Bottom Up ... - T. Greer, The Scholar’s Stage: “There are few things as valuable to an FSO as the relationships she is able to cultivate with her counterparts; there is little incentive for these counterparts to put much into a relationship they know will be useless in two year's time. Likewise, FSOs who are hauled from one region to another have trouble capitalizing on their past gains – The Public Diplomacy Officer who has worked with Al Jazeera Arabic in Basra will have an easier time working with the same organization in Cairo than she will working with Agencia Estado in Brasilia. ... Rather than fielding a class of globe trotting Generalists who must remake themselves every three years, the State Department should cultivate a corps of Regionlists who are experts without parallel within the region in which they reside. To create a region-centric Department of State without creating the Regionlists with which to man it is only to handicap our Republic.”
Thank You, Norman Lear - Marty Kaplan, The Jewish Journal of greater L.A - "The Lear Center - going a bit against the grain - produced a museum exhibit and book about a time when Hollywood fought fascism but got in trouble for it: the years when 'Confessions of a Nazi Spy' and other Warner Bros. movies got Hollywood into hot water with a pre-Pearl Harbor Congress and Roosevelt Administration determined to stay neutral.
We also produced an unsentimental panel for the Writers Guild about the global hearts and minds we were trying to win, 'We Hate You (But Please Give Us More Baywatch),' whose transcript became part of the public diplomacy curriculum for training U.S. foreign service officers." Image: Recording artist Adrienne Bailon, producer Norman Lear and actress Hayden Panettiere arrive at Declare Yourself's "Last Call" party at the Green Door on September 24, 2008 in Los Angeles, California
The Nuts and Bolts of Cold War Diplomacy, Elise Crane, American Diplomacy: “Strict Soviet censorship was a key element affecting the formation and dissemination of Cold War-era public diplomacy programs. Because of its unique reciprocal distribution arrangement, Amerika, a striking USIA-produced Russian-language magazine, obviated tight Soviet censorship on print publications and provided its public with their only unfiltered view of the West. Certainly, broadcasting by the Voice of America and Radio Liberty played a huge role in changing hearts and minds and affecting perceptions about the West. Further, while Amerika stuck to what it did best—highlighting everyday life on the other side of the Iron Curtain—broadcasting presented U.S. foreign policy. However, given Russian reverence for the written word, Amerika arguably affected the public more powerfully than radio ever could. In short, Amerika functioned in a daunting, and often hostile, political environment and conquered steep challenges to serve as the ideal public diplomacy instrument for its place and time.” Image from article: Cover of the last issue
Mark Drapeau’s New Job: Corporate Public Diplomacy via Innovative Social Engagement - Brian Solis Blog: "Returning to the notion of conducting corporate public diplomacy via innovative social engagement, I think that the U.S. State Department’s new Democracy Video Challenge is an excellent example of the multi-faceted, engaging, and remarkable storytelling and influencing that can be accomplished with clear goals, true strategic thinking, and a holistic view of the suite of available tactics and opportunities."
Google's Foreign Policy - Spencer Ackerman, Firedoglake (blog) - "Google is universal — more than a luxury brand, it’s a company that offers people free access to information and visibly operates with an ethos of beneficence.
Keeping Google in China is public-diplomacy consideration as much as it is an economic consideration." Image from
PhoeniCIA2phoenix: Israel: Global NATO's 29th Member - Rick Rozoff, posted by Anaconda, PhoeniCIA2phoenix: "As the country's minister of foreign affairs Tzipi Livni said at the NATO’s Transformation, the Mediterranean Dialogue, and NATO-Israel Relations seminar in Herzliya on October 24, 2006, 'The alliance between NATO and Israel is only natural....Israel and NATO share a common strategic vision....[T]hreats, aimed at Israel and the western-valued moderate community, position Israel more then ever before on the Euro-Atlantic side. In many ways, Israel is the front line defending our common way of life.' The two-day conference was organized by the Atlantic Forum of Israel and the NATO Public Diplomacy Division and occurred only two months after the end of Israel's second Lebanon war, which displaced 900,000 Lebanese, a quarter of the nation's population."
Counter-violence alone can't curb terror - Yin Jiwu, China Daily: “Instead of merely depending on military power to combat terrorism, we'd better emphasize more on long-term and flexible measures. The reason is quite simple: It's easy to destroy the enemies physically, but not the hatred they harbor, which will spread to others of their ilk. To wipe out terrorism, therefore, we should find a balance between military forces and public diplomacy. We have to first explore ways to eliminate hatred and enhance positive feelings in mutual interactions. If we focus on tough measures to combat terrorism, we will be assured only of temporary, and at times negative, safety. When it comes to eliminating non-traditional terrorism, traditional military measures are far from enough.”
COMMENT: From information 'warfare' to 'welfare' — Qamar Zaman Kaira, Daily Times: “As the Federal Information Minister, I hear frequent use of the term ‘information warfare’ as a strategy to counter both extremist messages and hostile posturing from other states. However, my contention is that this term actually carries exclusivist, militarist, and clandestine connotations, which have their origins in the Second World War and the Cold War, when Western nation-states adopted it as a tool to achieve their war objectives. Information warfare’s popular synonym, ‘propaganda’, has little room for credibility, authenticity and appeal in modern democratic societies. ... We need to de-hyphenate information from warfare,
and link information with empowerment and argument. We need a paradigm shift from indoctrination to providing information and education — a shift from ‘information warfare’ to ‘information welfare’.For this, we must first come up with alternative idioms and mediums. A new paradigm should be based on ideas of access to information, ideological argumentation, policy articulation, public diplomacy, and strategic communications. If we want our outreach and engagement to be seen credibly and to be accepted, we must start from a point of creative engagement in which truth and objectivity are placed at the centre.” Image from
Anything but rebellious - Gil Hoffman, Rebecca Anna Stoil, Jerusalem Post: "Based on your experience, what can Israel do to improve its public diplomacy? MK Einat Wilf: We often fall prey to the other side's trap of mixing together specific policies and Zionism, and we don't insist they be separate. We don't go on the offensive enough. I think that opposition leader Tzipi Livni should have gone to London [when an arrest warrant was issued for her in Britain]. She missed a golden opportunity. Had she gone, either she would have called their bluff and the bogeyman of arrests would have been exposed, or she would have had an opportunity to make her case and op-eds would've been written about it. The notion of staying in Israel in fear of lawsuits is very un-Israeli. We should be fearless in international forums. We have a great story to tell and we have to take our case to the world."
Greece - Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Alternate FM Droutsas and Deputy FM Kouvelis – presentation of the basic axes of Greek foreign policy – ISRIA: Mr. Droutsas: “And this is where our thoughts come in regarding modernization of the Foreign Ministry. More effective use of the electronic means that we have today.
I have convened a working group on this issue – under the guidance and leadership of the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General – to carry out an objective study of the Ministry’s existing structure, our Missions abroad and operations, so that we can draw some useful conclusions and see how we can make some improvements. The modernization of the Foreign Ministry is very important to me and is a personal commitment. I have said in Parliament that I want us to move ahead with things in 2010. The second matter is the ongoing training of all Foreign Ministry personnel. The Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy will play the role that it was designed to play. Furthermore, the opening of channels to the scientific community and think-tanks – in Greece and abroad – is an area where we can work even more effectively, drawing new ideas from the resulting dialogue. One last issue that has to do with the organization of the Foreign Ministry is the integration of the Foreign Ministry’s press offices, in an effort not only to save on expenditure, but also to strengthen the country’s image abroad. For there to be one strategic plan for communication policy and public diplomacy. This is an area where we can do a lot of things in the immediate future.” Image from
Matt Armstrong & Cari Guittard - PD in 2010 CPD Conversations in Public Diplomacy - USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Friday, January 22, 2010 12:30PM Venue: USC; ASC 207 Geoff Cowan Forum The USC Center on Public Diplomacy is pleased to welcome MPD Adjunct Faculty Matt Armstrong and Cari Guittard to discuss the year ahead in public diplomacy. Armstrong is teaching the course Technologies and Public Diplomacy, which explores the relationship between diplomacy and technological change. Guittard's class will give students insight into the role of corporate diplomacy and will provide students with basic public diplomacy tools for global organizations and their foreign publics."
The New Siege: The Goldstone Report and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel - Richard Landes : Augean Stables: "Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - 7:00 p.m. Luxe Hotel Sunset1 1461 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049 A moderated panel on how human rights groups are collaborating with multilateral organizations and media outlets to undermine Israel’s ability to exist. The panelists include Dr. Richard Landes, Professor of History at Boston University, who will be joined by Dr. Martin Sherman, Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, who will speak on the failures of Israeli public diplomacy, Omri Ceren,
PhD Candidate in Communication and Media at USC, who will speak on media complicity in delegitimization and Deputy Consul General Gil Artzyeli of Israel in Los Angeles will outline the Israeli response to the Goldstone Report in general and to the broader campaign against Israel.“ Image from
Settled in - Heather, C'est si bon: "About Me Heather Washington, DC, United States was insurance broker, then peace corps, now starting with the foreign service as a public diplomacy officer."
The Absence of Stars - Kristina, Chronicles of a Mover: "About Me SoCal native, traveler, bibliophile. Likes: CSR, women's empowerment, cause marketing, public diplomacy, corporate communication. Currently teaching English in Thailand. (Note: The views and information presented in this blog about my experiences in Thailand are my own and do not necessarily represent the US Department of State.)"
Michael T.F. Pistor Ambassador - Timothy R. Smith, Obituaries, Washington Post: "Michael T. F. Pistor, 79, who worked for the U.S. Information Agency for much of his career and served as U.S. ambassador to the African country of Malawi in the early 1990s, died of a heart ailment Dec. 24 at his home in Bethesda. Mr. Pistor joined the USIA in 1959. Assignments included tours handling public affairs at embassies in India, England and Cameroon. In 1988, he became USIA counselor, a top position in the organization." Courtesy LB.
Obituary Notice: Peter F. Brescia/Former USIA Officer & WWII Veteran - email from Leonard J. Baldyga [no link]: "After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia University, Peter Brescia began his career as a diplomat, first in 1950 with the U.S. State Department and then in 1953 with the United States Information Agency. He was stationed in Germany, France, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan before retiring in 1980. A graduate of the National War College, he was a recipient of the USIA Meritorious Honor Award."
Tomgram: William Astore, Going Rogue in Combat Boots - Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch:
If you were to add up the real “defense” budget, including funds for the Department of Homeland Security, the Energy Department (which handles the U.S. nuclear arsenal), veterans' care, the State Department’s planned near-billion-dollar expansion of its embassy in Pakistan into a mega-command post for the region and the planned doubling of the number of personnel in its already monstrous embassy in Baghdad for a similar purpose, and many other relevant things, you would be closing in on $1 trillion per year. Image from
Hakimullah denies his death - News Today: Dismissing reports about his death in a US drone attack as the propaganda of enemies, Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has issued a new audio recording in which he said he was alive and well.
Many Atlantans OK with Chinese dance troupe's politics Howard Pousner, Access Atlanta: Shen Yun, the touring dance and music production that stopped at Cobb Energy Centre last weekend, has left a choppy wake of controversy on other stops on its never-ending tour, charged with propagandizing for the Falun Gong religious movement. But metro Atlantans attending the final of four performances, on Sunday afternoon, seemed not to mind the political proselytizing, which at times during the two-hour-plus show was as subtle as a taser shot to the noggin.
Diplomacy on the Edge: Turkey-Israel Relations—Straining to a Split - Soner Cagaptay, The Cutting Edge: As Israel now takes issue with anti-Israeli propaganda in Turkey, the trick is to do so without offending the Turks.
In other words, should Jerusalem choose to tackle anti-Israeli propaganda, it must do so without throwing the baby out with the bath water by humiliating the Turks as a nation or their institutions. Image: A poster advertising Valley of the Wolve: Iraq, a hit Turkish TV series that is causing diplomatic waves. In its latest episode, the show's star, secret agent Polat Alemdar, storms an Israeli diplomatic mission to rescue a Turkish boy kidnapped by Mossad.
Information Warfare: Turkey Buys Into The Big Lie - Strategy Page: The Palestinians are winning their propaganda war, at least in Turkey. A recent Turkish television show depicted Israeli agents in Turkey kidnapping a Turkish infant, who was then rescued by a Turkish agent, who killed the Israelis inside the Israeli embassy. An earlier Turkish TV show had depicted Israeli soldiers as killing Palestinian children. While Turkey has long been an ally of Israel, Islamic conservatism has become more popular in Turkey, and Islamic conservatives currently control the government.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Calls PlayStation Games 'Poison' - Matt Peckham, PC World: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez won't spare a kind word for video games, calling them 'poison' and accusing them of being proxies for capitalist warmongering. According to AFP, the outspoken US critic who once notoriously referred to George W. Bush as "the devil", used his weekly radio-TV show 'Alo Presidente' to put a match to Sony's PlayStation games brand. Chavez went on in his address to link Western games to slick propaganda vehicles, implying that scenarios in which players "bomb cities or just throw bombs" exist to incite violence against countries like Venezuela so that capitalist countries can "later sell weapons" to the country's opponents.
Propaganda and reality: The China-Asean Free-Trade Area - Walden Bello, Business Mirror: On January 51, 2010, the China-Asean Free-Trade Area (Cafta) went into effect. Touted as the world’s biggest free-trade area (FTA), Cafta is billed as having 1.7 million consumers, with a combined gross domestic product of $ 2 trillion and total trade of $ 1.3 trillion. Under the agreement, trade between China and six Asean countries including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore has become duty-free for more than 7,000 products. By 2015, the newer Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) countries, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, will join the zero-tariff arrangement. The propaganda mills, especially in Beijing, have been trumpeting the FTA as bringing “mutual benefits” to China and Asean. Image from
Twitter grows up in aftermath of Haiti earthquake - Tim Leberecht, news.cnet.com: Twitter is much more like a 21st century CNN, a broadcasting-cum-narrowcasting network, and as such prone to propaganda and misinformation.
Im-Propaganda: How Effective Are Misinformation Campaigns to Manipulate Public Opinion? The Iranian media blamed the U.S. and Israel for the assassination of an Iranian physicist. In misinformation situations, is the public really convinced? - Carina Storrs, Scientific American: Government or media messages are only two potential components of misinformation campaigns. It could be said that, in general, the true power of such campaigns lie with the public, or audience, and how thoroughly they accept messages.
To get a better idea of the effectiveness of misinformation campaigns, scientificAmerican.com spoke with David Altheide, a sociologist at Arizona State University in Tempe. For several decades, he has been studying the mass media and propaganda. In his books, most recently Terror Post 9/11 and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing, 2009), Altheide explores how politicians and governments use fear and how the idea of terror has become engrained in our society. Q: Could you give an idea of how you would define a government misinformation campaign? "Based on a lot of my work looking at propaganda over several decades, I would define a government misinformation campaign as one in which the government intentionally distorts and/or promotes some very questionable information for public dissemination for a particular purpose. Usually the purpose is to gain support for a policy, an action—and typically this will involve some sort of an international conflict." Image from
Obama Musical: Silly Propaganda and Bad Songs: 'Hope' Debuts in Germany, and It's as Awful as You Might Imagine - Evann Gastaldo, newser: Hope—The Obama Musical Story is not political, insists its composer—“Right, but only in the sense that Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was just a documentary.” The musical premiered in Germany (where the president is still a “messiah”), and it’s pure “political propaganda”—not to mention “premature,” writes Daniel Schwammenthal in the Wall Street Journal. “Even Jesus Christ had to wait nearly 2,000 years before he became a Superstar.”
Lessons from Pandora's Ministry of Propaganda - Huang Hung, China Daily: Bravo to the Pandora Ministry of Propaganda for capturing the hearts and minds of the Chinese. Unfortunately for its Chinese counterpart, Avatar is a tough act to follow.