Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13

“Mowing the grass.”

--How Marines derisively characterize the fact that for eight years, American and NATO forces have mounted large military operations to "clear" towns and cities of Taliban insurgents; but then, almost invariably, the troops have "cleared out," never leaving behind enough soldiers or police officers to hold the place on their own, with almost always the Taliban returning -- this requiring, after a time, for the American and NATO troops to "clear" the place all over again. Image from


Morning Bell: The President Must Stop Voting “Present” on Iran - Conn Carroll, Heritage Foundation: "The Obama administration should ... take a lesson from Ronald Reagan

and step-up its public diplomacy efforts to support the Green Movement [opposition in Iran]. The U.S. government should announce that regime change is official U.S. policy, step-up support for Radio Free Iran, and continue to work with Iranians abroad setting up pro-democracy Web sites. The administration’s current course is heading to a dangerous place. The President cannot keep doing the bare minimum and hope the Iranian regime plays nice." Image from

"Radio Free Iran": Heritage Foundation fantasy station - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "There is no 'Radio Free Iran.' Both VOA Persian News Network and RFE/RL's Radio Farda, as well as BBC Persian, provide the news about Iran that the Iranian media would if they were free. As such, they all serve a 'surrogate' function. If VOA PNN and Radio Farda were 'deployed in the service of pro-democracy movements,' they really wouldn't be providing the news that their audiences are seeking. Other US government and US government funded entities can support pro-democracy movements in Iran, although association with the US government might not be helpful to those movements."

Foreign Arabic-Language TV: An Exercise in Futility? - Magda Abu-Fadil, Huffington Post: "American, British, French, Russian, Chinese and Turkish satellite TV channels want a piece of the Arab viewers' pie by raising their profiles in the Arab region, with no real guarantees of success. That hasn't deterred the BBC from re-launching an Arabic-language channel - it had one, but a flap with co-financier Saudi Arabia shuttered it for a few years - to jostle for air time with the U.S. government-funded Al Hurra, French France 24 and Moscow-based Russia Today, to name a few. ... Uncle Sam's Al Hurra ... [is] a satellite channel that has been struggling to find viewers in the Arab world, where Qatar's Al Jazeera. Saudi-backed Al Arabiya, and Lebanese Hezbollah's Al Manar TV already have a loyal following. Funding for Al Hurra was first provided during the administration of former president George W. Bush, when the more respected Voice of America - that for years played second fiddle to Britain's BBC in the Middle East - was ravaged to create a TV channel and a radio station, Sawa, aimed at Arab youth. According Al Hurra officials, the station has no hidden agenda and broadcasts its news and entertainment programs in keeping with high professional standards. But PR attempts to win Arab hearts and minds have to date fallen on deaf ears and eyes and run red ink all over the books, with legislators in Washington demanding to see more tangible results." Below image (Exercise In Futility – Falls Down: These guys are an indie hardcore band from North Carolina.

"Foreign Arabic-Language TV: An Exercise in Futility?" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "There are many subjective assessments of these channels, but the only measure that counts is audience size, based on competent representative sample surveys. The stations from non-Arab nations might not do as well as those from within the Arab world, but how will they compete with one another? I hope the results of surveys make their way to the public domain."

VOA Persian tilts in favor of Tehran? - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "'An internal struggle within the Voice of America (VOA) over its news coverage of Iran is spewing outside the agency as veteran staffers claim the channel tilts coverage in favor of the Tehran regime. The divisions erupted in late January when VOA chiefs removed a popular TV anchorman from the flagship U.S. broadcast into Iran, after he and about 30 Persian-speaking broadcasters had a confrontational meeting with VOA Director Danforth Austin, Newsmax has learned. ... Scott Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, severely criticized VOA’s Persian language broadcasting during congressional testimony last week. ... VOA managers trim coverage to eliminate anything that the regime might view as threatening, he said.

'To cite just one example, on the day after the death of Ayatollah Montazeri, when the BBC Persian Service was blanketing Iranian airwaves with coverage similar to that given in the United States to pop star Michael Jackson's passing last summer, PNN was airing documentaries on global warming. Indicative of its lack of impact is the fact that (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei rails against the BBC Persian Service but rarely mentions VOA.' [VOA Persian acting director Alex] Belida called that claim 'nonsense,' and said VOA 'devoted extensive coverage to Montazeri’s death and its impact.' ' Ken Timmerman,, 11 February 2010. [Elliott comment]: We'll see if media more mainstream than Newsmax pick up this story. Some believe that news on US international broadcasting outlets should emphasize negative news about the target country's regime, or engage in outright advocacy. Scott Carpenter (mentioned above) testified at 'America and the Iranian Political Reform Movement: First, Do No Harm,' hearing of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, 3 February 2010, with link to webcast. See also transcript of testimony by Mehdi Khalaji and J. Scott Carpenter, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 3 February 2010." Image from

BBC, DW, VOA condemn new satellite jamming by Iran - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

US officials on Arab television more effective than Alhurra, he writes - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "Alhurra cannot casually be dismissed as 'a failure by any meaningful measure,' especially as it has some impressive audience numbers. (See previous post.) Alhurra can be considered a success if it competes well with BBC Arabic TV, its main Arabic-language rival from a non-Arab country."

Czech senator writes to US senators about human rights complaint involving RFE/RL - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Report: VOA Deewa Radio MW relay in Pakistan ended because of Taliban threats (updated) - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

What Russia needs most: Civil society engagement, not appeasement: Ignoring the worst abuses and empowering authoritarians means betraying our friends in Russia – and undermining US leadership around the world – Ariel Cohen, Christian Science Monitor: "[A]nti-Americanism seems to be Russia’s state policy, as the Kremlin pays for movies, TV shows, books, articles, and blogs lambasting America. ...

Granted, the Obama administration is facing a challenging relationship vis-à-vis Moscow, which includes negotiating the START Treaty, Afghanistan resupply transit problems, and UN sanctions against Iran, to name a few. Yet, the US has to develop and implement an engagement strategy promoting freedom and human rights in Russia. We should use every tool in our public diplomacy toolbox, such as international broadcasting, including creating a new satellite TV channel. Social media and revamped exchange programs should be a part of such as strategy. And US and European counterparts should stress engagement with the Russian civil society, including NGOs and political forces supporting transparency, markets, the rule of law, and political pluralism." Image from

NATO's quest for a new concept (II) - "Beril Dedeoğlu, press release Al-Arabiya: A bigger role for public diplomacy in relations between NATO and Russia may constitute a first step to ease bilateral tensions."

Got snow? - Laura McGinnis, manIC: Public Diplomacy and International Communication -- in blog form: "NBC opens the [Vancouver Winter Olympics] games with a montage of athletes grimacing, exulting and otherwise emoting while a sober voiceover lays out the characteristics of the U.S. team:

ambitious, indomitable, passionate, graceful, speedy, charismatic, original, redeemable. Let those who doubt the private sector is capable of spinning a public diplomacy narrative take note..." Image from

Brand Israel - Martin, Empax: Branding and Web Design for Nonprofits: "If ever there was a daunting branding challenge, the State of Israel has to be it. I was invited to speak about Brand Israel at the annual Herzliya Conference on National Security earlier this month. More specifically, I was asked to address Israel’s grave strategic communications problems in the diplomatic and public diplomacy areas. ... Grit. Strength. Focus. Life in adversity. The world knows that these are part of the Israeli national DNA. To bring forth a brand that avoids these is just spin in the eyes of the global public; and the line between spin and outright lie grows thinner by the hour."

The Red Chapel (Det Røde Kapel) / Denmark (Director: Mads Brügger) - Sundance 2020: World Cinema Documentary Competition:

A journalist with no scruples, a self-proclaimed spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange visit to challenge one of the world’s most notorious regimes. U.S. Premiere. Image from entry

Neon PD- Mexico: Under Siege? – Paul Rockower, Levantine: "As I mentioned in a previous blog, APDS [Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars]

partnership with Neon Tommy for our Public Diplomacy students to pen op-eds for the Annenberg digitial news site. Here is the first installment from moi: Mexico: Under Siege? While Mexico indeed needs to carry out considerably more public diplomacy to convince its gringo neighbor to the north that the context of the "Mexico Under Siege" mentality is inaccurate, the sensationalist headlines surely don't help the matter. As a venerable paper of record, the LA Times should understand this better than most; yet its quest to gain Pulitzers at the sake of sensationalism and speciousness speaks to the state of the LA Times as much as it does to the state of Mexico." Image from

King made Ambassador to U.N./Geneva - IntLawGrrls: Voices on International Law, Policy, Practice: "Three and a half months after President Barack Obama nominated her, Betty E. King (left) was confirmed as Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador. ... Her current board service includes Refugees International, the United Nations Association of the United States, Phoenix House, and the Annenberg School of Public Diplomacy."


Allied forces mount assault on Taliban in biggest push of Afghanistan war - Declan Walsh, David Batty, The Guardian:

Thousands of British, US and Afghan soldiers are engaged in the biggest military offensive against the Taliban since the war in Afghanistan began nine years ago. A Taliban spokesman dismissed the operation as "more propaganda than military necessity." Image from

Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight: taliban Propaganda Watch (Rc South) –

Operation Moshtarak: Propaganda Motherload - James Gundun, The Trench: It’s one of the largest operations in Afghanistan since 9/11. Thousands of troops have massed under the cover of darkness. Mines are everywhere. A resistant opponent awaits in the distance, an embattled leader watches from afar. Operation Hypnotize has commenced on the American people. Watching Operation Moshtarak unfold through the international media is a spectacle in itself. While there’s no disputing the military operation is real, it’s readily apparent that this demonstration of power is targeting more than Afghans, be they Taliban or not. General McChrystal said in the run-up to the battle, "This is all a war of perceptions.

This is not a physical war in terms of how many people you kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up. This is all in the minds of the participants."He was talking about Americans as much as Afghans. There is nothing inherently wrong about propaganda. It doesn’t nullify the effects of Operation Moshtarak as truth is the best propaganda. Real dirt can bring down armies or make kings, and lies have been known to do the same. But such a dizzying array of propaganda has been launched that no choice remains except to discern fact from fiction in Marja, the site of the operation. Image from

Hardnews Exclusive: Is Operation Moshtarak for real? - Shrinivasrao S. Sohoni, HardNews Magazine: Collateral casualties and damage caused by the US-led ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operations have contributed to public anger and alienation and fuelled Taliban propaganda in a land where revenge is a binding matter of honor. The base of the Taliban is in Pakistan - where the Pakistan security establishment supports Taliban recruitment, training, indoctrination, equipment, transport, operational guidance, ordnance, propaganda aid, medical cover and safe haven facility.

It's time for U.S. to consider targeting Iran's gas imports – Editorial, Washington Post: The administration has take some important steps in recent days. The Treasury Department brought new U.S. sanctions against companies and individuals associated with the Revolutionary Guard, and administration spokesmen have continued to speak out forcefully against the regime's abuses.

But more should be done to help the opposition. For example, the Internet and satellite television blockages might be overcome with more U.S. support for private groups working to counter the regime's jamming and firewalls. Image from

The Art of War: British Propaganda, 1939-1945 - The History Faculty: Fascinating and colourful collections of illustrations, propaganda, cartoons, films and art created during the Second World War. An online resource created and hosted by The National Archives.

These films give Olympic theme a sporting chance - Katherine Monk, Montreal Gazette: When it comes to films about the Olympics and all the schmaltz and teary-eyed glory that go along with the Games, one film stands apart - and slightly off to the side, in the shadows, wearing a burlap sack. Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia

is nothing if not controversial since it celebrated Hitler's 1936 Berlin Games with a fawning lens that made fascism look downright sexy. The film has inspired reams of critical essays and political papers from film historians to marketing professors. Footage from the movie was also, somewhat unfortunately, used in a recent VANOC video to glamorize the imminent Vancouver Games - only to be pulled for fear of bad publicity. Riefenstahl clearly had no intention of stigmatizing Olympic propaganda for the next hundred years, but she certainly succeeded because the film - no matter what you feel about its ugly political history - remains the most cinematic and visually inspired record of any Games to date. Riefenstahl image from

Truth Lies Somewhere in Between - Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “A Film Unfinished” is an investigation into an incomplete Nazi propaganda movie that’s sometimes mistakenly labeled a documentary, and which was shot in the Warsaw ghetto in May 1942, the year before the uprising. The director Yael Hersonski, using generous clips from the Nazi movie and excerpts from diaries written by ghetto inhabitants, illustrates how the original footage was carefully staged, as evident by multiple takes of some scenes. In one section a healthy-looking woman walks past two pitiful waifs with apparent indifference, and then she does so again. Over the decades excerpts from this and other similar ghetto movies have been used in well-intended documentaries about the Holocaust, which invests them with a level of factuality they cannot support.

These images don’t reveal the whole reality of Jewish life in the ghetto during the war; they show how the Nazi propaganda machine wanted Jewish life to be immortalized. As the historian Lucy Dawidowicz once pointed out about a 1960s British film that used such visuals, there were no Nazi films about the secret ghetto schools, libraries and political organizations and none about the “valiant men and women, boys and girls” who fought in the uprising. Ms. Hersonski’s documentary demolishes the truth claims of those Nazi images. To an extent, it is the ineluctable weight of the Holocaust that allows her to engage such questions at all. Image from