Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 7

"[I]nformation is not simply a realm of truth or lies but the place where humans collect to make, refute, and reframe the meaning of our experiences. "

--Amy Zaman, independent consultant to senior policymakers on the function of culture and narrative in U.S. strategic communication; image from


It’s official: RT is the enemy - Russia Today: "The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing US media directed at foreign audiences, says his organization needs more money to fight its enemies. Namely, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China. ... There is a well-worn adage on Capitol Hill that the best way to raise money from Congress is to scare them. Walter Isaacson apparently wants a lot of money to fight America’s enemies in the media. To many it sounded like a declaration of information war, but later Mr. Isaacson backtracked. 'I don’t mean RT is an enemy and certainly did not mean to imply that they are an enemy,' he told RT. Maybe Isaacson really did not mean to offend Russia… or China… . The agency that Walter Isaacson heads is called the Broadcasting Board of Governors. It manages mainly radio stations, including Voice of America and an unpopular Middle-Eastern TV channel. On all this it spends more than $750 million.

That is way more than the budget of Russia Today, Iran's Press TV, Venezuela's TeleSUR combined. So perhaps money does not fully make up for global media clout. ... [S]aid RT political commentator and Crosstalk host Peter Lavelle ... 'It looks like the chairman is a little worried that the world isn’t believing him or his organization anymore. They are catching up.' ... Isaacson told RT he does not view the network as an enemy and his words were not in context. 'I definitely do not think of RT as an enemy,' he said. 'It’s a, I was referring to Afghanistan.'” Image: Title: Each Stroke of a Hammer Is a Blow Against the Enemy Caption: RUSSIA - CIRCA 1920: Russian Blacksmith or Ironworker pounds an anvil out of which are produced projectiles as weapons (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Threats Against the News Media: Update - Alex Belida, VOA News Blog/VOA Media Watch: "State Department spokesman Michael Tran has issued a statement on the impending slander trial in Uzbekistan of VOA stringer Abdumalik Boboev."

Correcting An Error About VOA's First Broadcast - Alex Belida, VOA News Blog/VOA Media Watch: "We’ve always believed, as our website states, that VOA’s first broadcast took place on February 24th, 1942.

But now we have to ask, where did that date come from? Because detective work by two men with past ties to VOA, Walter Roberts and Chris Kern, suggests the first broadcast was actually on February 1st, 1942. ... VOA is preparing a statement on the anniversary issue. Stay tuned. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, in accordance with standard correction policy, VOA decides to say something like this: The Voice of the America first went on the air on February 1, 1942, not February 24. We regret the error. " Image, with on inscription t-shirt reading, "a fatal exception ... has occurred"

Mind Games: A brief history of information warfare, Philip Taylor, "With the Cold War won, the U.S. government had also downgraded its international information programs, culminating in the closure of the U.S. Information Agency in 1999, creating a space that adversaries were eager and able to fill with a new kind of asymmetric warfare. Especially in places like the Middle East, terrorist groups were able to internationalize themselves quickly and at a very low cost by tapping into the global power of World Wide Web. The Palestinians were among the first to demonstrate how local causes could be internationalized via new media as the so-called 'Electronic Intifada' became the most potent force-multiplier in the arsenals of Fatah and Hamas. Terrorist groups like al-Qaida, popularly thought of as struggling for a return to medieval values, embraced new media technologies not just to coordinate their planned violent attacks but also to disseminate their messages and recruit followers from the worldwide Muslim community, the Ummah. The Sept. 11 attacks also demonstrated how sophisticated terrorists are when exploiting the old media to wage their new kind of warfare. ... Anti-Americanism, even in non-Islamic countries, grew to unprecedented levels as the war on terror dragged on to twice the length of World War II. The Internet became the primary battle space for anti-American and anti-Western propaganda about a renewed crusade against Islam, a clash of civilizations and a Zionist-Christian plot to subordinate Muslims everywhere. ... Although the United States and its allies are now in the process of developing strategic communications capabilities for conducting 'global engagement' (another rebranding by the Obama Administration), early hopes for a return to non-military information strategies created by the president’s 2009 Cairo speech are as yet unfulfilled. As long as the war in Afghanistan continues in its current kinetic surge there is little likelihood of short-term success in the information domain." Image from article: A satellite dish on a former miniature golf course in Saudi Arabia, 1991."

Foreign Ambassadors Travel to Atlanta for Experience America Trip - Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State: "The Office of the Chief of Protocol’s Diplomatic Partnerships Division will lead its latest Experience America trip to Atlanta, Georgia with members of the Diplomatic Corps and their spouses from October 12th -15th, 2010.

Working closely with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Office of the Chief of Protocol has organized a substantive, unique and exciting trip to plant the seeds of new international partnerships and provide our visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of America’s people, culture and institutions. On average, Chiefs of Mission from over 50 countries have attended Experience America trips representing more than 500 million people worldwide." Via. Image from

Egyptian democracy activist praises diplomat Ricciardone - Laura Rozen, "A leading Egyptian democracy activist is praising an American diplomat who has found his ambassadorial confirmation stalled by neoconservative claims he betrayed a lack of enthusiasm for Bush's Middle East democracy agenda. Egyptian American sociologist and pro-democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday that he strongly endorses former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. to become the U.S. ambassador to Turkey. ... '[H]e was very popular with the Egyptian people,' Ibrahim said of Ricciardone. 'He will go to all the important popular and folkloric events, they called him Sheikh Ricciardone, he would sit with the people and eat with them, and he was very popular in that respect, he was not just a diplomat, he did what we call public diplomacy and was very popular with the Egyptian people.'”

Visit By returning to Cairo - Back to Cairo Blog: [Google translation; PDPBR italics] "Tijdje geleden bezoek gehad van mijn 20-jarige neef Hendrik, met een kameraad van hem. Some time ago had a visit from my 20-year-old nephew Henry, with a comrade of his. Jaja, dat grut wordt groot, daaraan merkt een mens dat hij ouder wordt. Yep, that fry is great, it states that a person gets older. Ge ververst die pampers en voor ge 't weet staat dat voor uw deur in Cairo! You changed the diapers and you not know that your door is in Cairo! Behalve een toeristische rondleiding ook enkele keren op stap geweest. Onder andere naar de fuif van de US Marines in hun bar-met-dakterras in hun ambassade. Besides a tourist guide, some times step. Among the other party of U.S. Marines in their bar with roof terrace in their embassy. Noem het participerende observatie.

Bij het binnenkomen werd iedereen nog strenger gescreend dan op een luchthaven. Call it participatory observation. Upon entering, everyone was even stricter than screened at an airport. Alle elektronische apparatuur (GSM, fototoestel, USB-stick) moest in verzekerde bewaring gegeven worden. All electronic devices (cell phone, camera, USB drive) was given in police custody. In de gang hing het vol statieportretten van Marines in gala-uniform bij de piramiden, Marines in gala-uniform te paard en dergelijke meer. In the hall hung the portraits of Marines in full dress uniform at the pyramids, Marines in dress uniform on horseback and more. Die mensen vervelen zich stierlijk in Cairo. Those people are bored bull law in Cairo. Ze zijn verantwoordelijk voor de veiligheid binnen de ambassade, die sowieso al goed bewaakt wordt. They are responsible for security within the Embassy, which is well guarded anyway. Ik vraag me af hoe ze voor deze job geselecteerd worden. I wonder how they are selected for this job. Misschien kiest men kerels die niet te vertrouwen zijn op het slachtveld, een gevaar voor zichzelf en hun maats? Maybe you guys choose not to rely on the battlefield, a danger to themselves and their partners? Geeft men ze een job waar ze het minst kwaad kunnen? Gives you a job where they're least harm? The dance floor was on the roof, the music was terribly loud and was heard two blocks away. Gelukkig was het niet constant boenkeboenk, maar een klein kwartier house bleek onvermijdelijk. Luckily it was not constant boenkeboenk but a small house minutes proved inevitable. Zo luidde de boodschap voor de buurtbewoners: DO YOU WANT SEX? That was the message to residents: DO YOU WANT SEX? DO YOU WANT DRUGS? DRUGS DO YOU WANT? DO YOU WANT HOUSE? DO YOU WANT HOUSE? I GIVE YOU SEX ! I GIVE YOU SEX! I GIVE YOU DRUGS ! I GIVE YOU DRUGS! I GIVE YOU HOUSE ! Public diplomacy om u tegen te zeggen. I GIVE YOU HOUSE! Public Diplomacy to blow you away." Image from Marine Embassy Guard Association Historical Archives

Theater of War: Israel beats its enemies on the battlefield, but it loses the more important fight, for PR supremacy, to savvier operators like Hezbollah - Amy Zalman, "Once upon a time, a government seeking to control the flow of information during wartime could destroy physical infrastructure or impose media blackouts or other forms of censorship. While these are still options, it is increasingly apparent that the reputational cost of heavy-handed government or military actions can outweigh the benefits. When information is restricted, the remaining void is quickly filled with conspiracy theories and distorted facts. These theories balloon and proliferate with startling speed, because it is so cheap and easy for most of us to access the means of digital communication. ... The Sept. 11 attacks generated intense scrutiny of the communications capacities of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and other non-state militant groups, much of it carried out in the same spirit of bewildered shock and awe that led Richard Holbrooke to ask, 'How can a man in a cave outcommunicate the world’s leading communications society?' ... There is also a more deeply rooted issue that hinders states like Israel and the United States from more effective communications.

In the United States, information warfare developed almost exclusively as a technological discipline, propelled by the country’s abiding faith in science as the solution to our human problems. This scientific worldview extends to the military view of information as a kind of digital switch: Information is either true or false, informative or dis-informative. As a result of this legacy, today’s information strategists have found themselves grappling not only with the new technological realities but also with the dawning recognition that information is not simply a realm of truth or lies but the place where humans collect to make, refute, and reframe the meaning of our experiences. It has not been easy for U.S. military to gain footing, let alone dominance, on this shifting ground of history, memory, culture, and language. Having no present territory, the insurgent often has nothing left beyond language and memory. The power of ephemera to unify and motivate may be especially true for non-state groups opposing the State of Israel, which holds a uniquely supercharged semiotic status in the annals of modern conflict. It is no wonder, then, that Israeli communications compare badly to those of Hezbollah. ... The real task, therefore, is to use various instruments of policy-making to transform the conditions that enable the Hezbollah narrative. ... In the longer term, non-violent coexistence in the region will necessitate a dialogue between different historical visions." Image from

Poland - Public Diplomacy and Polish-Jewish Relations - ISRIA: "The subject of Poland’s image in Israel and among the Jewish Diaspora in Europe and the US and ways of its positive development is to take centre-stage during the forthcoming conference: ‘Public Diplomacy and Polish-Jewish Relations’, scheduled for 11-12 October 2010 and organised by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the invitees are diplomats, Public Relations experts, journalists and Jewish organisations’ leaders, including professors S. Avineri, S. Cweigenbaum, Rabbi M. Schudrich and Israel’s Ambassador to Warsaw Zvi Rayner."

Save BBC Russian, they write - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on Internatinal Broadcasting: "The Telegraph, 4 Oct 2010, letter from Vladimir Bukovsky, and former BBC Russian broadcasters, et. al.: 'It is true that the Russian Service failed to adapt after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this was almost exclusively due to the BBC’s mismanagement and lack of vision.

Instead of preserving its own distinguished voice, the service tried to emulate Russia’s domestic media, with disastrous results. This started when the BBC believed that it could strengthen the service by recruiting journalists straight from Russia, rather than by taking political refugees based in the West, as was the case in the past. ... The Cold War might be over but Russia is still a difficult international partner. As William Hague visits Moscow in the next few weeks, a move to curtail the Russian Service would be one of the best presents his hosts in the Kremlin could possibly receive.'" Image: The Russian dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, is escorted by a group of people including a policeman, on his arrival at London Airport after being released from prison in Russia, 1976.

'Stronger, more democratic Azerbaijan' would gain greater support on Karabakh - "News.Az interviews Tabib Huseynov, Caucasus analyst at the International Crisis Group." ... [Q:]The former Armenian envoy to Russia, Armen Smbtyan, and Azerbaijan's current ambassador to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu, recently paid a cultural visit to Baku and Yerevan. What do you think is the role of cultural diplomacy in the resolution of political differences between the two countries and peoples? Who else could be involved in such manifestations of 'people’s diplomacy'? [A:] Overall, such initiatives are useful and needed. They help decrease tensions and generate positive momentum in the peace process. To move the process forward, we need to build a pro-peace constituency in both Armenian and Azerbaijani society and to achieve this, we need greater contacts between both officials and civil societies. However, such popular diplomacy efforts cannot substitute the official peace process. The lack of progress in the official talks poisons the atmosphere and seriously undercuts the effects of the public diplomacy efforts. To be more effective, civil society efforts need to build upon a broader political framework or a roadmap for long-term resolution of the conflict."

Vahid Gardener "the necessity of political life in Iran today, public diplomacy is"دیپلماسی مفهوم رایج و برخوردار از سلسله مراتبی است که در مناسبات دوجانبه، منطقهای و بینالمللی خودنمایی میکند و میتواند مفاهیم و اولویتهای دولتها، ممالک و حتی شرکتها و موسسات فرهنگی- اقتصادی، صنعتی، مطالعاتی و سیاسی را مشخص کند - [Google translation:] "Diplomacy and common sense have a hierarchy in which the bilateral relations, regional and international glaring and can concepts and priorities of governments, companies and countries, and even cultural institutions - economic, industrial, and political studies to determine."

Public Diplomacy and International Politics: The Symbolic Constructs of Summits and International Radio News, "This book examines international radio news coverage of the four superpower summit meetings between Soviets and Americans from 1987 to 1990.

It concentrates on the symbolic constructs used by radio services to report about the summits, including their treatments of the two superpowers, their leaders, and their perspectives as recorded in interviews, press conferences and releases, joint communiques, and briefings. The study assesses the degree of success enjoyed by each of the superpowers." Image from

Foreign Office Minister for Human Rights discusses internet freedom with Facebook executives? - "Randi Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Head of European Policy Richard Allen also spoke to Foreign Office staff about the relationship between social media and government, and ways to deliver public diplomacy on the internet."

Winning Hearts and Minds: American Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century - "An online version of a November 16, 2009, panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for US public diplomacy in the 21st century. Hosted by the MA program in Communication at Johns Hopkins University.

Panelists include: John Dickson, Director of Public diplomacy and Public Affairs for the Department of State; Joan Mower, Director of Public Relations, Voice of America; Philip Seib, Professor and Director, Center for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California; and Phyllis Elliott Oakley, Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and former Deputy Spokesman of the State Department." Image from

PASO looking for Stratcom Officer -- sounds like MIL but CIV - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: "PASO or the Pakistan & Afghanistan Support Office (PASO), a temporary organization within the Department of State is looking for a Stratcom Traditional Communications Officer for Afghanistan. The Temporary Excepted NTE 13 months appointment pays $74,872.00 - $115,742.00 /year with duty location in Washington DC Metro Area, DC and TDY to Afghanistan. ... The incumbent of this position is assigned to the Strategic Communication Unit (Stratcom) in the Public Affairs Section (PAS), in the Office of the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Kabul, Afghanistan. The incumbent reports to the Stratcom Team Deputy and Assessments Officer. PAS Stratcom directly supports U.S. policy being implemented by the interagency Civilian-Military Afghanistan Communications Plan through four lines of operation: (1) countering extremist voices; (2) strengthening people-to-people ties; (3) building Afghan communications capacity; and, (4) expanding media outreach." Image from


U.S. Tries to Calm Pakistan Over Airstrike - Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, New York Times: The Obama administration scrambled to halt a sharp deterioration in its troubled relationship with Pakistan on Wednesday, offering Pakistani officials multiple apologies for a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week. But even as the White House tried to mollify Pakistan, officials acknowledged that the uneasy allies faced looming tensions over a host of issues far larger than the airstrike and the subsequent closing of supply lines into Afghanistan.

Taliban Propaganda Watch(RC South) – 070120UTC Oct 10 -

NATO beefs up security in Kosovo's north, top Serbian official slams the move as provocation - AP, NATO deployed over 100 peacekeepers in Kosovo's north

late Wednesday in a response to violent incidents that have plagued the ethnically tense region, but a top Serbian official said the move is a provocation. Serbia's top official for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic said the force is "trying to provoke the Serbs into reacting" and blamed NATO for waging "a propaganda war." Image from

Did loose lips actually sink any ships? - Cecil Adams, Creative Loafing: The phrase "loose lips sink ships" was part of a WWII propaganda campaign to keep civilians from talking about troop movements and shipping schedules. But did loose lips actually sink any ships? Lots of Allied ships were sunk, and numerous spies were listening for loose lips. However, most of those captured were bumblers who got caught before they could do much damage — successful agents kept a lower profile. Although the "loose lips" slogan was introduced in 1942, there's no evidence of shipping losses due to talkative civilians during World War II. The Nazi code-breaking agency known as the B-Dienst learned most of what it needed to know about ship convoys by decoding intercepted Allied radio messages. Why the slogan then? No doubt it partly reflected the military's habit of fighting the previous war, but it may also have been an attempt to get civilians to keep quiet about the devastation wrought by German subs.

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"I'll just wait for the Cliffs Notes version."

-A reader,"rptrcub," commenting on Condoleezza Rice's new memoir about her family, in Princess Sparkle Pony's Photoblog

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Forgotten, aborted Soviet moon-lander, from Boing Boing

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