Donald M. Bishop, "Classic Quotable: George Allen on the limits of Public Diplomacy," The Public Diplomacy Council; see also.
Thursday, September 22nd 2016
“One of the great American fallacies is the notion, prevalent among people in all walks of life, that all we need to do is to explain ourselves, our policies, and our way of life to foreign peoples and they will love us--or at least will understand and sympathize with our point of view.”
Headline: “What the U.S. Information Program Cannot Do”
Author: George V. Allen (Director, U.S. Information Agency, 1957-63)
Source: John Boardman Whitton, editor,Propaganda and the Cold War(Washington: Public Affairs Press)
Excerpted at: https://ia801303.us.archive.org/24/items/DTIC_ADA028847/DTIC_ADA028847.pdf (go to p. 368)
- One of the great American fallacies is the notion, prevalent among people in all walks of life, that all we need to do is to explain ourselves, our policies, and our way of life to foreign peoples and they will love us--or at least will understand and sympathize with our point of view.
- I submit, however, that this point of view is not realistic, and those in the academic world and other professionals in communications should be tough-minded enough to face certain facts squarely and realistically.
- While I was director of the United States Information Agency, I was often asked, usually by Congressmen, to explain why the Voice of America seemed to have difficulty in getting the American story across to the people of foreign countries. "It should be very simple," I was told. “All you have to do is to explain that our American way of life, including our democratic principles, our respect for human rights, and our private enterprise has developed in America the highest standard of living in the world. Everybody admits that not only the upper strata but the common man in the United States has more of the good things of life-more shoes and clothes and leisure time and music and vacations and opportunity for advancement than the people of other countries. Why can’t you just keep pointing that out to them on [the Voice of America] VOA? The job should be easy."
- The heavy responsibilities of the United States in the world today require us to take positions which frequently please nobody. Communications techniques are important, but there is danger in expecting too much of them.
- I was once told in the State Department that only the Voice of America could win the Berlin dispute!
- There is a tendency for college professors to claim too much in their courses in the growing field of communications, or psychological warfare as it is sometimes improperly called.
- Many universities are rapidly developing studies, and even faculties, in this specialized field. Its importance is undoubted, but if those in the academic world and we in government overstate our case for communications, we are likely to make trouble for ourselves.
- Propaganda itself can do little to remove the basic problems of the have-nots, or the national rivalries of Pakistan and India, or the racial animosities of Africa. Whatever it can do is a long process, like education, and is not likely to avoid a takeover by a Castro in Cuba.
- What we can do is to put forward as honest, objective, and truthful an information program as God gives us to see the truth, make it available to as many people as possible in comprehensible terms and by the most effective media, and rest our case with the common sense of mankind.
- I suppose one must have a mystic faith, as Jefferson did, in the ability of the common man to make a right decision if given adequate information and freedom of choice. If one does not have this faith, I doubt that he should be in the communications field.
- Let me repeat once more, however, that we must be realists. Berlin will be saved from Soviet aggression by a combination of forces, including political, economic, psychological, and military--the latter being possibly the most significant in our present sad state of international chaos.