Friday, January 27, 2017

Outline of a discussion on PD with a distinguished, cigar-smoking group of foreign affairs specialists

Image from, with caption: Lance Wyman Logo and Brouchure [sic] for USIA Exhibition.

American Public Diplomacy (PD) and Propaganda: A Historical (Hysterical?) Overview
John Brown (1/26/2017)

1.  Propaganda and PD: linguistic origins of the terms: Propaganda – 16th century [see]; PD – Cold War (mid-1960s [see]); their current definitions [see (1), (2)], commonalities as communication tools: 
·        Audience: the “public” and its opinion
·        Method: persuasion; influence/education/engagement; non-violent?
·        Purpose: governmental promotion of national/institutional interests; not altruistic?

2.  Second Continental Congress (1776): The Declaration of Independence as a PD/propaganda document [see]

3. WWI: The Committee on Public Information (CPI, 1917-1919) [see (1) (2)]: The USG’s first PD/propaganda agency

·        Its chairman: Wilson confidant Missouri-born journalist George Creel [see]
·        Audience: domestic (primarily) and foreign; criticisms [see] of CPI by Congress
·        CPI’s new mass medium: movies; other communication tools.

4. The post-WWI U.S. anti-propaganda tradition [see]

·       The sins of propaganda: lies; violence to language; germs of hate; advertising; distortion of history; incompatible with democracy
·       The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (1937-1942): How to identify propaganda [see]

5. WWII: Office of War Information (OWI, 1942-1945 [see]

·        OWI leadership (newsman Elmer Davis [see], not as close to Roosevelt as Creel was to Wilson
·        Audience: domestic (less than CPI) and foreign; criticisms by Congress (less than for CPI)
·        OWI’s new mass medium: radio (Voice of America [see]; other communication tools

6. Establishment of the State Dept. Fulbright program educational exchange program (1946) [see]

7. Smith-Mundt Act (1948) prohibits the domestic distribution of State Dept. information products targeted to foreign audiences. [see]

8. Cold War: The United States Information Agency (USIA [see], 1953-1999)

·        Had 14 directors;  Charles Z Wick [see] was the longest-lasting (Reagan administration)
·        Audience: foreign; push into Africa/Asia; criticisms by Congress less than for CPI/OWI
·        USIA new media: television (Worldnet [see])/video/internet; other communication tools

9. War on terror/countering violent extremism: State Dept. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (1999-present) [see]

·        Frequent change of leadership (10 directors since 1999, including two Acting ones)
·        Audience: focus on Muslim world [see]; dozens of critical reports on PD after 9/11
·        New medium: social media; other communication tools

10.  [Time permitting]: PD at its best and propaganda at its worse: observation based on their history

11. The prospects for U.S. PD - Continuing tensions between “frivolous” PD [see] and traditional serious "non-propaganda diplomacy'” [see (1) (2)]; PD as a global phenomenon [see]

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