Monday, March 24, 2014

March 23-24

"Communications and public diplomacy is [sic] more important than ever before."

--Brzezinski, "Diplomacy in a new Communications Era: U.S. Embassy ranked #3 'super communicator' in all of Sweden," Brzezinski Blog: Ambassador and Mrs. Brzezinski share their thoughts, experiences and adventures in Sweden

"мы отдали эти люди."

--The ex-U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, a professor of political science at Stanford University, butchering the Russian language by not using the dative case properly in his tweet regarding U.S. visa procedures [translation available at link]; see also.

 "Boring people bore me and I'm not very good at hiding it. If interacting with people is draining, feigning interest in a boring story is practically debilitating."

--Heather, a self-confessed U.S. public diplomacy officer, in "An Introvert's Guide to Diplomacy," the blog Adventures Around the World: A foreign service officer's tale; image from


Monday Inbox: US Embassy Baghdad’s Conrad Turner Recites a Russian Poem, And …. - Domani Spero, DiploPundit: "The video ... was published by U.S. Embassy Baghdad on March 4, 2014 on YouTube. The video includes the English and Arabic text translation of a Russian poem. The speaker is the embassy’s Public Affairs Counselor in Baghdad reciting a poem by Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

in Baghdad. The embassy’s AIO also recited a poem last February. ... somebody from that building sent us an email asking if this is 'really clever use of PD time and money? So we went and look. The YouTube post is 1:40 min in length, has 256 views, and does not include any context as to why our U.S. diplomat in Baghdad is reciting a Russian poem. What’s the purpose why this video is up, anyways? Was this part of a larger event? Nothing on the embassy’s website indicate that it is. Was he just feeling it? We can’t say, no explainer with the vid. This could, of course, be part of celebrating poetry month, but the National Poetry Month in the U.S. has been celebrated in April since 1996." Via LJBImage from, with caption: George Washington Univ: PUSHKIN, Alexander: Memorial at the Robert H and Clarice Smith Hall of Art in Washington, D.C. by Alexander Bourganov, Igor Bourganov located in James M. Goode's Foggy Bottom area.  See also.


Public Diplomacy: America’s Lost Battle - Jeff, "The role of public opinion in the current Ukraine/Crimea crisis is a good illustration of the short sightedness of America’s reduced commitment to public diplomacy, as it continues to have a defense budget that more than exceeds the combined defense budgets of the next ten largest countries’. President Putin has committed considerable resources to Russia’s international TV, 'Russia Today' (RT), including an American operation that can be viewed in English or Spanish. In 2011 it was the second most popular international broadcaster after the BBC and claims particularly high viewership in the U.S.’ five largest cities. An international TV network that competes with CNN for its audience, including and especially a Western audience, 'Russia Today' is available to some 85 million Americans via cable TV and internationally to over 650 million people via approximately 250 cable and satellite providers. RT also manages a sophisticated website that focuses on U.S. news as well as international news. And while clearly a propaganda tool of Russian foreign policy, it has managed to find Western viewers tired of CNN’s diet of American-centric news augmented with a heavy offering of political and social drivel. The 2011 budget for RT was ca. $380 million, a large jump from its 2008 $120 million budget probably partially due to a serous image deficit following the Russia – Georgia conflict. In any case from an American perspective RT amounts to Russian operated surrogate broadcasting within the U.S., much like what Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were to the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. At the same time that Russia has promoted its image outside Russia via RT Putin has succeeded in improving his popularity at home with extensive and harsh control of traditional sources of information, especially TV, radio and the print press. While RT has ready access to American audiences Putin has banned Russian radio stations from affiliating with Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian broadcast service, forcing that service to rely heavily on social media, access to its website and its increased popularity on You Tube. Native Russian investigative journalists have had a tendency to “go missing” or worse; anti-government rock groups go to jail and demonstrations merely lead to mass arrests. During the Cold War U.S. surrogate radio broadcasts into Russia and its Warsaw bloc and Soviet neighbors provided news of their own countries and the world otherwise not available. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakdown of the Soviet Union those efforts were reduced and, in fact almost eliminated. Assuming the Cold War was over, the U.S. Senate, led by a somewhat naïve Russell Feingold, led a move in 1994 to cut RFE/RL’s budget from $210 Million to $75 million. Today, RFE/RL broadcasts to 21 countries (including Afghanistan, Iran, and of course Russia) in 28 languages via the Internet, SMS text messaging, online video, satellite radio, and popular social media networks with a budget of $95 million – less than one quarter of RT’s budget. America no longer seriously competes with Russia in the critical area of public opinion and the results are obvious as we watch the Russian people salute the re-emergence of an at least semi-cold war."

Is the Kremlin’s propaganda chief “a journalist”? - John Aravosis, "Last week, the European Union expanded its sanctions list in reponse to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, and added an interesting name: Dmitry Kiselev (Kiselyov), the Kremlin’s chief propagandist, who calls himself a journalist. But is he? I ran across a Tweet this weekend, criticizing the addition of Kiselev to the list, arguing that governments should never censor journalists.  The thing is, I’m not convinced that Kiselev is a journalist.  ... Kiselev is a controversial figure who recently used his TV show to discuss Russia turning the United States into 'radioactive ash' (in front of a nice backdrop of a huge mushroom cloud).  Kiselev, who comes across as rather fey (to put it lightly), is also the man who last year suggested that gay car accident victims have their hearts cut out and burned so that no one makes the mistake of letting them become organ donors. ... Then again, look at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) or Radio Free Asia (RFA).  They both do great work.  And I’ve written about, and linked to, their stories before, because they do great 'journalism.'  But they’re government-funded, even if they are officially private organizations.

Contrast the work of RFE/RL and RA with Kremlin TV network Russia Today and I’m hard-pressed to claim the latter as journalists too.  Russia Today isn’t just funded by the Kremlin, it’s an official Kremlin propaganda organ that twists the news, and basically lies, in an effort to help Russia, and hurt everyone else.  The closet comparison for Russia Today isn’t Radio Free Europe, it’s Fox News.  And my concern about Fox isn’t from the funding side, but rather the content side.  I just feel that in order to be a journalist, you have to be after the truth.  And that’s definitely not the case with RT and Dmitry Kiselev, of I fear with Fox News either. ... Say what you will about CNN, ABC, CBS, or NBC, but they try get the story right, and they try to do it an impartial manner. You can’t say the same about Russia Today, RIA Novosoti, Voice of Russia, or Dmitry Kiselev. And while the government may try to influence the media in America, the government is the media in Russia. And there’s a big difference."Image from entry, with ccaption: Dmitri Kisilev (aka Dmitry Kiselyov).

The Kremlin's War Propaganda - Vladimir Ryzhkov, "The main objective of war propaganda is to mobilize the support of the population — or in the case of Ukraine, an expansionist campaign. It should also demoralize the enemy and attract the sympathy and support of third countries. Widespread support among Russians for the military operations in Crimea and its ultimate annexation indicate that the Kremlin has succeeded in its first two objectives but has gained little ground on the third. ... [T]he success of war propaganda depends entirely on its totalitarian approach. The authorities must shut down every independent media outlet capable of identifying and exposing the propagandists' lies. That is why Ukraine blocked Russian television. ... Information warfare is well known throughout the world and is used by all leading countries.

The U.S. government successfully used the same principles when it bombed Yugoslavia and invaded Grenada, Panama and Iraq. The difference, of course, is that the U.S. government does not own mainstream media outlets, so their ability to manipulate the truth is less effective. Take, for example, the Iraqi invasion in 2003. Within a relatively short time period after the invasion was initiated, leading Western media went the complete other direction by criticizing the U.S. government for misleading the public on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were never found. This self-correction process does not occur in Russia, where the main media outlets are state-controlled. In authoritarian countries like Russia, independent information is losing out to mass propaganda, and whole populations have become victims of brainwashing. Politicians speak about the need for peace even while stirring up war hysteria. And that means the likelihood of war is far closer and more real than many might imagine." Image from entry

Russia Today Drops All Pretense Of Editorial Independence, Publishes Pro-Putin Propaganda - Eric Brown, "When Russia Today launched in 2005, its operators insisted that despite being funded by the Russian government, the news outlet would function independently of Moscow. The channel even rebranded to simply RT in 2009 to avoid being seen as an entirely Russian news network. On Wednesday, however, RT seemingly dropped all pretense of being editorially independent, by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highly controversial annexation of Crimea. In a post entitled ‘Top 10 Powerful Quotes from Putin’s Historic Crimea Address,’ RT lauded Putin’s speech declaring Crimea part of the Russian Federation as ‘barn-burning.’ The post, not credited to any writer in standard RT fashion, heaps superlative upon superlative on Putin’s declaration, calling it ‘perhaps the most pivotal address of the post-Soviet era.’”

Beware of the Kremlin’s Propaganda - Dalibor Rohac, "Since the beginning of the turmoil in Ukraine, some have attributed a large part of the blame for the crisis to the European Union and the United States, whose meddling allegedly brought down the President Viktor Yanukovych. While, as a general rule, the foreign policy of the EU and the US deserve to be criticized on various grounds, it should not be forgotten that other actors are present on the world’s geopolitical scene as well – some of them quite malevolent. The idea that the eclectic, bottom-up movement that fueled the revolution in Kyiv was somehow orchestrated by the United States (and/or by the notoriously unimaginative bureaucrats in Brussels) is grotesque – as is the notion that Russia’s invasion of Crimea is a response to genuine secessionist desires of the citizens of South-Eastern Ukraine."

In Soviet Russia: A farcical moral condemnation of Russia - Pierre Marthinus, "Crimea’s referendum — held under the shadow of Russia’s military presence — is as legitimate as the 1969 Act of Free Choice in Papua held under Indonesian military presence and the Iraq elections held under a heavy US military presence. The only difference is the selection of territorial scale, legal pretexts and moral justifications for each intervention. ... Western diplomatic criticism of Russia often seems like an uncreative plagiarized fill-in-the-dots template devised by an overpaid Washington-based public diplomacy firm struggling to keep its government contracts and refusing to downsize its employees. Ironically, Moscow has been doing a relatively better job, choosing all the right diplomatic keywords, invoking the rhetoric of a 'responsibility to protect' the Russian-speaking population of Crimea and the Crimean 'right to self-determination'. Recently, the US organized a discussion on the Crimean crisis in Jakarta, but decided only to invite representatives of Poland and Ukraine — the equivalent of a low blow in public diplomacy. The Russian ambassador, unfortunately, decided to crash the party 'Putin-style' and conveyed his utmost displeasure at the organizers for all the participants to see."

NATO troops landed in Lviv region [Google "translation"]- "On Tuesday, the Public Chamber of Russia held a hearing on the situation in Ukraine. The event was attended by well-known Russian, Ukrainian experts, government representatives.

Bombshell information caused people's deputy of Ukraine Oleg Tsarev. According to him, began to disembark in Lviv ... NATO soldiers. ... The event was organized in the OP RF spoke Russian Public Council for International Cooperation and Public Diplomacy, Inter-Commission working group on international cooperation and public diplomacy." Image from entry

What Should Michelle Obama Accomplish on Her Trip to China? - Orville Schell, Vincent Ni, Leta Hong Fincher, Elizabeth Economy, Robert Kapp, Jindong Cai nnd Sheila Melvin, A ChinaFile Conversation - "[Elizabeth Economy:] Orville and Vincent have almost persuaded me that U.S.-China relations will best be served if First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to China is little more than a public diplomacy tour de force. Indeed, she is already off to a good start. Chinese press commentary surrounding Mrs. Obama’s visit has been glowing.Yet I can’t help but feel that an opportunity is being sacrificed on the altar of wishful thinking. The opportunity is to use the umbrella of education and culture—the focus of the first lady’s trip—to engage issues such as restrictions on American films, journalists, and educational institutions in China. These are important issues and the first lady has a unique opening to raise them with the first lady of China, Peng Liyuan, herself a singing sensation and embodiment of Chinese culture. The altar of wishful thinking

is that this trip will in some way influence how Chinese president Xi Jinping directs the Chinese navy to behave on the East and South China Seas or how he responds to Russia’s behavior in Crimea. Even beyond the issue of a missed opportunity, I am puzzled at the first lady’s apparent decision not to travel or have interviews with journalists during her trip. Certainly she is making herself extraordinarily accessible via social media, and granted, according to the State Department, public diplomacy means ‘government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries’ —not informing or influencing people at home. However, refusing to address the press directly sends the wrong message not only to people in the United States but also to Chinese citizens, and most critically, doesn’t reflect the first lady’s one policy-related promise: to share American values and traditions." Image from article, with caption: First lady Michelle Obama speaks to students about higher education at a Washington, D.C. high school in November 2013. Mrs. Obama travels to China this week on a “people-to-people exchange” to emphasize the importance of education to both nations. See also.

Michelle Obama Convenes 'First Wives Club' In China -"This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. It is spring break and a lot of us our taking our kids on vacation to the Grand Canyon, maybe Florida. The First Lady Michelle Obama has taken her girls to China for the school break. It's supposed to be a working vacation, of sorts. There will undoubtedly be some sightseeing, but it's hard as the first lady of the U.S. to go to China and not dip into geopolitics at some point.To talk us through the potential pitfalls is Evan Osnos. He was the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker for four years. He's back in Beijing now. ... MARTIN: So what does a trip like this by Michelle Obama, what does it actually achieve? I mean, is this just about endearing her to the Chinese people? And what good does that do in real terms? OSNOS: Well, the goal is what the White House describes as people-to-people diplomacy. But there are a couple of concerns. One of the concerns, of course, is that public diplomacy matters but it's not a substitute for policy. And so, there have been some commentators in the U.S. who have said there may be a way of the spirit of this broader subject of cultural and educational exchange, to talk about some of the things that are important to that. For instance, ensuring that American journalists have access to China."

[Ernest] The First Lady of China [Google "translation' from Tagalog] - "On the 21st of this month, arrived in Beijing First Lady Michelle Obama's America, along with his son and mother, to carry out the 7 day visit to China. Michelle Obama invited by Peng Liyuan, First Lady of China, to carry forward the cooperation between the two countries in education and people to people exchanges.

In America, both were popular Michelle and her husband, President Obama. But here in China, not kasingpopular his wife Michelle. Because in my mind of the Chinese people, the First Lady is always considered to represent the image of his wife but should not perform actual influence on the actual problems inside and outside the country. ... [A]fter the Cultural Revolution, although there is no apparent provision, remains low-key in public wives of leaders and high officials of China. What request tasks and responsibilities of the First Lady of a country? The situation differs in different countries. For example in Russia, prior to divorce President Vladimir Putin and his wife, lost her husband a long time in view of the public. But on the other hand, the First Lady plays a major role in public diplomacy and people to people exchange because of its special status, like Michelle Obama. A komong assumption is the equal roles between men and women, especially in the political arena." Uncaptioned image from entry

Department of State Public Schedule, March 24, 2014 - "UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS RICHARD STENGEL 3:15 p.m. Under Secretary Stengel meets with Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Chairman Tom Healy, at the Department of State. (CLOSED PRESS COVERAGE)"

Cultural diplomacy - Bina Shah, "In my capacity as a working writer, I’ve chiefly engaged with writing as an art and a means for communication. But over the last several years I’ve come to know writing on a different level: as an arm of cultural diplomacy. And it’s exciting to learn that the arts can serve not just to enlighten and illuminate our lives, but to build bridges between countries, cultures, and peoples as a deliberate way of enhancing the more traditional ways and means of foreign policy. Typically, nations pursue their foreign policy objectives through political, economic, and military means. But in the 21st century, when the use of force is limited, conventional warfare is unwanted, and the US suffers an image problem particularly in the Muslim world because of its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, public diplomacy, or the art of ‘winning hearts and minds’, has taken on more importance in foreign policy. It uses soft power to ‘attract and persuade’ other nations to a path of friendly cooperation by highlighting values that America holds in common with them — family, faith, the desire for education, for example. Cultural diplomacy, which branches out from public diplomacy, makes use of the arts — theatre, art, music, literature — in order to achieve understanding between the people, as opposed to the governments, of respective nations. Christopher Merrill, director of the University of Iowa’s International Writers Programme, describes how cultural diplomacy 'attempts to create dialogue on the playing fields of culture in which people from disparate cultures and countries listen to each other, explore creativity together, and emerge with a deeper understanding of the world and of each other'. The US government actively pursues cultural diplomacy, bringing artists, writers, musicians and poets to America in order to perform their art for American audiences and to collaborate with American counterparts on artistic endeavours. And they send American artists to other countries for the same activities, in the hopes that art will appeal to those nations in deeper, long-lasting and more meaningful ways than the traditional methods of diplomatic outreach. The International Writers Programme, which I attended in 2011, is one of the most robust of those programmes, though budgeting US taxpayers’ money for cultural diplomacy programmes is always under dispute, much to the dismay of the proponents of cultural diplomacy in the State Department. My experience with cultural diplomacy makes me wonder, could we in Pakistan do something similar — project our values and our strengths through an active diplomatic programme of cultural activity, administered by the Foreign Office and spearheaded by our missions abroad? Instead of projecting hard power, could we project soft power, and would that soften our image abroad, and make other nations more eager to do business with us? ... Now imagine what strides we could take in cultural diplomacy if Pakistan had a dedicated department in the Foreign Office, envisioning and planning international cultural exchanges and events like these all over the world. If we sent Pakistani artists abroad and arranged for artists from other nations to come and visit Pakistan in order to see this nation for themselves, to practise the arts together with local counterparts, to visit universities and schools and speak to students and members of civil society. Or if Pakistan had a clearinghouse like the British Council, independent of the government, but dedicated to the promotion of Urdu and other national languages with centres in all the world’s major cities. Remember that cultural diplomacy is not the same as propaganda: its practitioners don’t spread ideology or proselytise about the greatness of their own nation or culture. Instead, they humble themselves and listen to the people they visit or invite, in order that they may learn from one another, and the learning process and artistic collaboration is what builds the bridges that will outlast political upheaval and the changing of governments."

Gastrodiplomacy: Cooking Up A Tasty Lesson On War And Peace - Linda Poon, "It's often said that the closest interaction many Americans have with other countries' cultures is through food. That kind of culinary diplomacy is particularly common in Washington, D.C., where immigrants from all over the world have cooked up a diverse food scene. Now one scholar-in-residence at American University is using the city's food culture to teach her students about global affairs via a course on 'gastrodiplomacy' — using food as a tool to foster cultural understanding among countries. While the concept of gastrodiplomacy has been gaining traction among governments in recent years (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a 'chef ambassador' corps a couple of years ago), the class is the first of its kind at a school of international relations, says Johanna Mendelson Forman, a policy expert

on international conflict who teaches the new course. ... While gastrodiplomacy is a relatively new field in the realm of public diplomacy, the idea itself can be traced back to the ancient Romans, who often made peace with their enemies over a good meal. ... The U.S. formally joined the fun in 2012, when Clinton kicked off the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, recruiting 80 food professionals from across the country to cook for foreign diplomats and travel abroad.  ... In a recent study in Public Diplomacy Magazine, more than half of the 140 people surveyed said that eating a country's cuisine led them to think more positively about that country. And more than two-thirds felt that countries in a state of conflict could benefit from gastrodiplomacy programs." Image from entry, with caption: Here's one way to get students talking about global affairs: Teach it through food. See also.

Chefs are the Mexico’s new corps of diplomats - Johanna Mendelson Forman, "Mexican food has suffered an image problem. When people say they want Mexican food they think fajitas, or hard shell tacos, or chile con queso. These 'Tex Mex' fast food interpretations discredit a cuisine that has arose from ancient civilizations that pre-date the arrival of the Spaniards. And that is precisely why we need someone like Pati Jinich, the Latin American policy-researcher-turned-chef who is transforming our view of Mexican cuisine. Her exploration of her own culinary heritage in Mexico is part of a growing field of public diplomacy – gastrodiplomacy.

This is the art of communicating a nation’s brand through food, whether in restaurants, through food demonstrations, or through personal stories of how a culture’s dietary habits formed a central part of their national experience. Pati Jinich, star of the Public Broadcasting series, Pati’s Mexican Table, began her journey in the new field of gastrodiplomacy in Washington, D.C. Seven years ago the Mexican Cultural Institute opened its doors to her to prepare, host, and promote a series of dining adventures that would feature Mexican cooking reflecting the diverse regional and historical cuisines of our neighbor. Her unique dinner themes were aimed at removing the dining clichés of what most gringos think of as Mexican food. No chips and salsa here." Image from entry, with caption: Pati Jinich moved Mexican food and culture to a new level in Washington, D.C.

The Urban Singles Comedy and Public Diplomacy - 'As a form of light popular entertainment, television sitcoms such as the hugely successful Friends, which depicts the lives of six young, singles Manhattanites, appear to be unlikely candidates for ambassadors of American culture. In Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad, Martha Bayles illustrates the transformation of entertainment and popular culture into the primary form of American public diplomacy after the Cold War and highlights the resulting distortion of the American image abroad. According to Bayles, the television genre of “urban singles comedy” exemplifies the disjunction between the American image and its reality that is created by boundless exportation of American popular culture.'

Rogel Alpher with Eytan Schwartz -- Journeys [includes video] - "Eytan Schwartz became a household name in 2005, when he won the popular reality TV show 'The Ambassador'. He spent the next year in the United States on a public diplomacy mission, primarily on university campuses. Today, Schwartz is Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s adviser for international affairs. In this episode of Journeys, he recounts amusing anecdotes of his speaking engagements in the US, which sometimes took him to the remotest of areas. He also explains how Tel Aviv’s reputation as an international center for industrial innovation and creativity, which attracts many educated and professional young Jews from Western countries, should be bolstered."

From Engagement to Collaboration: The Treatment Action Group and Public Diplomacy -
- Tara Ornstein, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public DiplomacyThe Treatment Action Group is one NGO that uses a wide range of public diplomacy tools

to ensure communities affected by HIV and tuberculosis (TB) have access to better treatment and can participate in clinical research. Image from entry


Japan-China COLD WAR 12/China using Washington for anti-Japan propaganda - Yomiuri Shimbun, Washington is at the forefront of China’s anti-Japan propaganda.

Beijing aims to drive a wedge into the Japan-U.S. alliance, which stands in the way of China’s efforts to establish hegemony in the western Pacific region. Image from entry

German Left Party promotes government propaganda against Russia - Ulrich Rippert, There is no doubt that the most aggressive imperialist power, which repeatedly violates international laws and carries out criminal actions, is Washington. It pursues its goal of global hegemony in close collaboration with its European allies. While the Left Party in the past responded to imperialist aggression with pacifist phrases and appeals, they have now gone over to fully supporting these policies.

Beijing’s patronising propaganda in Xinjiang: Chinese government’s ‘Down to the Grassroots’ campaign seeks to appease Uighur sentiments while preparing for a crackdown - Bethany Allen, Washington Post, Xinjiang, a vast region in western China covering a surface area roughly as large as that of Iran, is known to be ethnically fraught, economically underdeveloped and opaque to outsiders. However, a new Chinese policy is giving outside observers a rare — albeit entirely one-sided — glimpse into what Chinese Communist Party policy looks like at the village level there. In what authorities announced on February 15 as a ‘Down to the Grassroots’ campaign, over the next three years, the government of the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi plans to rotate a total of 200,000 Xinjiang party officials in year-long stints across the region, so that it may “completely cover” even the remotest villages, “leaving no blank space”. Decades of Han Chinese migration to the region and repressive government ethnic and religious policies have inflamed tensions between the Muslim Uighurs — who number about 10 million, constituting a bit over 40 per cent of Xinjiang’s total population — and the majority Han, leading to periodic violence that the government often labels as terrorist attacks. In a March 17 address to Xinjiang party officials, Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang party boss and member of China’s ultra-powerful Politburo, whom Foreign Affairs describes as a media-savvy hard-liner with a “reputation for transparency,” called the new campaign a “radical measure” to protect stability and promote religious and ethnic harmony in Xinjiang.

Dear Leader as director -- North Korea's propaganda films - It's not often that North Korea's late dictator aka 'the Dear Leader' Kim Jong-Il gets good press outside of Pyongyang. Now a new film aims to do just that. 'Aim High in Creation!' pays tribute to Kim Jong-Il's love of film-making and his legacy of propaganda, when he was 'Creative Commander' of North Korea's film industry from the mid-1960s until his death in 2011.

East Germany in colour -- everyday propaganda - The official view of everyday life in socialist East Germany was beaming children and happy farmers rather than grey concrete and queues - as is shown in a new exhibition of official colour photos from the GDR -

The pictures which went on display at the German Historical Museum in Berlin this week, were taken by freelance photographers Martin Schmidt and Kurt Schwarzer, on commission for magazines, companies, GDR mass organisations - and even publishers of cook books. "We are showing, without comment, the GDR propaganda," said curator Carola Jüllig, who set up the exibition called 'Colour for the Republic'. "One can ask questions about how the pictures came about, but one can also find them beautiful." Image from entry, with caption: Obviously complete with ladies having wholesome fun on the northern coast.

Take a proper gander at the art and power of propaganda - Anna Seaman, When you walk into Meem Gallery for the current exhibition, the first thing you see is a statement on the wall explaining the circumstances that led up to the show.C“In 2003, a storage container was discovered in an unknown location in the Middle East,” it reads. “Stored inside were numerous boxes that held the political campaign material of a now unknown man.”CIt goes on to explain that an art collector in North America bought the boxes under the proviso that he would not show their contents in public for a decade.Now that this time is up, the collector collaborated with his friend, the artist Mahmoud Obaidi, to produce the exhibition The Replacement, which contains the found material as well as several large pieces inspired by the originals. Propaganda posters cover the walls depicting the “unknown” man with a strong, bearded jaw and deep-set eyes. His face, placed in the centre of a sun-like disc with the rays emitting from all sides, gives this so-called future leader some kind of authority. In another image, his hand is raised in the typical pose of a political figure, ushering his following towards his principles.

There also are stamps bearing his face and playing on the back wall is a video made for his supposed inauguration day, with the sound emanating through the entire gallery space. Memorabilia such as T-shirts and caps based on these images are hanging on racks.CIt is a very bizarre set-up, making one wonder whether it is an art exhibition or a history lesson. And as you wander around the gallery, the language of power is expressed through these objects. “It reflects us all, this is my life, this propaganda is all around us,” says Obaidi. “This shows that anyone can take any guy and make a leader out of him.” “The material used in the 60s and 70s seems obvious to us now so we can use it to make a point but today we have other forms of propaganda – like Facebook, for example,” explains Obaidi. Image from exhibit from


Vladimir Putin's justification for invading Crimea may be more contorted than even his girlfriend."

--Jeffrey Lewis, "The Ukes and Their Nukes: Why the Bomb wouldn't have helped Kiev protect Crimea from Russia,"; image from link in entry


"More famous for its digital spying, the US's National Security Agency processes plenty of old-fashioned paper, to judge from the 100 million documents it pulps

 every year before turning them over to manufacturers of pizza boxes and egg cartons."

--The Times Literary Supplement (March 21), p. 25; image from

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