Sunday, July 31, 2016

Special Assistant to the President for Media and Public Affairs Barry Jagoda on ICA "bringing foreign culture and perspectives to our own people" (1978)


161. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the President for Media and Public Affairs (Jagoda) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)

Washington, January 20, 1979



As you will recall, the USIA was created in the midst of the cold war and was, in the phrase of the Agency motto, designed for “telling America’s story to the World.” With last year’s reorganization, including the addition of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from State, the President directed that ICA [International Communication Agency -- JB] move toward bringing foreign culture and perspectives to our own people, as well. This mandate seemed particularly timely since our foreign policy was likely to be understood only if our people became aware of the extensive global change and associated political and cultural activism of the previously passive world majority. It is clear, however, that this process of education and communication with our own people has barely begun at ICA. I start with this point because inadequate domestic understanding seems to be a weak link in our foreign policy chain. The Carter administration must do a better job of helping the American people understand the world forces amid which Administration policy is shaped.
This matter of informing our people about the rest of the world is somewhat different than informing our people about our foreign policy. ICA is prohibited by law from making its materials intended for foreign distribution also available at home. This is justified as an effort to guard against the agency being used to boost the “political” fortunes of whichever Administration happens to be in power. This concern is understandable since the communications materials distributed abroad by the Agency tend to emphasize the positive themes of our society and the President is always cast in a favorable posture.
However, from the NSC perspective, ICA could become enormously more helpful if it could expand its role, recently mandated, to help inform and involve the American people in the larger world. To date, it appears that the changes have resulted in a better managed program of conveying abroad our policy and cultural messages, but the two-way, return effort has not been substantially increased, nor does there seem to be much specific planning in that direction. ...

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