Monday, April 24, 2017

Where public diplomacy and propaganda meet

Areeba Adnan.

Image from article, with caption: The writer is a student at the Jinnah Women University’s Department of Defence and Diplomatic Studies

Public diplomacy is considered the most important form of diplomacy. Several major states have turned to this official form of diplomacy to influence the minds of their citizens as well as control the minds of foreign individuals. Though public diplomacy and propaganda are different things but it must be made clear that states have very ingeniously used them and incorporated them into a whole new scenario and used it for controlling the mindset of foreign public.

The war on terror is seen both as a propaganda and public diplomacy campaign. The advent of 9/11 started to create a new history of propaganda and public diplomacy of the US around the world. George Bush and his administration started to whip up patriotism in the minds of people by stating that anti-Americanism and radicalisation would not be supported, and it is a constant threat to the people of the US.

The Bush administration played on the security and safety fears of US citizens and propagated it as an important factor. The threat of anti-Americanism shaped a type of fear in their minds and they started to support their government as their government promised to support the freedom of their citizens. Initially, they adopted the soft policies of public diplomacy and chose not to select the offensive techniques of propaganda. They started on radio broadcasts in Middle Eastern states known as “Radio Sawa”, a channel which would broadcast Arabic music and would air news programmes in Arabic 24 hours a day — on all days of the week. But later these policies and campaigns of the US started to fail and many states started to label the US as an “axis of evil”, just like the US labelled them rogue states.

After the global war on terror, the US deliberately increased the investments and budgets in foreign countries to support their stance in these states and to ensure that the public of these foreign states would support them. During the global war on terror, Washington designated about $1.56 million to support their broadcast and news stance in other states and subsequently increased their cultural and exchange budget to $5 million. The Voice of America is considered to be one of the most sophisticated and official spokesperson of the US, but it is a shock that despite millions of funding, very little of America actually listens to it as compared to foreign citizens.

The Voice of America was actually created when communism was on the rise and Russia was designated as the new enemy. It was, in fact, just another tool to combat communism and counter its growing influence in other states. Primarily it was aimed at portraying a good image of the US, and popularise its free lifestyle and luxuries. The idea was to promote pro-American feelings during the Cold War and spread American standpoints around the world. It must be made clear that however these broadcasts mainly served abundantly other rational purpose but the chief object of the international shortwave newscasters was to manipulate world public perception according to the US and to create an advantageous imprint of the station’s sponsor, which is usually a state. This all led to a successful US public diplomacy in Europe and also proved to be a successful propaganda against communism.

Later in the 1970s when these policies started to decline and communism started to rise, they started using the terms “arms control” and “limited nuclear weapons” to end the wave of communism, but in actual sense it was just propaganda.

Public diplomacy and propaganda are vital to each other: public diplomacy comes first and then the propaganda is used to influence the minds of the individuals so that they also act in a way that serves the interests of the states and its bodies.

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