www.MountainRunner.us

Matt Armstrong's blog on public diplomacy, international journalism, and the struggle against propaganda

The Smith-Mundt Act: A legislative history from 1953 by Burton Paulu

Updated February 19, 2015. Originally published December 24, 2008.

This 1953 Journalism Quarterly article by Burton Paulu entitled “Smith-Mundt Act- A legislative history” (3.7mb PDF) is a good read for anyone interested in the subject of public diplomacy, including exchanges of all kinds and international media, and the Smith-Mundt Act. It is an interesting contemporary overview of the debates over ‘public diplomacy’ immediately prior to the establishment of the United States Information Agency. The support from State for these activities had waned considerably and several former supporters of empowering State with these tools were beginning to reconsider whether the Department was capable of effectively running these programs. The debates Mr. Paulu describes have a striking resemblance to modern discussions, particularly those between 9/11 and 2010.

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Russia’s War on Information

Read my December 15, 2014 article at War on the Rocks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has nearly completed his purge of independent news media in Russia.  “This is not just a war of information,” says one keen analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  “It is a war on information.”

The best counter to propaganda is truth and transparency, not more propaganda. Honest, unbiased facts coupled with unimpeded discussion by an informed citizenry is the most powerful weapon against the Kremlin’s disinformation that drains the future from Russia’s people and threatens Russia’s neighbors.

This is not about Russia Today. This is about Russia’s tomorrow.

Read the whole article at War on the Rocks.

Wilson + State = CPI

Robert Lansing

U.S. public diplomacy has a surprising history, as a recent blog post and interview noted. That brief discussion, however, gave the expected superficial treatment that left out key details such as a deeply entrenched cultural resistance and the influence of highly filtered information flows.

The story of Mrs. Vira Whitehouse, referred to in the recent blog post, is a useful case study to discuss some ‘surprises’ that break with conventional wisdom about the Creel Committee, formally known as the Committee for Public Information, the State Department, the beginning of the United States Information Service, and U.S. Government-sponsored exchanges.

Below is an abridged and modified excerpt from my book (a work long in progress but nearing completion). I am sharing it here partly in response to the recent discussion, partly to frame an anniversary discussion on public diplomacy (more on that later), and to invite comments. Footnotes and citations have been removed; passages have been altered for brevity or removed and saved for the book.

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Kennan’s Draft on Information Policy on Relations with Russia

George Kennan:

“It is a pity that our press plays up our diplomatic relations like a ball game, stressing victories and defeats. Good diplomacy results in satisfaction for both sides as far as possible; if one side really feels defeated, they try to make up for it later, and thus relations deteriorate. In general the daily press and commentators dramatize short-term conflicts at the expense of long-term prospects for achieving a stable balance.”

From ‘Draft on Information Policy on Relations with Russia’ by George Kennan, July 22, 1946.

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The basic right upon which freedom rests

Archibald MacLeish:

The right to a free press — the right of the people to read and to hear and therefore to think as they please — is, I deeply believe, the basic right upon which freedom rests. Freedom of exchange of information between the peoples of the world is the extension into international relations of the basic democratic right of freedom of the press. Belief in the freedom of exchange of information rests upon the conviction that if the peoples of the world know the facts about each other, peace will be maintained, since peace is the common hope and the common cause of the people everywhere.

Source: Department of State, Bulletin, December 10, 1944, p693. (Bulletin was State’s in-house publication.) Continue reading

FDR on working with the State Department

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Dealing with the State Department is like watching an elephant become pregnant. Everything’s done on a very high level, there’s a lot of commotion, and it takes twenty-two months for anything to happen.

Source: Cary Reich, The life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: worlds to conquer, 1908-1958, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday). 182.

Public Diplomacy’s ‘Missing Years’

Cover page for USIS daily news bulletin from Sep 1945There was a time before USIA when the U.S. Government practiced what we now call public diplomacy. This period is often forgotten or ignored.  For too many, the history of U.S. public diplomacy begins with the establishment of United States Information Agency, or USIA.  However, it did not and pretending it did start with USIA not only misrepresents the past and subsequent trajectories, it is also a disservice to those who worked hard to establish peacetime public diplomacy.

A recent example is an article where the subject, Mr. Ben Bradlee, was described as a public diplomacy officer.  Mr. Bradlee worked for the United States Information Service, or USIS, but USIS was part of the State Department at the time, not USIA.   Continue reading

MountainRunner Reboots

After a long pause, MountainRunner is back.  With the exception of some occasional activity in 2012, mostly in the form of guest blogs, it’s been four years since I ended my inveterate posting at the end of 2010.  In that time, the world of public diplomacy, as ambiguous as the term is, has changed substantially.  In those years my relationship with and understanding of a broad range of activities that fall under — or near — the umbrella of ‘public diplomacy’.

This blog was and continues to be about having a conversation.  For every comment that appeared on this site, there were 3-5 (or more) that were emailed.  For every visitor the statistics showed, there were innumerable others with readers distributing many posts by email and email subscribers (over 1,500 at one point) could read posts in their entirety without visiting the site.  I don’t expect the numbers return to their previous levels, and I won’t be posting with the frequency of the past, but I do hope readership will rebound somewhat for an inclusive and broad exchange of ideas.  Posts will be mine and I will begin considering guest posts later in 2015.

It bears repeating that this blog is a personal project.  It was when I began blogging over a decade ago — back when I was blogging anonymously — and it remains so today and into the future.  The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the opinions or positions of any organization I work for or am otherwise affiliated with.

Because of my role with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, I expect that some readers may be disappointed with topics and issues that will not covered here.

If you’re inclined, below are two other personal social media channels that you can follow:

Twitter: @mountainrunner

Tumblr: MountainRunner-us (new!)

Stay tuned!

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #62

Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, here is the latest update on resources that may be of general interest for teachers, students, and practitioners of public diplomacy and related courses and activities. Suggestions for future updates are welcome. Bruce Gregory is an adjunct professor at George Washington University and at Georgetown University and a pre-eminant font of knowledge for public diplomacy and strategic communication.  He previously served as the executive director of the U.S. Advisory Communication on Public Diplomacy.

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Public Diplomacy as an Instrument of Counterterrorism: A Progress Report

In this recent speech, the founding Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications traces the origins of the organization, its main initial activities, and the challenges it faced.  Among his recommendations is development of specialized communications teams with skill levels equaling SEAL teams to counter terrorist propaganda and reduce the flow of new recruits to terror.

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