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.