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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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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

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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When do we start the honest debate over the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act?

Read my post this morning at the Public Diplomacy Council website about the lack of serious debate over the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act.

What is it about U.S. public diplomacy that we must hide it from Americans? Is it so abhorrent that it would embarrass the taxpayer, upset the Congress (which has surprisingly little additional insight on the details of public diplomacy), or upend our democracy? Of our international broadcasting, such as the Voice of America, do we fear the content to be so persuasive and compelling that we dare not permit the American media, academia, nor the Congress, let alone the mere layperson, to have the right over oversight to hold accountable their government? [Read the rest here]

Also, be sure to see Josh Rogin’s Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’.

If you are attending the event at the Heritage Foundation today, “Understanding the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act,” at 3p ET (apparently it will be webcast), and you’re on the fence or opposed to the availability of State Department public diplomacy material domestically, would you be so kind as to provide examples from the field of what Americans should not know about?

And, if you are attending that Heritage event today, do read my post at the Public Diplomacy Council website, particularly the paragraph about the difference between access and dissemination, existing language in the law to promote the free flow of information outside Government control, and whether State should have separate coverage from the BBG.

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Public Diplomacy Achievement Awards 2012

(L-R) Larry Schwartz, Jean Manes, Heather Eaton, Rob Nevitt, Lynn Roche. Jean Manes and Heather Eaton are 2012 achievement award winners. Lynne Roche, of State Department's Africa bureau, accepted the award for Sharon Hudson-Dean. Frank Schwartz nominated Jean Manes. Rob Nevitt chairs the PDAA awards committee. (Photo: A. Kotok)

2012 PDAA Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy Excellence

The Public Diplomacy Alumni Association, formerly the USIA Alumni Association, gave its 2012 achievement awards to U.S. public diplomacy professionals working in Zimbabwe, Okinawa, and Washington, DC. The announcement is below.

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Debating China’s Global Reputation – a conference in Beijing May 19

Public Diplomacy ForumThe first major international conference on public diplomacy and China’s reputation in the world will take place in Beijing later this month. The event is co-sponsored by the Charhar Institute, China’s foremost public diplomacy think tank, the Clingendael Institute of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing, and the China-Europe Academic Network (CEAN). The theme is “Geo-cultural Perspectives on Public Diplomacy – Trialogue among Chinese, European, and American Scholars.”

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Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century

What if you put neuroscientists, social scientists, conflict resolution experts, and diplomats together in a room? Is there something to the “human dimension” of conflict that the science of the brain can inform the art of conflict resolution and mitigation? The Project on Justice in Times of Transition, in partnership with the SaxeLab at MIT, launched the initiative “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century” to find out.

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Visual Propaganda: a cross-disciplinary conference on the influence of images

It has long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what words to which people? The pixels or streaks of paint of an image is the only commonality shared by different audiences. The context in which they are received and interpreted matters. Beyond the intended framing, including words or other images, personal and shared history, language, current or developing narratives, and other inputs, both direct and indirect, all matter in the impact of a picture.

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