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

Quoting History: A Sound Report

Below is the beginning of short op-ed from The New York Times on a recent report on what would later be called public diplomacy by the Advisory Commission on Information, to be known decades later as the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

Every American interested in a strong information program for this country would do well to study the latest report of the United States Advisory Commission on Information. The Commission’s four members … have clarified the key problems we face in attempting to counter Communist propaganda throughout the world and have spoken plainly on matters that require plain speech.

…[R]eferring to Senator McCarthy’s television circus last year, the Commission says, “The wide and unfavorable publicity … gave the agency such a bad name that professionally competent persons were reluctant to accept employment in it.” The Commission adds that the result of periodic Congressional attacks is that those who prepare our counter-propaganda for overseas “are perforce more cautious of how the
messages will sound or appear to the investigators and completely lose sight of whether they will be effective with their intended audience.”

Published February 6, 1954.

Persuasive politics: Revisit the Smith-Mundt Act

A sixty year old law affects virtually all U.S. engagement with foreign audiences by putting constraints on what we say and how we say it. Perhaps more importantly, it limits the oversight by the American public, Congress, and the whole of government into what is said and done in America’s name abroad. The impact of this law, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, must not be ignored if policymakers hope to improve how the United States communicates overseas.

Registration is now open plus other announcements

Registration for the Smith-Mundt Symposium – A Discourse to Shape America’s Discourse – is now open. Registration is free, open to the public, and required to attend the event on Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

The Symposium will be held at the Reserve Officer’s Association across the street from the Senate and House office buildings in Washington, D.C.

For details on this event, see http://mountainrunner.us/symposium/about.html.

There is also a discussion forum built specifically for this event: http://mountainrunner.us/symposium/. From here you can register to attend the Symposium as well as discuss the Smith-Mundt Act and suggest and discuss questions for the different panels. This site will host the electronic library to be available to registered attendees prior to the Symposium.

To register for the Symposium, go to http://mountainrunner.us/symposium/ and click on Registration in the menu bar near the top. Even if you cannot attend the Symposium, because you are reading this you will probably find the discourse at the website interesting and your contribution will increase the value for everyone.

Send any questions, comments, or issues, including registration problems, to Matt Armstrong at blog@mountainrunner.us.