Karen Hughes and the Neutering of American Public Diplomacy

John Brown’s latest Press and Blog Review has the following anonymous commentary on the neutering of public diplomacy by Karen Hughes:

"Something missing from the commentary on Karen Hughes in the State Department is the effect her propagandizing has had on the department’s overseas web sites, particularly the broad-base of American views in USINFO; before Hurricane Karen it was known as a solid, if stodgy source of all aspects of American foreign policy; since her arrival in the State Dept. she has had to deal with the fact that Bush’s foreign policy statements hurt Public Diplomacy efforts, so they must be discontinued.

In its place is fluff like ‘Partnerships for a Better Life’ or the most recent ‘Innovative Programs.’ The Muslim outreach efforts she has spearheaded are seen in the Ramadan series, which while a seemingly noble effort, comes off as patronizing and abandons any even-handed look at religion in America.

What a shame she killed the ‘Hi’ online magazine, which, in Arabic and English, offered some of the best material for Arab youth. When Karen needed funds for her Rapid reaction unit, she shut down the magazine and took the $1.5 million. It was reaching more than 40,000 Arab youth every month, and the growth was fantastic. But it had been first created during the time of Charlotte Beers, and it had no support within the dept or administration.

Overall, USINFO’s usefulness has diminished since late in 2006. Previously, transcripts of USG officials from a variety of agencies was published, giving credibility to the site as a central place to learn about all aspects of the US govt. Serious gaps are in the areas of security policy, such as Iran (for which there is no central point for readers to learn what is happening with the US and Iran — it is just ignored.) Three articles on Iran policy have been published in the past three months on the US and Iran. Three. As an honest but of course biased information source, it has started down the slippery slope toward propaganda. One would doubt if Hughes sees anything wrong with this."