A new voice in the Smith-Mundt discussion

Briefly, if you are at all interested in the Smith-Mundt discussion with Sharon Weinberger, I recommend you check out two posts by Craig Hayden on the subject. First, Fearing a world without Smith-Mundt?

… Weinberger’s argument about propaganda is logically a slippery slope fallacy. There are no obvious reasons why a domestic information ministry would spring to existence after Smith-Mundt is scrapped. Why should it? As research has shown for decades, the U.S. press has shown little inclination to represent the rest of the world from a perspective other than U.S. policy-makers (this is supported by Bennett’s well-known “Indexing Hypothesis“). In fact, as Dan Hallin has shown, critical coverage only tends to arise when there is disagreement among policy-makers (see Piers Robinson’s piece on media and politics for a summary). We don’t have to be closet fans of Herman and Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” to realize that the U.S. news media rarely strays from the government line. So what is there to fear from abandoning Smith-Mundt? …

Second, After Smith-Mundt: What next?

… I think what Matt is getting at is more than just exposing U.S. message strategy to academics and policy wonks. It’s about involvement in a larger process of policy awareness, feedback, and input with synergistic effects on outflow of U.S. messages to the rest of the world. Implicit in Matt’s rethinking of Smith-Mundt is an invitation for Americans into the process of crafting, conducting, and implementing public diplomacy. It’s putting the public back into public diplomacy. (Ok, that was cheesy).

This implicit expansion of the policy community, however, would be a fundamental shift in how policy is crafted and implemented in this country. Unlike domestic policy, the constituents for foreign policy (let alone public diplomacy) are less than obvious. Sure, we know generally that public opinion does matter to policy leaders, and that interest networks can shape policy construction. But foreign policy shaped by public opinion doesn’t necessarily make it democratic. And an open-sourced public diplomacy goes against historical trends in the domestic sources of U.S. foreign policy. …

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