Noteworthy

“One of the major new difficulties here is the vast canvas of the media landscape. No longer can audiences be divided into ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ as they have done in the past. Anything that is published can be potentially viewed by either the domestic or the international audience or in fact a multitude of different audiences with a variety of compositions. And yet, the old view still prevails in a number of communications campaigns. This comes unstuck when your international audience views your domestic output. Steve Tatham provided one example of a British Army advertisement showing British soldiers searching Muslims. This was part of a recruitment drive aimed at UK television audiences, but it had a detrimental effect when it ended up on Youtube, and was deemed highly offensive by some Muslims.” – Daniel Bennett reviewing the symposium How Insurgents Shape the Media Landscape. Read Part One and Part Two.

“We have rarely seen such a work of profound analytic fallacy as the now much circulated study “Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military `surge’ using nighttime light signatures”, which has been making the rounds throughout the blogsphere as of late. … such an assumption ignores much of the literal reality on the ground – valuing remote sensing over the contemporaneous and local accounts of human sources, military commanders, and reconstruction agencies that have lived through the tumultuous progress of the latter stages of the Iraq intervention. It also conflates economic indicators with stability and security…” Deliberately Ignoring the Human Terrain by Kent’s Imperative

“An informed public is central to a properly functioning democracy. As bloggers, you are now part of this modern day newsroom. You are deciding what stories should be posted without the benefit of a traditional gatekeeper in the media that’s often been referred to as the Fourth Estate. … Bloggers play a vitally important watchdog role in the defense of democracy and the Constitutional order.” – LTG Bill Caldwell speaking to the Milblogging conference.

Related to the above, see the Combined Arms Center’s blogging page.

“We’ve seen over and over again that the blogs are the most effective fact-checking tool that we have.” – McCain spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, to Michelle Malkin. (h/t AS)

Treat audiences as investors was the message of a recent short post. This week I threw up another post (sourced again from H&K) about proxy engagement, which is fundamentally what public diplomacy is all about: talk to people, influentials preferred but not required, so they tell two friends, and so on like the old U.S. commercial. The firm behind the program in the latter post caught my mention of their client and followed up with me today to see if I needed more information. This is a ‘digital outreach team’ that is on top of it (GolinHarris, if you were wondering). That’s good follow up to promote the message and help it spread. This is where the Madison Avenue model really digs in but it’s also the approach that’s uniformly ignored by USG folks who invoke “Madison Avenue”.

“I think DMA is one of the most exciting things to happen to public affairs in a long time,” Hastings said. “It’s our opportunity to change the way we deliver news and information to our internal audience.” – Bob Hastings talking about the Oct 1 establishment of the Defense Media Activity. (h/t Galrahn)

Following up the testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, see

2 Replies to “Noteworthy”

  1. THANKS FOR YOUR RAPID RESPONSE TO SENATOR BROWNBACK’S BILL, MATT, AND FOR STARTING THE CONVERSATION ON YOUR BLOG. I WILL ADDRESS EACH OF YOUR POINTS BELOW, IN ORDER. BUT I WILL START WITH MY FAVORITE REMARK WHICH COMES TOWARD THE END OF YOUR COMMENT, WHERE YOU SAY:While there are several parts of the bill that concern me, one pleases me. The Brownback bill removes the distortions to the Smith-Mundt Act in 1972 and 1985 by eliminating the prohibition against domestic dissemination.
    AMEN!! ISN’T THAT THE TRUTH. WELL, I WISH I COULD CONTINUE IN THIS VEIN, BUT I’M AFRAID YOUR OTHER CONCERNS INDICATE THAT, IN YOUR COMMENDABLE ZEAL TO JUMP-START THE DISCUSSION, YOU MAY HAVE OVERLOOKED SOME OF THE BILL’S PROVISIONS. I THINK YOU’LL FIND THAT THE LEGISLATION DOES IN FACT ADDRESS THOSE ISSUES. (YOUR TEXT IS IN NORMAL FONT AND MINE IN CAPS.)
    It emphasizes the “us versus them” construct as it focuses on who we are and not the increasingly important struggle between foreign audiences. “Us versus them” is extremely important here at home but “them versus them” is more important beyond our shores.
    NO. THE PURPOSE OF THE LEGISLATION IS “TO ESTABLISH THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION TO ADVISE THE PRESIDENT REGARDING PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.”
    It only focuses on a specific group, using a word, “Islamist”, that is indistinguishable to most of the globe from general Muslims.
    NO. INDEED, THE LEGISLATION CONSISTENTLY AND QUITE DELIBERATELY NEVER USES THE WORD “ISLAMIST” WITHOUT THE QUALIFIER “RADICAL.” SO-CALLED “GENERAL MUSLIMS” ARE NOT RADICAL.
    Equally, if not more important, this singular focus does not establish a comprehensive ability to participate in future informaticized wars, conflicts, and struggles. It is very likely the next “war” will be information-based without bullets or bombs, or with those “kinetics” in complete support to the information activities of the adversary, be it state or non-state. The focus in this bill does little to prepare the United States for a broader struggle.
    ON THE CONTRARY. THE BILL DOES AS MUCH AS CAN POSSIBLY BE DONE AT THIS POINT. IT STATES: “THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT NEEDS AN ORGANIZATION WHOSE MISSION IS TO ENGAGE FOREIGN AUDIENCES IN WAYS THAT ADVANCE THE NATIONAL INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES, INCLUDING—(A) ADVANCING UNDERSTANDING AND APPRECIATION FOR THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF THE UNITED STATES; AND (B) DEFEATING THE IDEAS THAT ARE INIMICAL TO THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF THE UNITED STATES.” AMEN.
    The director has limited reach into other USG thinking, planning, and personnel. Personnel concurrence, agreements on selection of personnel, is absent and budgetary oversight is limited to this new silo of excellence. A possible solution is a 1206-style budget model.
    LIMITED REACH?! I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED THE EXACT OPPOSITE CRITICISM. HERE ARE THE PROVISIONS OF THE LEGISLATION:
    “THE DIRECTOR SHALL (A) SERVE AS THE PRINCIPAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT ON STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS; (B) PROVIDE GUIDANCE FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS CONDUCTED ACROSS THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, AND FOR THE EFFECTIVE INTEGRATION OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS ACROSS AGENCY BOUNDARIES WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES;(C) ADVISE THE PRESIDENT ON THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS RECOMMENDATIONS AND BUDGET PROPOSALS OF THE DEPARTMENTS, AGENCIES, AND ELEMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT— (I) CONFORM TO THE PRIORITIES ESTABLISHED BY THE PRESIDENT; AND (II) ARE CONSISTENT WITH THE NATIONAL STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY; (D) COORDINATE THE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS OF ALL FEDERAL AGENCIES, AS APPROPRIATE; (E) OVERSEE UNITED STATES’ FOREIGN BROADCASTS, INCLUDING VOICE OF AMERICA AND SURROGATE BROADCAST PROGRAMS; (F) ENSURE THE DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF APPROPRIATE PROGRAM EVALUATION METHODOLOGIES; (G) ENSURE THAT UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY APPROPRIATE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS; (H) HAVE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO ASSIST AND ADVISE THE PRESIDENT IN THE FORMATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF UNITED STATES STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION POLICIES AND ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAMS, INFORMATION, AND INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING; AND (I) ENSURE THE USE OF ALL RELEVANT FORMS OF INTERNET-BASED COMMUNICATION IN SUPPORT OF THE MISSIONS DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (E) AND THE STRATEGY DESCRIBED IN SECTION 6.
    Public diplomacy is ripped out of the State Department…[and w]hat is left is public affairs that largely operates reactively, by press release sans context, and largely under the theory that one can and must inform without influence.
    FAIR POINT ABOUT PUBLIC AFFAIRS, BUT THE BROWNBACK LEGISLATION SAYS NOTHING ABOUT HOW PUBLIC AFFAIRS SHOULD BE CONDUCTED AT DOS.
    Public diplomacy and strategic communication elsewhere in USG remains untouched even as it is ripped from State.
    NO. TO BE SURE, “THE DIRECTOR MAY NOT INITIATE, TERMINATE, OR MANAGE ANY PROGRAM OR ACTIVITY OF ANY OTHER COMPONENT OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE HEAD OF THE RELEVANT DEPARTMENT OR AGENCY.” BUT: THERE ARE A FEW OTHER PROVISIONS THAT, UPON CLOSER READING, INDICATE THAT OTHER AGENCIES ARE BY NO MEANS NECESSARILY “UNTOUCHED.” TO MENTION BUT ONE: “NOT LATER THAN 60 DAYS AFTER THE DATE OF THE ENACTMENT OF THIS ACT, THE PRESIDENT SHALL SUBMIT A REORGANIZATION PLAN AND REPORT TO THE APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES REGARDING— (1) THE TERMINATION OF THE AUTHORITIES OF THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY; (2) THE TERMINATION OF THE BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS; (3) THE TRANSFER OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY FUNCTIONS AND PERSONNEL FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE TO THE CENTER; AND (4) ANY RECOMMENDATIONS TO TRANSFER OTHER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS FUNCTIONS TO THE CENTER FROM ANY PART OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.” ANOTHER RELEVANT PASSAGE IS SECTION 5 (M): “DETAILEES.—THE SECRETARY OF STATE, THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, AND THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, IN CONSULTATION WITH THE DIRECTOR, SHALL ENSURE THAT AT LEAST 1 INDIVIDUAL FROM EACH DEPARTMENT OR OFFICE IS ALWAYS DETAILED TO THE OFFICES OF THE ASSISTANT DIRECTORS…” THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS ARE THEREBY REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE REGULARLY.
    The advisory panel is inadequate. The military, ironically, operates completely opposite from the American public. Whereas John Q. Public looks at the law as guidance of what cannot be done, the military constantly refers to law (and strategy documents) to see what they can do. There must be a channel established to permit and even encourage, but not necessarily legislate (which is what they want to avoid), the military to use the NCSC.
    THIS IS NOT CLEAR TO ME. LEAVING ASIDE THE COMMENT ABOUT THE MILITARY, WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER AN ADEQUATE ADVISORY PANEL, MATT?
    The necessary professionalism in international engagement is not addressed. A motivator behind this bill were VOA Iran broadcasts and arguments that feature selection was based on objectivity. The bill must focus on professionalism. VOA staff, BBG staff, etc are by and large a very professional bunch. A major purpose of the Smith-Mundt Act was to make permit America’s international broadcasting to raise the level of professionalism because, while well-intentioned, the quality was at times poor and the messages possibly counter-productive.
    “OBJECTIVITY” IS A CRITICAL PART OF AMERICAN PUBLIC DIPLOMACY, AND THE BILL FULLY RECOGNIZES THIS. SPECIFICALLY REGARDING VOA, THE BILL READS AS FOLLOWS: “THE LONG-RANGE INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES ARE SERVED BY COMMUNICATING DIRECTLY WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD BY RADIO. VOICE OF AMERICA CAN ONLY BE EFFECTIVE BY WINNING THE ATTENTION AND RESPECT OF ITS LISTENERS. (B) GOVERNING PRINCIPLES.—TO ACCOMPLISH THE OBJECTIVES DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (A), VOICE OF AMERICA SHALL PRESENT THE POLICIES OF THE UNITED STATES CLEARLY AND EFFECTIVELY, INCLUDING PRESENTATIONS OF RESPONSIBLE DISCUSSIONS AND OPINION REGARDING THESE POLICIES.”
    A link to capacity-building is required. Foreign audiences often need to see and receive capacity-building to appreciate the “them versus them” discourse. They need development assistance, electricity, etc.
    AMEN! (MATT, YOU’VE JUST TOUCHED ON MY FAVORITE ISSUE., AS YOU KNOW FROM OUR CONVERSATION. IT’S WHAT INSPIRED ME TO WRITE MY BOOK “WHY AMERICA IS SUCH A HARD SELL.”) THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE LEGISLATION, SINCE THE DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DIRECTOR INCLUDE THIS CRITICAL ONE: TO “(G) ENSURE THAT UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY APPROPRIATE STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS.” A FEW WORDS BUT SO MUCH HANGS ON THEM. THE DIPLOMACY OF DEEDS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL!
    Private media support should be expanded as domestic media, especially, pulls back from international coverage. The Smith-Mundt Act legislated that private media be used whenever possible. The Informational Media Guarantee, a supplement to the Smith-Mundt Act put into the Marshall Plan, helped get U.S. media products, from newspapers to Disney films, overseas. This should be expanded.
    INDEED; AND THE LEGISLATION FULLY SUPPORTS THAT.. TO WIT, IT MANDATES “(5) MAKING GREATER USE OF PARTICIPATION FROM PRIVATE SECTOR ENTITIES, ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS, NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS, AND OTHER NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORTING STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS. (6) USING ALL AVAILABLE FORMS OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY.”

  2. Hill and Knowlton and Mountainrunner Blogs posts this week highlight the power of one: As we get one on board with our cause, they tell two more. This is how we will really win hearts and minds. In a many ways we are in a generational struggle that will be won individual at a time. At a recent CFR event on faith and foreign policy, there was a great conversation about how educational exchanges have moved a discourse in the Muslim world in some circles towards a discussion of separation of faith and State. Though such programs are small and impact on only a few of the elite, the residual effect is great. The idea that we win over one person at a time helps us to appreciate that there is no effort too small. In fact individuals engaged in this debate over agency, liberty and human rights may be more effective than large government programs designed to reach broad audiences. A conversation between two individuals will often have far greater impact than anything that can be broadcast via the traditional media. We each should understand the power of one in this battle for hearts and minds. Lets take courage and get to work.

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