Posts and articles worth your attention.

Smith-Mundt and Domestic Dissemination by Darren Krape (3 March 2009)

This post grew out of the recent Smith-Mundt Symposium… First my general read-out of the event is that the issue remains quite contentious and with little overall agreement. Many argue the law should be kept, or even strengthened (and its remit expanded to the entire U.S. government) while others argue it should be completely repealed. A third group feel the argument is pointless since the law is out-dated and should be ignored, which can be done since, in the end, there are no “Smith-Mundt police” to arrest anyone for violating the law.

State’s Wrong Turn on the Information Highway by Scott Rauland (560kb PDF) (Sept 2008)

Many of us who have been involved in the State Department’s information outreach efforts since the very first days that the Internet became available as a tool for U.S. missions overseas are concerned that the department is falling steadily behind the
technology curve and that our ability to reach foreign audiences is actually shrinking.

Social Networks Now More Popular than Email; Facebook Surpasses MySpace by Brian Solis (9 March 2009)

Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time.

Time spent on social network sites is also expanding: Across the globe in 2008 activity in ‘Member Communities’ accounted for one in every 15 online minutes – now it accounts for one in every 11.

[Important Note: “Global” for the Nielsen Online report Brian Solis quotes from is really only Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, UK, and US.]

Why Social Media is Scary by Steve Radick (11 January 2009) and Part 3 Social Media is Scary – How to Address Middle Managers by Steve Radick (2 March 2009)

Businesses and our government are structured in a very hierarchical way – everyone is part of an org chart, everyone has a boss, and everyone is working to get to the next level.  Why?  Because inevitably, the next level brings more pay, more power, more respect, and more influence.  In the current organizational structure, everyone’s role is nicely identified on the org chart and with that, there is a structured way to act.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or have been told something like, “you can’t contact him directly – get in touch with your manager first,” or “draft an email for me to send to him,” or even better, “talk to “Public Affairs and Legal to get that approved before sending it out.”

The problem with this structure is that social media renders these traditional roles and responsibilities obsolete.  It introduces unpredictability and opportunity, unauthorized emails and tremendous insights, inappropriate language and humor.  Social media gives everyone a voice, whether they want it or not.

Can The US Air Force Save Darfur? by Chris Albon (9 March 2009)

Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed by General Merill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener arguing that President Obama should establish a no-fly zone over Darfur. The idea has been proposed before, but was repeatedly shot down (pardon the pun) by humanitarian groups who (rightly) feared reprisals from the Sudanese government. However, the objections will be less vocal now that Bashir has booted 13 aid groups from Sudan after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him. Bashir also reportedly launched more air attacks.

Recommended Reading: Countering Online Radicalisation

UK-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence released their report Countering Online Radicalisation: A Strategy for Action today:

Political extremists and terrorists are increasingly using the internet as an instrument for radicalisation and recruitment. What can be done to counter their activities? Countering Online Radicalisation examines the different technical options for making ‘radical’ internet content unavailable, concluding that they all are either crude, expensive or counter-productive.It sets out a new, innovative strategy which goes beyond ‘pulling the plug’, developing concrete proposals aimed at:

  • Deterring the producers of extremist materials
  • Empowering users to self-regulate their online communities
  • Reducing the appeal of extremist messages through education
  • Promoting positive messages

Countering Online Radicalisation results from the first systematic effort to bring together industry, experts and government on the issue of online radicalisation. Its insights and recommendations are certain to be of great interest to experts and policymakers around the world.

Download the whole report here (615kb PDF).

Download the executive summary here (96kb PDF).

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #44

Below the fold is the latest list of books, articles, and websites on public diplomacy from Bruce Gregory, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome. 

Continue reading “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #44

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation comes around?

To many people interested in public diplomacy, Hollywood movies are generally seen as an important element in global engagement. Movies can inform others about our culture, for good or bad, and they can tell stories of local relevance based on shared beliefs and morals or retelling history. An generally, if not nearly completely, unknown reality was the restrictions the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation placed on the State Department’s ability to show Hollywood movies abroad. The absurd restrictions were highlighted in last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report titled “U.S. Public Diplomacy–Time to Get Back in the Game” (see this post).

The report recommended the State Department re-engage the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation to change overly restrictive licensing that severely inhibits public awareness of showings of American films by America’s public diplomats. Below are the comments from the Committee report on the terms of “negotiated” by the State Department:

Paragraph 20 of the State Department’s message regarding the [Memorandum of Understanding] to Embassies worldwide expressly notes the following were agreed to:

“The films many be screened for audiences of up to 100 people per screening.

They may not be screened for larger audiences.”

“No advertising is permitted. No specific titles or characters from such titles or producers’ names may be advertised or publicized to the general public.”

Embassy officials report they have been contacted by the MPLC when films are announced on the Internet. To avoid this, many now simply post movie showings on a bulletin board in their facilities – a perfectly painful example of how, in the age of text messaging, our government is forced to operate in methods no different from the 19th century.

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Defense Department contracts for public affairs AND public diplomacy

At what point will the Government, not just the Defense Department, understand that engaging global audiences, within the U.S. and outside, requires staff, understanding of and competency in the modern “now media” information environment? Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post:

The Army wants a private firm to provide a seven-member media team to support the public affairs officer of the 25th Infantry Division, now serving as Multi-National Division-North in Iraq — at least three media specialists, two Arab speakers, a Web manager in Iraq and a media specialist stateside.

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Are you a blogger interested in foreign affairs? Want a job?

If you like the State Department’s Digital Outreach Team and wanted to join them, you may be interested in a job offer I ran across. Orbitus, LLC, is looking for an “international blogger” to engage

global audiences online in discussions pertaining to American culture, society and foreign policy via social networking forums, blogs and chat rooms in an effort to further dialogue and promote common understanding and cultural exchange.

Continue reading “Are you a blogger interested in foreign affairs? Want a job?

Posting will resume next week

Back from DC where I gave a presentation titled "Network at Network Speed: the Power of Now Media" at an off-site for a USG (not State or Defense) organization. The presentation combined my presentations on public diplomacy and strategic communication by USG and overseas, including insurgents and terrorists and the utility of social media while understanding technology is not a silver bullet. I challenged the client to think about their product (not widgets but ideas, “hope” as the principal put it) and the value of engaging internal and external resources, clients, constituents, supporters, etc. through social media and thinking of ways to leverage the merging of “old” and “new” media.

When a presentation turns into a breaking-the-schedule over-four hour discussion engaging everybody in the room (positively), it connected.

Regular posting will resume next week, although it will be a short week with a return trip to DC beginning Thursday (this with the family: first half is a business trip for my wife and last part is business trip for me, in the middle is family time… blossoms?). In the meantime, I’ll repeat my last "while I’m away" post and again recommend the following posts if you still haven’t read them:

There have been two updates to the blog’s About page and a new logo.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report on American public diplomacy centers and programs

The GPO will issue a report Monday (March 2, 2009) from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee titled “U.S. Public Diplomacy–Time to Get Back in the Game” (2.3mb PDF modified to be searchable, see below for a more useful version). It will be the latest in a series of events from the SFRC that includes a resolution recommending changes in security policies that pulled American “libraries”, now known as the by the sterile name “Information Resource Centers”, away from possible users, an op-ed by Senator Lugar at Foreign, and a hearing titled Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World that included testimony from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon testifying, among others.
This is an interesting report with interesting and sensible recommendations. I have made, by permission of the report’s author, a “live” version of the report that is in color and includes clickable URL links. The GPO’s black and white version is a technological “marvel:” they clearly printed out the document then scanned it using a black and white scanner. They did not even make the report text searchable (tech-speak: it is an image-only PDF; will somebody tell the GPO to update their processes?). A “live” report with clickable URLs and color charts and pictures is available here (2.5mb PDF).

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Things to read while I am offline

Quotes from the Senate hearing “Engaging with Muslim Communities”

As the position of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is left vacant, possibly for a couple more weeks, the direction and even the physical location of the bureau remains in limbo. In his opening statement (14kb PDF) at the February 26 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World, Senator Lugar stated his and the Committee’s support for the future Under Secretary:

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It is time to create a center for public diplomacy discourse and research

The public diplomacy community requires a center for sharing ideas, resources, and research materials. Earlier this week I blogged about the forthcoming website and suggested the model created by the Small Wars Journal as a starting point in the development of a collaborative portal. In this post, I’ll get more specific in what is necessary for the disparate tribes that support and engage in public diplomacy, strategic communication, public affairs, media diplomacy, or simply global engagement.

Continue reading “It is time to create a center for public diplomacy discourse and research