Senator Edward Zorinsky and Banning Domestic Access to USIA in 1985

Senator Edward Zorinsky, D-NE
Senator Edward Zorinsky, D-NE 

If you’ve looked into public diplomacy or the Smith-Mundt Act, you have likely come across this quote by Senator Edward Zorinsky (D-NE), or some paraphrased reference to it:

The American taxpayer certainly does not need or want his tax dollars used to support U.S. Government propaganda directed at him or her.

Most likely, the text was standing alone and without any context of when and why the Senator said it, or perhaps even without a reference to who said it. In my experience, I have seen the quote in perhaps a dozen books, and some scholarly articles, and yet most of the time Zorinsky’s name is not given and never, not once, was a source given. The reader was left hanging.

The logical — and only — implication to be drawn from the quote when devoid of the original context was that the Government should not propagandize its people, then or today. Americans are comfortable with this idea, but the context here, like many other instances, really matters. The whole statement may cause you to reconsider what this line means.

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Recommended Reading: Kilcullen Doctrine

The Kilcullen Doctrine by Mark Safranski,, May 28, 2009

Tribal and even “civilized” rural people, often find ways of making social status distinctions that relate to behaviour and character rather than or in addition to the mere accumulation of material possessions (Col. Pat Lang has a great paper on this subject, “How to Work with Tribesmen“). We can shorthand them as “honor” cultures and they provide a different set of motivations and reactions than, say, those possessed by a CPA in San Francisco or an attorney in Washington, DC. People with “honor” are more obviously “territorial” and quick to defend against perceived slights or intrusions by unwelcome outsiders. This is a mentality that is alien to most modern, urbanized, 21st century westerners but it was not unfamiliar all that long ago, even in 19th and early 20th century, Americans had these traits. Shelby Foote, the Civil War historian, quotes a captured Southern rebel, who responded to a Union officer who asked him, why, if he had no slaves, was he was fighting? “Because you are down here” was the answer.

Mark draws from John Nagl’s superb review at RUSI and Mark’s own brilliance and deep knowledge of history.

Read Mark’s whole review of Dave Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. Also, buy Dave’s book.

See also:

Using Video to Tell a Story

Briefly, two examples of encouraging and empowering individuals to tell the story of a mission in their own way, one from Afghanistan and the other from US Southern Command.

First up is Afghanistan with Why Afghanistan Matters. Run by NATO Joint Forces Command HQ at Brunssum, Netherlands, it asks NATO military members who are or were deployed to Afghanistan to answer the question why what NATO is doing in Afghanistan is important. The video must be under 3 minutes and candidates will be uploaded to the contest YouTube channel.

Second is SOUTHCOM. Adopting an idea from the private sector (possibly UPS or FedEx), the goal is to “Tell the SOUTHCOM Story through Video”. The Command is distributed Flip Video recorders with basic rules: under 3 minutes, no nudity and no profanity (and a few others). The top 3 will be posted on the Commander’s blog.

A shared attribute of both: neither was initiated by Public Affairs.

More on these later.


Updating the Resume

I’m proud to say that as of June 1, 2009, I will be a member of the National Press Club. This interesting and welcome addition to the resume is thanks in large part to several reporters at “old” media who gave me recommendations based on the value of this blog plus sponsorship by a Director of Communication at DHS who is an NPC member.

This is probably a good time to mention that I am also proud to be a member of The Public Diplomacy Council and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

Company’s ‘ATM For Books’ Prints On Demand

On National Public Radio this morning, Company’s ‘ATM For Books’ Prints On Demand by Rob Gifford:

"Our technology now makes it possible for the printed page to move as rapidly as the electronic page," he says. "The printed book still remains overwhelmingly the dominant way books are read. I mean, I think the last statistic I saw worldwide, the electronic book is still less than a half percent. I think it will grow, but I still think the printed book will be the dominant way people consume literature."

I can think of another application.

Guest Post: Engaging Opinion Leaders for Social Change

By Nina Keim

Word of mouth has always been central to documentary films. Whether in the 19th century where the Lumière brothers needed publicity for their innovative films or in 2004 when Michael Moore got people talking about his controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. And yet, documentary films advocating for social issues often struggle to mobilize a public around an issue. One major problem is that documentary films attract audiences that are already highly interested in the issue while failing to attract non-engaged audiences. This is specifically true in today’s media environment where the number of news outlets rises every day and people can tailor their media exposure to their individual interests. Moreover, there is an increased need for specialized promotion tactics for social-issue documentaries to actively engage the audience and ultimately impact social change. Documentary filmmakers are challenged to find an adequate strategy to communicate their issue to those who are not active, engaged and interested.

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Event: 8th Annual Information Operations Europe

8th Annual Information Operations Europe
Delivering Effects through Influence Activity

June 22 – 24, London

The human terrain has proven hugely important in current conflicts and the capabilities required to influence an audience have seen major developments in recent years. The employment of private sector expertise and new media tools such as online social networking have opened up new opportunities for the IO community, yet the challenges of developing a coherent and culturally astute message remain. Messages must also be coordinated in an often complex, coalition environment and the issue of Measurement of Effect still represents a significant obstacle to progress.

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New GAO Report on Public Diplomacy is out (Updated)

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight, GAO-09-679SP, May 27, 2009. Download here (PDF, 566kb) or read online here.


The United States’ current national communication strategy lacks a number of desirable characteristics identified by GAO, such as a clear definition of the problem, desired results, and a delineation of agency roles and responsibilities. …

The United States’ current national communication strategy lacks a number of desirable characteristics identified by GAO, such as a clear definition of the problem, desired results, and a delineation of agency roles and responsibilities. …

State faces a number of human capital challenges that influence the effectiveness of its public diplomacy operations. …

Security concerns around the world have led to building practices and personnel policies that have limited the ability of local populations to interact with Americans inside and outside the embassy. …

[GAO] provided a draft of this report for review and comment to State, BBG, USAID, and DOD. Each agency declined to provide formal comments. State, BBG, and USAID provided technical comments, which we incorporated in the report, as appropriate.

The report includes a Strategic Communication (not “public diplomacy”) budget breakdown:


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Are you monitoring the Now Media environment?

Ah, the days when your public affairs or public relations department could sit back and watch the wire for potentially adverse headlines that you could formulate a response after several meetings over the next day. The world isn’t so simple or, more to the point, so slow.

Simply put, you can’t ignore new media just like you can’t ignore old media as both intermingle in each other’s world amplifying “news” (quotes intentional), creating reach as information shoots around the world through radio (even on the back of motorcycle), television, in print, SMS, let alone Twitter. That same information is persistent, hanging around and available on YouTube and through Google.

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Updating the Under Secretary Incumbency Chart

Judith McHale was sworn in as Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs this morning of May 26, 2009. This means it’s finally time to update the Under Secretary tracking spreadsheet.

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Sworn In Resigned Days in Office Days Position Vacant Total Days %
Evelyn Lieberman (Clinton) 10/1/1999 1/20/2001 477      
  1/21/2001 10/2/2001   254    
Charlotte Beers (Bush) 10/2/2001 3/28/2003 542      
  3/29/2003 12/16/2003   262    
Margaret Tutwiler 12/16/2003 6/30/2004 197      
  7/1/2004 7/29/2005   393    
Karen P. Hughes 7/29/2005 12/14/2007 868      
  12/15/2007 6/4/2008   172    
James K. Glassman 6/5/2008 1/16/2009 225      
  1/17/2009 1/20/2009   3    
  1/21/2009 5/25/2009   124    
Judith McHale (Obama) 5/26/2009   1      
Since USIA-State Merger     2310 1208 3518 34%
Bush Administration     1832 1084 2916 37%
Obama Administration     1 124 125 99%
Today: 5/26/2009          

Now can we set a timer on when the deeply problematic bureaucratic and functional division between public affairs and public diplomacy within the Under Secretary’s office will be eliminated? Will Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley work for the Under Secretary who does have the “and Public Affairs” in her title? I suppose it depends on the direction and empowerment of “R”, which remains unclear but there are signs it could change sooner than later

Event: Journalists’ Roundtable Discussion on Afghanistan and Pakistan


Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Moderated By:
Bob Schieffer
Anchor, CBS News’ Face the Nation

Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Associate Editor, Washington Post; Author, Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Lara Logan
Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent & 60 Minutes Correspondent, CBS News

Hisham Melhem
Washington Bureau Chief, Al-Arabiya

David Sanger
Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #45

Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University:

May 20, 2009
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. 
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs
George Washington University

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Off topic: updates on some of my friends…

Blogging will resume shortly. After several days in Ankara, Turkey, presenting at the NATO Center of Excellence Department Against Terrorism – subject: Treating Terrorism as the Propaganda Act It Is – I came home to be a dad (taking care of / enjoying the kids on Friday) and a husband (painting, sanding and priming metal stairs, grouting, plumbing, etc).

As author Dave Berry said, not writing is easy and it gets easier the more you don’t write. So, I’ll start of this first post in a while with something completely different: updates from friends that have nothing to do with public diplomacy or strategic communication.

Continue reading “Off topic: updates on some of my friends…

A few reading recommendations while I’m traveling this week…

I’m traveling this week so it is very unlikely there will be any new posts on the blog. In the meantime, I recommend the posts below. Also, feel free to review and comment on previous posts here:

  • A major setback in the war of ideas by Peter Feaver. First serious re-dress of Thom Shanker’s odd article that read more like a hit piece than serious journalism. Left unanswered is Feaver’s question: ok, so now how will Defense connect with State, especially Public Diplomacy, and the rest of Government? Also, serious questions remain how Michèle Flournoy plans reshape policy to satisfy the requirements Secretary Gates has established.

Turning a missed opportunity into a negative (Updated)

Read U.S. Running Out of Time to Join Shanghai Expo by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post. This story is a window in the Bush Administration’s view of public diplomacy and, unfortunately, the failure to aggressively prioritize and repair public diplomacy since January 20th.

Also read Adam Minter’s post at Shanghai Scrap about the debacle (h/t Jim Fallows):

Late yesterday afternoon Expo 2010 organizers announced that all national pavilion construction work must begin by June 30. Those who miss the deadline will not be allowed to build their own pavilions, and must instead seek space in a “standardized” pavilion or use a common pavilion. The statement didn’t single out any particular country, but the target of this ultimatum is unmistakably the United States which, along with Andorra and Columbia, is the only country with Chinese diplomatic relations that has not confirmed for the Expo – and perhaps the only nation to have missed multiple fundraising and construction deadlines (set by itself, no less). …

… the authorized US pavilion group has only raised $1.5 million of their $61 million budget. The poor fundraising record only hints at the recent disarray and disagreements that have plagued the inexperienced US effort.

And it’s not the only point of disagreement on fundraising that exists within the authorized group, either. Late last month, in two telephone calls for a story that I published in the Atlantic, co-chair Nick Winslow claimed that the “authorized” group had borrowed money from the Chinese government to pay for the pavilion design and site preparation work after it had run out of money (a story that Winslow has told to others). Then, today, in the same Washington Post story, the authorized group claims, instead, that a “Chinese construction company provided the funds for engineering work.” It’s worth noting that the Expo 2010 organizing committee is a branch of the Chinese government, and it maintains a list of “preferred” service providers, including a large number of state-owned construction firms. Presumably, a private firm isn’t going to extend credit to a US non-profit that’s shown itself incapable of raising money – unless somebody is guaranteeing the loan.