VOA on The Daily Show (Updated)

Briefly, opening with “I got a hold of your show on the web and I was so impressed with the heart of it,” Jon Stewart began his interview with Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, two U.S. Government employees – and U.S. public diplomats – behind “Parazit”, a Voice of America program aimed at Iran. The interview, embedded below, followed a brief clip from the show.

Under current law, amended from its original form, if The Daily Show had requested permission from the U.S. Government to broadcast the clip it would have been denied. More on that below.

Two comments. First, kudos to VOA’s Persian News Network’s “Parazit” for the recognition. Jon Stewart said to Hosseini and Arbabi, “you’re like our show but with real guts” and “I’m proud to be considered in the fraternity of humorists that you guys are in.”

Second, Jon Stewart once again went to where little media has gone before: an examination of U.S. Government broadcasting – in this case, with high compliments – for the purpose of increasing American awareness in the same. This right of review, to become aware of what we’re doing abroad and why, to allow media within the borders of the United States access and permission to comment and rebroadcast or reuse material as they – in this case The Daily Show – see fit was the intent of Congress over six decades ago when the law was originally debated and passed. Today, however, it was against the law for VOA to make the material available to The Daily Show under the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, as amended. At one time, the material the Act covers was deemed as exempt from requests under the Freedom of Information Act. 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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Whither public diplomacy?

For the practice, theory and organization of public diplomacy, is it helpful for the activities of a foreign government – or non-governmental organization for that matter – in the United States (or elsewhere) to be labeled as public diplomacy? Applying this label could contribute to increased understanding of public diplomacy’s methods and value in the Congress, the White House, the public and the media? Or it could be a harmful link to foreign “propaganda” and our own engagement efforts abroad?

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Opportunity: Congressional Research Awards

From the Dirksen Congressional Center:

The Dirksen Congressional Center invites applications for grants to fund research on congressional leadership and the U.S. Congress. A total of up to $35,000 will be available in 2011. Awards range from a few hundred dollars to $3,500. Stipends will be awarded to individuals (not organizations) on a competitive basis. Grants will normally extend for one year. In some circumstances, the Center will make more than one award to a single individual in consecutive years, but not more than three awards to the same person in a five-year period.

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Event: Will Wikileaks Transform American Diplomacy?

This at 4pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011, the Burkle Center at UCLA will host the second of their three-part series on Wikileaks.

The panelists will consider the implications of WikiLeaks’ latest release for American diplomacy. Have the media played a responsible or even defensible role by releasing these diplomatic cables? What will be the effect on the future relationship of the media and American diplomats in particular and the media and the American government in general? Are the media supposed to protect the establishment or act as a watchdog in the public interest?

The panelists are Geoffrey Cowen and Ambassador Derek Shearer. The moderator is Kal Raustiala.

More information, including RSVP is at the Burkle Center website.

I’ll be there.

The third part of the series is entitled “What are the Legal Implications of Wikileaks?” This will take placed Wednesday, 26 January 2011, at 12:15pm at the UCLA Law School. The moderate is again Kal Raustiala and the panelists are Norman Abrams, David Kaye, Jon Michaels, and Eugene Volokh (blog). RSVP for Part III here.

Cynthia Schneider on Holbrooke and Rembrandt

For another perspective on the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, read Ambassador Cynthia Schneider’s description of her first meeting with him in 2000. The context Holbrooke’s arrival in the Netherlands for the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Holbrooke was the U.S. envoy to the UN and Cynthia was U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands. The result is a demonstration of a Renaissance Man.

Having heard about Holbrooke’s formidable reputation, I had prepared myself to answer any and every question about the Tribunal, but was completely taken aback when the man who had tamed Milosevic asked me about Rembrandt.

Read the whole, brief article here.

Pop Quiz: identify the author or the name of the report and win an Amazon Gift Card

The problem with history, I’m told Mark Twain said, is that it repeats. Be the first to identify the source of the following statement and I’ll email you a $10 gift card Amazon.com. Answers must be submitted in the comments of this post. You may answer anonymously, but if you want the gift card, I’ll need your email. Email addresses entered into the appropriate comment field are not public. This contest closes Wednesday, 19 January, at 8a PT. I have sole discretion in judging the contest. This contest is closed.

Here’s the quote:

The adequacy with which the United States as a society is portrayed to the other peoples of the world is a matter of concern to the American people and their Government. Specifically it concerns the Department of State. Modern international relations lie between peoples, not merely governments. Statements on foreign policy are intelligible abroad in the spirit in which they are intended only when other peoples understand the context of national tradition and character which is essential to the meaning of any statement. This is especially true of a collaborative foreign policy which by nature must be open and popular, understood and accepted at home and abroad.

The full answer and the context will be posted when either a winning entry has been submitted or the contest closed. Good luck. I believe this will be more challenging than the first contest, which was won in less than 40 minutes. Good luck.

Revisiting the Civilian Response Corps

The Small Wars Journal recently published a paper from Mike Clauser, a friend who was until recently on the staff of Rep. Mac Thornberry, Republican from Texas (no, his departure was unrelated to the paper). The paper, entitled “Not Just a Job, an Adventure: Drafting the U.S. Civil Service for Counterinsurgencies,” is an interesting recommendation to fill the empty billets of the Civilian Response Corps.

In 2007 and 2008, I wrote several posts on the Reserve Corps concept and on the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), including one for Small Wars Journal entitled “In-sourcing Stabilization and Reconstruction” (and posted on MountainRunner here). I also met with now-retired Amb. John Herbst, who headed S/CRS, several times to discuss S/CRS, the Reserve Corps ideas and other topics. So this is an issue I’ve delved into, at least at the conceptual level.

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Yes, there is No Smith-Mundt Act in India, nor anywhere else (except Japan?)

My colleague John Brown notes in a post that there is “No Smith-Mundt Act in India.” The context was an article by Rajiv Bhatia in which Bhatia wrote Indian diplomats that “rightly maintain that public diplomacy has to do with both foreign an domestic audiences.” 

John’s reference to the Smith-Mundt Act is the artificial division of the world between domestic and foreign based on America’s political border. This senseless division is what common understanding of the effect – and purpose – of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, as amended. To say this means the Act prevents the Government speaking to Americans is misleading – as is most discussion surrounding the Act – as the division is not on audience but geography.

In John’s post, he points us to comments by a Foreign Service Officer regarding the Smith-Mundt Act. These comments require clarification, as they are misleading and not entirely accurate (as I said, most discussion about the Act is ill-informed or inaccurate). Words matter here, which is perhaps ironic considering the Act provide the foundation authorization to use words (among other means of communication) with global audiences (yes, global).

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RFE/RL President Jeff Gedmin to Depart for Legatum Institute

imageThe Broadcasting Board of Governors announced this morning that Jeff Gedmin has resigned from RFE/RL. Jeff will depart Prague-based RFE/RL at the end of February 2011, four years after taking the helm. He will leave to become the CEO/President of Legatum Institute in London, “investors in industries, individuals and ideas.”

Jeff told Josh Rogin that it was “the right time to move on because if I’m telling my people to step out of their comfort zone and be open to growth, I have to be able to take my own advice.”

Walter Isaacson, chairman of the BBG, said in a statement, “Jeff’s passion for the power of the truth has been a great inspiration for all of us involved in international broadcasting.” Walter added that the “Board looks forward to Jeff serving as a valuable adviser in the future.”

Dennis Mulhaupt, member of the BBG and chairman of the corporate board of RFE/RL, described Jeff as “an exceptional leader of RFE/RL over the past four years.”

RFE/RL is part of the domain overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors but operates more independently than the Voice of America. RFE/RL was established in in 1950 as Radio Free Europe (RFE). In 1976, Radio Liberty (RL) and RFE merged. Today, RFE/RL broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries, as well as maintaining a robust online presence that is underappreciated. According to RFE/RL, it has over 400 full-time journalists, 750 freelancers and 20 local bureaus.

I wish Jeff the best and congratulate him on leaving RFE/RL better and stronger than when he started.

PUBD510: Technologies and Public Diplomacy, starts this Friday, possibly (but very unlikely) near you

Modern means of communication…has opened up a new world of political processes. Ideas and phrases can now be given an effectiveness greater than the effectiveness of any personality and stronger than any sectional interest.

This Friday is the first meeting of PUBD510: Technologies and Public Diplomacy, the graduate class I’m teaching this semester at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. This will be the second semester teaching this subject.

The syllabus is available here (and is subject to change).

I’ve structured the class to be a practical education on the conceptual, structural and practical realities of engaging audiences in today’s information and human environment. Technology, whether telegraph or Twitter, plays a role in communicate with and among people, but it does not work in a vacuum. My goal is to empower the students to influence decision makers, from DC to the field, through increased understanding of the holistic environment, from authorities to bureaucracies to technologies to relevant audiences (or, if you wish, participants or stakeholders).

If you have any recommendations on improving the syllabus, don’t hesitate to share them, either in the comments below or through email.


By the way, the above quote comes from H.G. Wells. More specifically, it comes from an article Wells wrote on China as part of a specially commissioned series for the paper generally titled “The Way the World is Going. The article, entitled “A New China Stirs the World,” was published on January 23, 1927.

False flag: social engineering the social network of IO professionals

Some colleagues are reporting a phishing expedition to identify and engage Information Operations experts on LinkedIn. They’ve reported invitations from “George W.” who purports to be “Colonel Williams”, an “IO professional” in the DC area.

Invitations, with a number of wording variations, has been received by a number of active duty IO personnel recently.  Investigation by several others has shown that the profile is for a nonexistent person.

In short, be careful who you let into your social network. While you may not be passing along explicit data, bringing an unknown into your network allows the phisher – who may be a hacker, a curious teenager, looking for the next Wikileaks source or a foreign government – to explore and learn from your network. By bringing the person in, you impart a degree of trust the phisher will certainly leverage to gain additional access.

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Call for papers: Strategically Managing America’s International Communication

imageThe U.S. Army War College is co-sponsoring a special issue "Public Relations Review" titled "Strategically Managing America’s International Communication in the 21st Century."

This special issue’s editors are:

  • Ray Hiebert, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
  • Frank Kalupa, Professor, James Madison University
  • Dennis Murphy, Professor, Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War Colleg

The editors encourage the submission of empirical, conceptual, quantitative and qualitative manuscripts are encouraged along with case studies explicating instructive strategic communication practices. Relevant topics might include cultural considerations, persuasion versus propaganda, ethics, policy influences, messaging, professional training and development, traditional and social media, public opinion and perceptions, reputation, measurement and evaluation, international collaboration, transparency, credibility or the application of social science among other related areas.

All manuscripts will undergo blind peer review.

For more information or to submit a manuscript, contact:

The author’s guide for Public Relations Review is available here.

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #54 (by Bruce Gregory)

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

January 3, 2011
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 Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University

Continue reading “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #54 (by Bruce Gregory)

Event: The Role and Relevance of Multilateral Diplomacy in U.S. Foreign Policy

The American Foreign Service Association (“The Voice of the Foreign Service”) is convening a new series of events linked to the cover story on its monthly flagship publication, the Foreign Service Journal. The first event highlighting the December 2010 FSJ article on multilateral diplomacy will take place at 3p on 11 January at AFSA. A panel to discuss the topic “The Role and Relevance of Multilateral Diplomacy in US Foreign Policy” will include:

  • Dr. Esther Brimmer,  Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Member of House Foreign Affairs and outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight.
  • Brett Schaefer, Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.
  • Retired Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Molly Williamson will moderate.

RSVPs are required, and should be sent to events@afsa.org by January 10.

AFSA is located at 2101 E St NW, Washington, DC 20006.

Barry Zorthian, public diplomacy legend, passes away at 90

imageA legendary member of the old guard of public diplomacy passed away December 30 at the age of 90. Barry Zorthian, seen at right at the 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium, had a long career in the service of the United States and the media. I’m honored to have known Barry over the past two years.

Barry was born in Turkey in 1920. Emigrating with his family to the US, he graduated from Yale University in 1941 and joined the US Marine Corps, serving as an artillery officer in the Pacific Theater. After the war, Barry worked at CBS Radio in New York and earned a law degree from New York University. He also worked for the Voice of America for 13 years with Voice of America, first as a reporter, then an editor and finally as program manager.

In 1964, after three years in India for the State Department as a deputy public affairs officer. Back then, the public affairs officers worked for the United States Information Agency (or Service as it was known outside the US). Edward R. Murrow, as USIA Director and thus Barry’s boss, asked Barry to head the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office in Vietnam. Barry would say this was the first (and largest ever) joint State and Defense public affairs office. According to Barry, to get around the concern based on Smith-Mundt that the USIA should not be speaking to the US public, Barry was transferred to the State Department and USIA reimbursed State for his pay.

Barry Barry retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Colonel in 1973, served as Vice President of Time Inc. (now Time Warner) and served on the Board for International Broadcasting with jurisdiction over Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

In July 2010, his wife Margaret Aylaian Zorthian, died. They had been married for 62 years. Barry is survived by two sons, Greg and Steve.

See also: