Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy “Seen on the Web” (#47)

Quotables, Seen on the Web, and Essays (#47) was compiled by Donald Bishop, Bren Chair of Strategic Communications, Marine Corps University.



Fake news stories on the internet have hit the headlines in recent weeks – especially since the US election.  While much of the focus has been on Facebook, Google and Twitter, other popular platforms all have their own systems to enable readers to report fake news. Some are better than others, some are non-existent.  But how can you help to remove false news from the internet and what are the big platforms doing to help?

How to report fake news to social media

Alex Murray, BBC News, 22 November 2016

Many of the fake news websites that sprang up during the US election campaign have been traced to a small city in Macedonia, where teenagers are pumping out sensationalist stories to earn cash from advertising.

The city getting rich from fake news

Emma Jane Kirby, BBC News, December 5, 2016

Is “fake news” a reference to government propaganda designed to look like independent journalism? Or is it any old made-up bullshit that people share as real on the internet? Is “fake news” the appropriate label for a hoax meant to make a larger point? Does a falsehood only become “fake news” when it shows up on a platform like Facebook as legitimate news? What about conspiracy theorists who genuinely believe the outrageous lies they’re sharing? Or satire intended to entertain? And is it still “fake news” if we’re talking about a real news organization that unintentionally gets it wrong? (Also, what constitutes a real news organization anymore?)

The Cynical Gambit to Make ‘Fake News’ Meaningless

Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, December 8, 2016

Stopping the proliferation of fake news isn’t just the responsibility of the platforms used to spread it. Those who consume news also need to find ways of determining if what they’re reading is true. We offer several tips below.

Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

Wynne Davis, National Public Radio, December 5, 2016

The French Newspaper Le Monde has set up a unit dedicated to fact-checking called Les Décodeurs, reports Digiday UK. Although fact-checking is surely crucial in any professional newsroom, with the current impact of fake news there is a need to step up the efforts to counter the spread of hoaxes, says Samuel Laurent, the head of Les Décodeurs. Le Monde also plans to design a hoax-busting database which will enable readers to access information about fake sites as well as verified sites and eventually, news from fake sites would show with a red flag.

New Initiatives Against Fake News

East Stratcom Task Force, Disinformation Digest, December 9, 2016

Fake news is a real, specific problem. But in all the furor around who’s making it, who’s sharing it, its impact, and how to stop it, it’s easy to lose sight of something more fundamental: what it is. The broader the definition, the less useful the concept becomes—and it’s already verging on counterproductive.

Stop Calling Everything “Fake News”

Will Oremus,, December 6, 2016

This attack on liberal politics and an opposition party was not organized by some authoritarian state, the Republican Party  or President-elect Donald Trump. No action was taken by any Orwellian Big Brother. Nor did a government generate the doublespeak that created the Comet Ping Pong lies. Instead, this political violence emerged from a self-organized pack of irate, fear-mongering, right-wing conspiracy theorists reacting to whispers about Clinton in fake news and on social media and the Web.

Forget Big Brother. Fear Little Brother. This is who he is.

Maggie Orth, The Washington Post, December 9, 2016

. . . a growing cadre of technologists, academics and media experts are now beginning the quixotic process of trying to think up solutions to the problem, starting with a rambling 100+ page open Google document set up by Upworthy founder Eli Pariser.

How to solve Facebook’s fake news problem: experts pitch their ideas

Nicky Woolf, The Guardian, November 29, 2016

The solution started with an assistant professor of media studies, Melissa Zimdars, and her attempt to educate her students in media literacy. Zimdars teaches at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, and she created a list named “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical ‘News’ Sources.”

Fed up with fake news, Facebook users are solving the problem with a simple list

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, November 16, 2016

. . . spare me the nonsense about how this conspiracy-mongering is something particular to the Right, the product of a certain cast of mind cultivated by Fox News and talk radio. The Left loves a good conspiracy theory and a good fake fact: You all know that dirty hippie who won’t shut up about how vaccines cause autism, who can’t define the word “macrobiotic” but is sure that you have to eat that way in order to avoid having eleven pounds of undigested hamburger in your intestines, that a secret cabal of bankers has rigged the economy, etc.

Which Fake News?
Kevin Williamson, National Review, December 6, 2016


We need to explain to the world why millions of our fellow Americans, who people around the world rarely see in Hollywood movies or on CNN, rose up once again, in the true American spirit, to throw out the insiders, whether Democrats or Republicans, and elect an outsider. We need to explain to the world how in a free democracy those who believe themselves injured by the wealthy and the powerful and yes, by the media, can seek redress, at the ballot box. And we need to explain to the world why this happened, and why this is the heart of a free democracy.

Explaining Donald Trump to the World

Adam Powell, Public Diplomacy Council Commentary, December 1, 2016

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, The Washington Post, December 9, 2016

President Barack Obama has ordered a full review into hacking aimed at influencing US elections going back to 2008, the White House said Friday.

Obama orders review of Russian election-related hacking

Tal Kopan, Kevin Liptak, and Jim Sciutto, CNN, December 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton challenged Congress on Thursday to combat fake and misleading news on social media, using a post-election appearance to tackle an issue that gripped her presidential campaign and culminated with a shooting incident Sunday in Northwest Washington.

Hillary Clinton attacks ‘fake news’ in post-election appearance on Capitol Hill

Paul Kane, The Washington Post, December 8, 2016

. . . intelligence experts say, Russia leaked no data acquired from its Republican targets because doing so would have harmed its goal of electing Donald J. Trump as president. The professionals at the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI, reached these startling conclusions as far back as September, but when asked to form a bipartisan public front to protest this foreign intrusion, Republican leaders in Congress balked. As a result, the findings were not made public prior to the election.

Russia also hacked GOP, yet kept that data secret

Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 10, 2016

During the campaign, mentions of foreign meddling quickly became partisan and polarized, blocking any real examination of the facts, let alone a discussion of prescriptions. Even Obama administration officials seemed to tiptoe around these issues, not wanting to appear to use their privileged access to classified information to help the Democratic Party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton. But now the election is over. Before the next one, we need to know the facts — investigate what did and did not occur — so that we can develop procedures, policies and laws to strengthen the integrity of our electoral process before 2020.

Let’s get the facts right on foreign involvement in our elections

Michael McFaul, The Washington Post, December 10, 2016

The divergent messages from the CIA and the FBI put a spotlight on the difficulty faced by intelligence and law enforcement officials as they try to draw conclusions about the Kremlin’s motives for hacking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 race. Officials are frequently looking at information that is fragmentary. They also face issues assessing the intentions of a country expert at conducting sophisticated “influence” operations that made it hard — if not impossible — to conclusively detect the Kremlin’s elusive fingerprints.

FBI and CIA give differing accounts to lawmakers on Russia’s motives in 2016 hacks

Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, The Washington Post, December 10, 2016


A must-pass defense authorization bill that emerged from a House-Senate conference this week included a provision that would restructure the Broadcasting Board of Governors to concentrate power in a new expanded CEO position, according to the conference report.

Defense Bill Would Abolish BBG Governing Board: Restructuring international broadcasting arm under CEO

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable, December 1, 2016

Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread “fake news” and disinformation threaten U.S. national security.  The measure, part of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by a conference committee, calls on the State Department to lead governmentwide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years.

Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress

Craig Timberg, The Washington Post, November 30, 2016

Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military, digging deep into what they view as corrosive interference in the nation’s institutions.

Republicans ready to launch wide-ranging probe of Russia, despite Trump’s stance

Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post, December 8, 2016

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes today issued the following statement on cyber-attacks and other hostile acts by Russia:   “Russia’s cyber-attacks are no surprise to the House Intelligence Committee, which has been closely monitoring Russia’s belligerence for years—as I’ve said many times, the Intelligence Community has repeatedly failed to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions. Unfortunately the Obama administration, dedicated to delusions of ‘resetting’ relations with Russia, ignored pleas by numerous Intelligence Committee members to take more forceful action against the Kremlin’s aggression. It appears, however, that after eight years the administration has suddenly awoken to the threat.”

Nunes Statement on Russian Aggression

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, December 9, 2016

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the below statement: “It was great to welcome our Baltic allies and friends to the U.S. Capitol for a productive meeting.  We discussed a number of shared priorities, including regional security, Russia’s weaponization of information, and the importance of increasing U.S. energy exports.”

Chairman Royce Meets with Baltic Delegations

House Foreign Affairs Committee, December 7, 2016

The European Union (EU) is increasingly concerned about the use of propaganda by both state and non-state actors and has sought to devise new strategies to combat disinformation.  . . . the EP added its support to European Union efforts to counter . . . propaganda and disinformation campaigns against the EU and its member states by Russia and non-state actors such as the Islamic State terrorist organization.

CRS INSIGHT: European Union Efforts to Counter Disinformation

Vincent L. Morelli and Kristin Archick, Congressional Research Service, December 1, 2016


 In today’s world, public diplomacy can thus be even more effective than traditional diplomacy at influencing the public and garnering support for U.S. policies. The United States is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the shift toward networks and direct outreach because people want to come here. We are admired for our high-tech companies, world-class universities, international tourist destinations, reputation for innovation, and extensive global networks of multinationals and embassies. Our use of English means we can communicate with broad swathes of the world;

Public diplomacy’s changing profile – a view from Susan Stevenson

Joe Johnson, Public Diplomacy Council Commentary, November 29, 2016


For years, members of Congress have fumed about what they regard as ineffective U.S. public diplomacy, including the failure of broadcasting operations such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to match the reach and apparent influence of networks such as Russia’s RT and Qatar’s al Jazeera. A frequent and arguably fair focus of criticism has been the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body created to supervise government-funded media outlets while serving as a firewall between them and the political administration of the day.

The Post’s View: A big change to U.S. broadcasting is coming — and it’s one Putin might admire

Editorial, The Washington Post, December 10, 2016

Jeff Shell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, announced at today’s open board meeting that this could be the last meeting of the BBG board.

BBG oversight of U.S. international broadcasting would end under new legislation

Adam Powell, Public Diplomacy Council Commentary, November 30, 2016

After experiencing yet another humiliation on Facebook with absolutely dismal social engagement numbers for its late posts on the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro when compared to similar Facebook posts by Russia’s RT and BBC, managers of U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) have interrupted their weekend to check on plans for VOA coverage of the story. . . . the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) . . . planning may be somewhat one-sided. Under their leadership, VOA program managers had not one but two pre-written “Hillary Clinton Wins” reports for VOA services to use on the U.S. election night on November 8 . . . .

Voice of America awakens to Castro’s death after humiliation on Facebook

Commentary, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016

 The Persian-language services of both VOA and RFE/RL have long been a disaster, mocked in Iran because they broadcast pro-Iranian regime propaganda and not the pro-freedom message they were intended to convey.  During our election campaign, for example, VOA’s Persian News Network became an outlet for hard-left-wing voices such as Noam Chomsky, who called the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in world history.” They also translated partisan screeds alleging that the Trump campaign was run by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, as if this were an established fact not wild fantasy-land libel.

The end of nation-building

Kenneth R. Timmerman, The Washington Times, November 21, 2016

Some U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) journalists working tonight are upset that their management, which is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), has arranged for a couple “Clinton will win” programs to be pre-written and made available for translation, but apparently failed to arrange for similar “Trump will win” programs to be pre-written so that VOA broadcasters could use them if Trump is the winner.

Voice of America had two pre-written ‘Clinton will win programs’; none for Trump, VOA staffers say

Commentary, BBG Watch, November 9, 2016


In 2017 and beyond, preserving and strengthening that “willingness to fight” is a part of any American grand strategy. Thus the secretary of defense’s plan to engage the American and foreign press in a way to preserve and strengthen that willingness will be extremely interesting to watch, even as it is critically important that, however Gen. Mattis decides to go about it, he succeed in his tactics.

Does Gen. Mattis have a strategy for shaping the ‘media battle space’?

Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Examiner, December 4, 2016


The Marine Corps will receive 3,000 additional active-duty troops from the current baseline of 182,000 Marines with the passage of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine commandant, said Wednesday that the service will use the troop increase to add roles to cyber, information operations, intelligence analysis, and electronic warfare capabilities.

Marines Eye More Cyber, Information Ops Roles with Troop Increase

Morgan Chalfant, Washington Free Beacon, December 8, 2016


In 1948, as the Cold War gained steam, the US Congress passed the Smith-Mundt Act, which, among other things, prohibited the domestic dissemination of materials and propaganda intended for foreign audiences to prevent the US government from targeting its own public. I came face-to-face with the first aspect of the Smith-Mundt Act as a young PhD student in the mid-1990s about to head off for my first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Is it time to plug propaganda law loophole?

Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute, August 19, 2016


. . . the broadly agreed tenets of hybrid warfare ashore include:  • Creation of real strategic effect at the tactical level (sometimes called impact of the “strategic corporal”)   • Use of “soldiers” in unmarked uniforms (sometimes referred to as “little green men”), making their actions ambiguous under international law   • Elevated use of information warfare, propaganda, and the spreading of false and highly inflammatory rumors to destabilize a region  • Heavy presence on social networks generating propaganda and lies  • Special operators acting across the entire spectrum of violence  • Use of insurgent techniques—including car bombs, torture, and kidnapping—to frighten the population  • Incorporation of nonmilitary forces—including police and carabineer—into military operations  • A sophisticated cyber campaign.  This witch’s brew of activity has proved effective in a variety of scenarios in so-called gray zones of conflict.  [Italics added]

Maritime Hybrid Warfare is Coming

James Stavridis, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 2016

Whether or not “hybrid war” is the right term — a battle probably lost for the moment —Russia is indeed waging an essentially political struggle against the West through political subversion, economic penetration, espionage, and disinformation. To a degree, this reflects the parsimonious opportunism of a weak but ruthless Russia trying to play a great power game without a great power’s resources. It also owes much to Moscow’s inheritance from Bolshevik and even tsarist practices. But a third key factor behind it is the very nature of the modern Russian state . . . .

Russia’s Hybrid War as a Byproduct of a Hybrid State

Mark Galeotti, War on the Rocks, December 6, 2016

One by one, American and allied forces have killed the most important of roughly a dozen members of the cell, which the F.B.I.calls “the Legion,” as part of a secretive campaign that has largely silenced a powerful voice that led to a surge of counterterrorism activity across the United States in 2015 as young men and women came under the influence of its propaganda.

One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program

Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times, November 24, 2016

10. SOCIAL MEDIA            

. . . diplomats say that kind of erratic messaging, if continued during Trump’s presidency, would pose a unique challenge to those trying to conduct foreign policy, and could lead to miscommunication, or worse.

Trump’s ‘Diplomacy by Tweet’ Raises Eyebrows

William Gallo, Voice of America, November 30, 2016

International challenges have to be confronted with honesty, determination and confidence, he said, and “not with slogans and with little pithy tweets” pretending to deal with the complexity of this age.  Otherwise, Kerry warned, “we will fail to be able to lead because we will not be taken seriously.”

Kerry Warns Against Conducting Diplomacy via ‘Little Pithy Tweets’

Steve Herman, Voice of America, November 29, 2016

Each year, The WorldPost joins with the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Zurich and MIT research scientist Peter Gloor to measure which thinkers and platforms are most influential on the global digital universe. . . . #1. Individuals who write and speak about religion top the list of most influential global figures of 2016. . . . #2. The influence of social media on the English-language web has surpassed that of established media platforms. . . . #3. Social media is less influential on the Spanish and German-language web than in Arabic, Chinese and English. . . . China is a Universe Unto Itself * * * * *

These Charts Show the People and Platforms Most Influential Online in 2016

Nathan Gardewls, The Huffington Post, December 6, 2016

Savvy social media strategies have helped ISIS and other terrorist organizations disperse video and images online, helping to recruit new members and inspire attacks. . . . Now the companies whose websites are used to promulgate such content are going to work together to try and block it. Using a technique known as hashing—which can ascribe a unique number to a media file—they will share records of content that each has banned from its site.

Tech Giants Are Joining Forces to Battle Terrorists’ Content

Jamie Condliffe, MIT Technology Review,  December 6, 2016


In an attempt to stem the tide of Internet fragmentation, and ensure the global movement of knowledge, ideas and innovations, some have argued that Internet access is a human right. In 2011, the United Nations declared that Internet access is a human right, as it is intrinsically tied to freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

Digital Rights: A New Diplomatic Agenda

Ilan Manor, CPD Blog, November 23, 2016


A reporter contacted me today but could not understand the concept of how Russian propaganda works.  So, please allow me to dedicate one entire blog to showing how Russian propaganda and fake news, almost interchangeable terms, work.

How Russian Propaganda Actually Works

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, December 7, 2016

If the Russian government indeed attempted to influence, disrupt or subvert the outcome [of the U.S. election] by stealing and publicizing the emails of senior Democratic officials or promoting the dissemination on social media of “fake news” damaging to Hillary Clinton, that should outrage Americans regardless of whom they supported on Nov. 8. The public has a right to know as much about any such operation as can be made public without compromising intelligence sources and methods.

Did Russia meddle in our presidential election?

Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2016

Highly planned, organized, coordinated and financed, these actions can no longer be ascribed to individuals with uncertain connections to the state. Rather, today’s Russian cyberattacks are being directly carried out by such powerful security-sector government institutions as the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Defense.

Russia Beefs up Its Offensive Cyber Capabilities

Sergei Sukhankin, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, November 30, 2016

Long an issue in Eastern and Central Europe, Western European countries are just waking up to the scope of Russian propaganda and influence as election season in Germany and France looms. It has prompted new investigations into the mechanics of Kremlin strategy and stepped-up efforts to counter fake news and promote EU democratic principles.

The EU Moves to Counter Russian Disinformation Campaign

Kavitha Surana, Foreign Policy, November 23, 2016

Today, 25 years after the Soviet collapse, Russia is again seen as an emblem—this time of a nationalist imperial order. And just as in the 1930s, its isolationism does not prevent it from being involved in the global populist, anti-establishment trend. The Kremlin’s bet on marginal right-wing parties has paid off as they have moved into the mainstream. It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump.

The motherlands calls: Russian propaganda is state-of-the-art again

The Economist, December 10, 2016

Hacking is not only a good way to get real information, like the emails of the D.N.C., but a relatively easy and usually untraceable way to plant fake information. For example, when unidentified hackers last year broke into the computers of a government research center in Lithuania, they stole nothing, but planted bogus reports on its website that the country’s stoutly pro-American president had worked as an escort and K.G.B. informer while a student in Leningrad during the Soviet era.

Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography Is Planted to Ruin Them

Andrew Higgins, The New York Times, December 9, 2016

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency on Thursday reported a striking increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing German society, and targeted cyber attacks against political parties.  “We see aggressive and increased cyber spying and cyber operations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament and employees of democratic parties,” Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV spy agency, said in statement.

Germany sees rise in Russian propaganda, cyber attacks

Reuters, December 8, 2016

The key words in Russia’s new information security doctrine, which President Putin approved on Tuesday, are “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”. The sixteen-page document returns to this concept at three key points, making it clear that “preservation” of these values is a matter of “national security”. We also learn that these values are at risk of being “undermined” from abroad, “primarily among young people”, and that these attempts should be “neutralised”. The document does not specify what these values are.

“To preserve traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”

East Stratcom Task Force, Disinformation Digest, December 9, 2016

All sites were very similar: catchy headlines, no authors credited for the articles, no contacts to the newsroom. And promoting messages that are known to be in line with pro-Kremlin narratives: disloyalty to the state, calling for the parliament to be sacked and giving the impression that everything is bad in Latvia.

“The Moscow Connection”

East Stratcom Task Force, Disinformation Digest, December 9, 2016

. . . these flimsy allegations . . . also provides a clear look at the kinds of distribution networks the Kremlin uses to take advantage of the Internet’s chaotic flow of information. Chaos here is key; when it comes to Russian “information war” tactics, their philosophy can be summed up by the old adage that if you sling enough shit, eventually some of it will stick.

How Russian propaganda spreads online

James Neimeister, The Daily Dot, January 19, 2015

Kremlin-backed news outlet RT is set to receive an extra $19 million in state funding over the next two years, the Russian government announced Thursday. The 1.2 billion ruble bonus is to help the channel with “a number of language tasks,” according to Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin. The outlet currently provides services in English, Russian, Spanish, French and German.

Kremlin Boosts Budget for TV Channel RT

The Moscow Times, December 1, 2016


As the UK Governments anti-extremism mechanism Prevent, set up to prevent ideologically driven terrorist attacks in the UK, continues to attract public attention from organisations and individuals stemming from inaccurate accusations of its anti-Muslim approach to counter-extremism, one needs to look no further than to yesterday’s report published by the Policy Exchange think tank “Unsettled Belonging: A survey of Britain’s Muslim communities”, which renders such claims as utterly erroneous.

Survey finds that Prevent is widely supported amongst British Muslims

Magnus Roar Bech, Quilliam Foundation Blog, December 2, 2016


China will fine anyone who spreads fake news in its western region of Xinjiang, state media has reported, as part of new measures to maintain stability in an area prone to ethnic unrest. . . . . The new rules, adopted by Xinjiang’s regional parliament, allow for fines of as much as 500,000 yuan ($72,700) for website operators who create, compile, spread, release or copy information considered harmful or false.  The definition of such content includes anything “harmful to national security”, “destructive of religious harmony”, that “spreads ethnic hatred and division” or “seeks to overthrow the socialist system”, the Communist Party’s official paper, the People’s Daily, reported on its website late on Wednesday.

China imposes hefty fines for fake or harmful news in Xinjiang

Reuters, December 8, 2016

WeChat, a Tencent Holdings product that is China’s biggest social-networking app, said in a late-November report that so far in 2016 it had disabled over 1.2 million links to “rumors,” deleted 200,000 articles containing rumors and fined the holders of about 100,000 accounts for creating and spreading rumors. Tencent declined this week to explain the details of the report or make its executives available for comment.

Fake News Is Rampant Even Under Tight Chinese Filters

Li Yuan, The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2016

Myth No. 5 — China’s anti-American propaganda doesn’t matter. * * * Wrong. Attacking America did matter to the communists; it was a centerpiece of their ideology. Four decades later, this remains the case. The occasional official has worried about the U.S. tendency to ignore the avalanche of anti-American claptrap in China’s media or our willingness to allow Chinese officials to operate in the United States in ways that run counter to our values.

Five myths about U.S.-China relations

John Pomfret, The Washington Post, December 9, 2016


Finally, the United States should ask Congress to approve major increases in personnel and budgets for all aspects of North Korea policy. These include defense, intelligence, diplomacy, sanctions implementation, human rights, and public relations, including getting more outside information to the North Korean people.

North Korea Policy: Recommendations for the Trump Administration

David Straub, Korea Economic Institute of America Academic Paper Series, December 7, 2016

. . . anyone with an interest in reducing the threat that the Kim regime poses to its own people and to the rest of the world should find ways to support the distribution of foreign information and media in North Korea. Traditional diplomacy and sanctions have failed to push Kim toward political and economic reform and away from saber rattling and defiance. For decades, some of the world’s most persistent and skilled negotiators have sought to engage, entice, and coerce him, his father, and his grandfather. But nothing has worked.

The Opening of the North Korean Mind: Pyongyang Versus the Digital Underground

Jieun Baek, Foreign Affairs, November 28, 2016

Although coercion is a key element in the governing strategy of the North Korean party-state, the authorities in Pyongyang do not hold political power at the barrel of a gun alone. Control and manipulation of information are equally important tools. This paper uses the case of “re-defector” press conferences convened in Pyongyang between 2011 and 2013 to illustrate how the party-state employs an active information management strategy to buttress its rule.

The Whisper in the Ear: Re-Defector Press Conference as an Information Management Tool

Christopher Green, Steven Denney, and Brian Gleason, Korea Economic Institute of America Academic Paper Series, March 12, 2015

Mobile phones, purchased in China and using the Chinese telecom network, are smuggled back into North Korea via a friend or broker and then delivered to family and friends . . . * * * * * When examining the social impact of new information and communication technology there is a tendency to focus on the Internet. But research on poor, low-income countries and places where the Internet is limited indicates that social change in such places happens through mobile phones, which are far more influential than the Internet.

Family, Mobile Phones, and Money:  Contemporary Practices of Unification on the Korean Peninsula

Sandra Fahy, Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies vol. 26, Korea Economic Institute of America, 2015


Information . . . Mali ranks 50th in terms of cell phone ownership worldwide, leapfrogging many countries by skipping the process of laying down widespread landlines. There are several national and international television stations as well as publicly and privately funded community radio stations.  While the increase of telecommunications is a positive step for development and democracy overall, the facility with which information spreads now casts a spotlight on state actions that were previously hidden in the shadows, including highlights of unequal distribution of aid money and development projects. People who had been accustomed to living without, now have knowledge that their neighbors to the south are receiving more government services and project money, which can lead to an increased sense of disenfranchisement and potential alliances with malign actors.

Mali and Islamic Extremism: Applying Lessons Learned from Afghanistan

Rebecca Yagerman, Marine Corps University Journal, Fall 2016 (pageviews 105ff)


The [Democratic Republic of Congo] offers lessons for the international community on how not to promote democracy overseas, and of the negative consequences of under-investment in these critical projects. I . . . found little evidence of a common strategy guiding the efforts of international donors and NGOs. Hesitant to upset the Congolese government, funders avoided supporting politically-sensitive projects that might have made a difference. They also funneled their resources towards a small geographic area within the DRC, marginalizing millions of Congolese as a result.

Too Little, Too Late

Tom O’Bryan, Foreign Policy, November 29, 2016


Arab book fairs are like a giant travelling circus; no sooner does one end than publishers are boxing up books, pulling down posters, and moving their wares to the next. There are more than 15 major fairs across the region, with dozens of minor ones. This week, a reported 568 publishers are at the Kuwait international book fair, where readers, publishers, and writers are fighting back – and winning small gains – against a growing censoriousness.

‘It’s like they were selling heroin to schoolkids’: censorship hits booksellers at Kuwait book fair

Marcia Lynx Qualey, The Guardian, November 22, 2016


Over 65 percent of the [international] students [surveyed by Study in the U.S.A.] said they would be less likely to study in the U.S. if Donald Trump were elected president.  * * * FPP EDU Media, which also works with international students, released its own survey of 40,000 students in June. Those results suggested 60 percent of their students felt the same way.

Foreign Students Wary of Studying in US During Trump Presidency

Pete Musto, Voice of America, December 1, 2016


As the subject of Russian disinformation comes increasingly to the fore, it is worth remembering Herb Romerstein, who headed the U.S. Information Agency’s Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation and Active Measures from 1983 to 1989 and was the foremost American expert on this important subject.

Remembering Herb Romerstein

Todd Leventhal, Public Diplomacy Council Commentary, December 7, 2016

 Cold War on the Airwaves: ­The Radio Propaganda War against East Germany is a well-crafted and insightful history of Radio in the American Sector (RIAS), the influential West Berlin broadcasting station. Author Nicholas J. Schlosser not only explores RIAS’s relations with East German radio stations and Radio Free Berlin but also “examines RIAS’s influence on East German political culture and analyzes how the station influenced the political worldviews and language of the German Democratic Republic’s government as well as its citizens”

Book Review: Cold War on the Airwaves: The Radio Propaganda War against East Germany

Thomas I. Faith, Marine Corps History, Summer 2016 (pageviews 116-117)

In the world of literature, perhaps only Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did more [than Arthur Koestler] to expose the lies and cruelty of 20th-century totalitarianism. . . . Koestler also was one of the first European journalists to alert the continent to the genocide committed by the Nazis, which earned him brickbats from such esteemed British writers as Osbert Sitwell. Koestler’s rejection of communist principles likewise raised the public ire of such writers as George Orwell . . .

Utopias Denied: Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon at 75

Bruce Edward Walker, Religion and Liberty, v. 26, no. 4, Fall 2016

Click journalism has plenty of precedents in the history of mass media, and particularly, in the history of American journalism. That history includes a period of journalism so disreputable that it coined a term: “yellow journalism.”

To Fix Fake News, Look to Yellow Journalism

Alexandra Samuel, JSTOR Daily, November 29, 2016

The truth is that coverage of American politics, and the capital that revolves around it, is in many ways much better now than ever before—faster, sharper, and far more sophisticated. There are great new digital news organizations for politics and policy obsessives, political science wonks, and national security geeks. Today’s beat reporters on Capitol Hill are as a rule doing a far better job than I did when I was a rookie there two decades ago, and we get more reporting and insight live from the campaign trail in a day than we used to get in a month, thanks to Google and Facebook, livestreaming and Big Data, and all the rest.

Covering Politics in a “Post-Truth” Era

Susan B. Glasser, Brookings, December 2, 2016


The effectiveness of this strategy . . . . requires that the U.S. national security structure organize itself for maximum efficiency, information sharing, and the ability to function quickly and effectively under new operational definitions. . . . we need to craft an approach that specifically takes into account the following key factors: * * * 4. Ongoing and effective neutralization of enemy propaganda and information operations through the planning and execution of a comprehensive and integrated information operations and holistic civil affairs campaign in harmony with the first four tasks;

The Global Terror Threat and Counterterrorism Challenges Facing the Next Administration

Bruce Hoffman, CTC Sentinel, November 30, 2016

Reliable public information is under threat by social trends and by people in power who are exploiting vulnerabilities in the media around the globe.  That is the gist of comments from yesterday’s panel discussion sponsored by the Center for International Media Assistance. The panel – titled “Democracy and the Media Challenge in the 21st Century” — painted a picture brought to mind that movie “The Perfect Storm:” a set of conditions that add up to a lethal mix.   The old paradigm of government repression is only one part of the picture, according to panelists.

Freedom of the press and a perfect storm

Joe Johnson, Public Diplomacy Council Commentary, December 2, 2016

Abstract: Extremists have sought to exploit the latest media technology to instill fear in target populations and elicit support from sympathetic audiences. In order to aid their recruitment, they adapt their tactics and strategy and structure their organizations accordingly. Recent rapid technological change that allows terrorists to reach a large audience quickly and directly has enabled them to achieve their messaging goals without launching large-scale attacks that demand significant physical infrastructure.

The Age of Selfie Jihad: How Evolving Media Technology is Changing Terrorism

Jason Burke, CTC Sentinel, November 30, 2016

Hannah Arendt, writing in 1967, presciently explained the basis for this phenomenon: “Since the liar is free to fashion his ‘facts’ to fit the profit and pleasure, or even the mere expectations, of his audience, the chances are that he will be more persuasive than the truth teller.”

Welcome to the post-truth presidency

Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post, December 2, 2016

. . .  the proliferation of the global Internet has also elevated information warfare. Every major adversary that the United States may face in the foreseeable future puts information warfare in the front and center of their operations. . . . . The global digital media environment is a reality and will not suddenly disappear. Warfare now takes place on a global stage, and every operation must be evaluated through the lenses of different audiences: enemy, friendly, domestic, and international.

21st Century Combined Arms: Maximizing combat power flexibility, and responsiveness

The Ellis Group, Marine Corps Gazette, December, 2016

For many who subscribe to the jihadist theory of terrorism, the use of military force is first among equals, but not the only counterterrorist instrument in their repertoire. Countering extremist ideology, promoting the spread of democracy and human rights, and maintaining a broad political coalition against jihadism all have their place, but these are secondary.

Asking the Right Questions: A Framework for Assessing Counterterrorism Actions

Jonathan Schroden, William Rosenau, and Emily Warner, Marine Corps University Journal, Fall 2016 (pageviews 79ff)

This approach divides the space of possible COIN efforts into four quadrants: physical force vs. insurgent support . . . political or moral efforts against insurgents supporters (efforts focused on reducing the motivation to provide support, by increasing the legitimacy of the government, promoting development, or offering other forms of reform or redress), moral and political efforts aimed at the active insurgents (offers of amnesty, offers of power-sharing or representation to insurgent parties, demonstrably addressing the grievances that led to the insurgency in the first place), and physical force vs. active insurgents . . .

Moving Beyond Population-Centric vs. Enemy-Centric Counterinsurgency

Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill, and Molly Dunigan, Small Wars & Insurgencies, October 23, 2016

If the United States really wants to fight foreign influence, what’s needed is a real discussion about how emotional triggering works, what foreign influence operations are, and how to fight them. Waltzman says the Pentagon is not in a good position to begin that discussion even internally, much less with the public.

The U.S. is Losing at Influence Warfare.  Here’s why

Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, December 5, 2016

The nature of our politics today . . . is that every ambitious mayor or governor of a state feels the need to create a narrative of success: build a stadium or bridge that he can slap his name on, massage the crime statistics to show civic healing, and call it good. If the reality matches the narrative, so much the better . . . . Obama and his aides certainly weren’t big on admitting shortcomings, and after the electoral wipeout they have just suffered, it looks like their most lasting impact will be to have discredited the word “narrative” among a large portion of Americans.

Requiem for a Narrative

Aaron MacLean, Washington Free Beacon, December 9, 2016

These are challenges of historic proportions. NATO, by virtue of its remit and capabilities, can only address their military dimension, even if it does so by stretching out into nontraditional fields like cyber defense and countering hybrid warfare. Many other challenges, however, are not amenable to the application of hard power. Yet they are no less urgent. Indeed, Russian nonmilitary interference – because it exploits existing vulnerabilities, is far less costly, and more difficult to attribute – is a clear and present concern. But so are the West’s own weaknesses, which it must face up to in any case.

NATO: Necessary

Constanze Stelzenmüller, Halifax International Security Forum, November 20, 2016

21. FOREIGN SERVICE PUBLIC DIPLOMACY OFFICERSRegardless of who from the ranks of Trump supporters end up with these jobs, it is not too early to say that the often-underrated Foreign Service Officer will have greater responsibility for sustaining public diplomacy, with perhaps little support from above.

The Public Diplomacy Challenge Ahead

Philip Seib, CPD Blog, November 14, 2016