Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy “Quotables” and “Seen on the Web” (#49)

Quotables, Seen on the Web, and Essays (#49) was compiled by Donald Bishop, Bren Chair of Strategic Communications, Marine Corps University.

January 9, 2017, Quotables 530-532, Seen on the Web 809-962

  9. CHINA
  10. TAIWAN


[Report]  Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution

Office of the Director of National Intelligence and National Intelligence Council, January 6, 2017

This report confirms what we already know: Vladimir Putin’s acts of aggression pose serious threats to vital U.S. interests.  The Obama administration’s response to Putin’s propaganda machine was weak and ineffective in Eastern Europe, and now we’re paying the price here at home.  The U.S. can’t continue to lose this fight.  That’s why, as Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, I will continue to make countering Russia’s weaponization of information a top priority.

Chairman Royce Statement on Russian Meddling

House Foreign Affairs Committee, January 6, 2017

Intelligence Agencies Say Russia Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ to Aid Donald Trump in Election

Shane Harris, Damian Paletta, and Carol E. Lee, The Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016

What Intelligence Agencies Concluded About the Russian Attack on the U.S. Election

Scott Shane, The New York Times, January 6, 2017 

Declassified report: Putin ordered election interference to help Trump

Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, January 6, 2017

Intel report says Putin ordered campaign to influence US election

FoxNews, January 6, 2016

Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds

Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, January 6, 2017

Report Casts Light on TV Channel’s Role in Russia’s Propaganda Efforts

Lucas K. Alpert, The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2016

Report: Kremlin Propaganda Network Attacks Fracking to Boost Russian Energy Interests

Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon, January 6, 2017

Pelosi: Russian Hacking Report Is ‘Stunning in its Conclusions’

Rema Rahman, Roll Call, January 6, 2017

— see also –

Roll Call, however, got its headline wrong, calling this a “Hacking Report” – I changed one word. If you read the article, however, the report clearly is about Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.  Hacking only contributed to the overall campaign.  Hacking and cyber are sexy words compared with influence.  They’re new, they’re hip, but they’re not the main point. Cyber and hacking by themselves accomplish nothing. It is how the information is used that makes the difference. Counter-Influence must be our focus.

Pelosi: Russian Interference Report Is ‘Stunning in its Conclusions’

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, January 6, 2017

The CIA, FBI, and NSA concluded . . . that [Russia] . . . directed a covert intelligence campaign to boost the election of Donald Trump while seeking to discredit Hillary Clinton…President-elect Trump, who was briefed on the top-secret report on Friday, stated on Twitter that he left the briefing convinced that Russian covert action had no impact on the election.

U.S. Intel Report Says Putin Led ‘Cyber-Enabled Disclosure Operation’ to Help Elect Trump, Discredit Clinton

Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon, January 6, 2017

In its “Scope and Sourcing” section, the [Intelligence] report explains that…evidence exists, but can’t be declassified. And that means the report won’t satisfy the majority of the cybersecurity community that believes Russia hacked Democratic targets but has demanded more evidence, let alone the diehard deniers of the Kremlin’s fingerprints.

Feds’ Damning Report on Russian Election Hack Won’t Convince Skeptics

Andy Greenberg, Wired, 6 Jan, 2017



Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, Statements of Chair, Ranking Member, Witnesses, Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lawmakers play nice at Russia hacking hearing

Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, January 5, 2017



 This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities. The U.S. Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity

National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, December 29, 2016

All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.  These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year.  Such activities have consequences.

Statement by the President on Actions in Response to Russian Malicious Cyber Activity and Harassment

Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, December 29, 2016

—  see also –

Issuance of Amended Executive Order 13694; Cyber-Related Sanctions Designations

Department of the Treasury, December 29, 2016

— and —




Of the many questions left unanswered by the American intelligence agencies’ accusation that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, led a multilayered campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, one stands out: Why did it take the Obama administration more than 16 months to develop a response?

U.S. Reacting at Analog Pace to a Rising Digital Risk, Hacking Report Shows

David E. Sanger, The New York Times, 7 Jan, 2017

From the parts of the report I’ve seen,” said . . . a retired Air Force colonel . . . , “it seems silly. ”There are genuine concerns about Russia’s cyberoperations, he said, but the notion that they changed the outcome of the election was absurd . . .  Of the comments he had seen from fellow Trump supporters on Facebook and in emails, he added, “90 percent of them are like, ‘What’s the big deal?’”

‘What’s the Big Deal?’ Ask Trump Voters on Russia Hacking Report

Campbell Robertson and Mitch Smith, The New York Times, 7 Jan, 2017

. . . as Trump reaffirmed this morning to the NYT, he sees the entire Russia/Wikileaks/Assange discussion in the context of a re-litigation of the election.  Would we wish it otherwise? Yes. Would we want the PEOTUS to be more reticent and less tweety? Yes. But we learned once he landed the nomination that he’s not going to stop. So, a few words — I won’t call them wisdom, but perhaps counsel: ▪ Not every tweet is policy. I don’t know how long you’ve lived in this constitutional democracy, but 140 characters saying “big tax” aren’t a big tax. Loose talk? Sure. But not policy, and the market should stop behaving like Kim Kardashian with a camera. Not every move requires a pout.

On the Trump Russia intel Twitter hysteria

Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute, January 6, 2017

The Obama administration on Friday afternoon announced that it has designated the country’s election infrastructure as ‘critical,’ a move that brings added federal protections to voting systems. . . . . The announcement coincides with a report from the Intelligence Community detailing its assessment that Russia undertook a widespread influence and cyber campaign targeted at helping Donald Trump win the White House.

DHS designates election systems as ‘critical infrastructure’

Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, January 6, 2017

Russian Intervention in American Election Was No One-Off

Scott Shane, The New York Times, January 6, 2017

Donald Trump isolates himself by living in a state of denial on Russia

James Hohmann, The Washington Post, January 6, 2017

Trump Finds That Attack-Dog Strategy Has Its Limits

Glenn Thrushjan, The New York Times, January 6, 2017

Trump after intel briefing: Hacking did not impact election outcome

Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, January 6, 2017

Fact Checker:  Julian Assange’s claim that there was no Russian involvement in WikiLeaks emails

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, The Washington Post, January 5, 2016

US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Trump to get briefing, Intel report says US identifies go-betweens who gave emails to WikiLeaks

Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Pamela Brown, CNN, January 5, 2017

The damage Russia’s meddling caused in this election has been done, and it is immense. We can only look forward to how we respond, and that must start with a full, bipartisan and authoritative accounting. A fragmented process among many committees cannot achieve that end, but a joint congressional inquiry can. That work must start now.

Russia attacked our democracy. That demands intense review by Congress.

By Adam Schiff and Jane Harman, The Washington Post, December 23, 2016

But we won’t act until we understand the seriousness of the threat. Americans are of two minds about the Internet. They love social media and gadgets, such as smartphones. Meanwhile, they hate its threat to privacy and the dangers of hacking. Putin’s gift to America is that he is forcing us to face the contradictions. He has shown conclusively that the Internet is a potent instrument of national power that can be wielded against us.

Vladimir Putin may have done us a big favor

Robert J. Samuelson, The Washington Post, December 25, 2016

Sanctions won’t deter future Russian cyber attacks not only because of Washington’s limited ability to impose costs on officials it believes ordered the hacking, but because neither side is ready to accept deterrence in the cyber domain.

Russia and America’s Cyber Deterrence Dilemma

Matthew Rojansky, The National Interest, December 29, 2016

. . . as Lenin once famously asked, what is to be done? On the one hand, it is important for people to understand that the Russian hacks were just one part of a much broader attempt to sway American opinion using propaganda methodologies they have perfected over decades, such as disseminating false news to favor one candidate over another.

Why the CIA won’t want to go public with evidence of Russia’s hacking

By Steven L. Hall, The Washington Post, December 27, 2016

In addition to hacking, Russia employed a military style “disinformation campaign” to interfere in the U.S. election, disseminating propaganda via social media and other online forums, says . . . a former senior U.S. Department of Defense cyber expert . . . . That approach “is cheaper and easier to do than in the past, and the population was ripe for it during this election,” he says. “The really interesting thing that’s happened is not hacking the actual voting mechanism but rather that they attacked the beliefs,” he adds. “It’s a lesson in how cyber attacks will work because beliefs have become as important as reality.”

How the U.S. Could Retaliate against Russia’s Information War

Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American, December 21, 2016

Germany’s foreign intelligence chief is warning of cyberattacks aimed at political destabilization as the country prepares for an election next year and says evidence suggests Russian involvement in hacking during the U.S. campaign.

Russian Links

The Associated Press, November 29, 2016

This is dangerous, and not just because there’s no evidence that Russia “stole the election.” Talking about these voting machines distracts us from what such speculation represents: the success of a broader Russian strategy to weaken Americans’ trust in democracy. . . . This election cycle, that strategy manifested itself in the Russians’ strongly alleged involvement in promoting “fake news” and disseminating hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. These emails hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and weakened Americans’ trust in the Democratic primary.

If you’re even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted

By Paul Musgrave, The Washington Post, November 28, 2016

Until recently, the phenomenon of Russian government propaganda was only interesting to a small group of Russia experts, news junkies and counter-propaganda fundraisers. It was mainly seen as a tool for keeping Russians supportive of Vladimir Putin. No longer. Thanks to post-U.S. election blame games, and the upcoming election season in Europe, how the Russian state pushes its messages to Western audiences is a hot political topic. It’s also woefully misunderstood.

How Russian Propaganda Really Works in the West

Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, November 28, 2016

But Blumenstein also asked Rogers about WikiLeaks, and the slow and steady leak of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s gmail account. “There shouldn’t be any doubts in anybody’s mind: This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” Rogers said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

NSA chief openly accuses ‘nation state’ of using WikiLeaks to tip presidential election

The Week, November 16, 2016



In the Baltic states, cyberhacking is only one of many tactics that Russia uses for malign influence. Moscow has corrupted the media space by blasting Russian-language propaganda at the region’s millions of Russian-speaking citizens. Years before the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, in 2007, a massive Russian cyberassault on Estonia simultaneously targeted the presidency, Parliament, most government ministries, banks and media organizations. The tiny Baltic state reacted by becoming an international leader in cyberdefense.

The United States must join Europe to resist Russia’s meddling

Josh Rogin, The Washington Post, January 1, 2017

America’s strategic center of gravity is public opinion, so why is it left undefended against foreign influence?

Laying Bare the Enemy’s Aims: Defending Public Opinion in the 21st Century

Mark Beall, War on the Rocks, January 2, 2017

This always makes me wonder what broader patterns we might be missing in our own lives, and I’ve come round to thinking that we might already be living through the first world cyberwar – it’s just that we haven’t acknowledged or named it yet.

We’re living through the first world cyberwar – but just haven’t called it that

Martin Belam, The Guardian, December 30, 2016

In an August appearance at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had read Gen. Gerasimov’s article three times.  “He talks about what he calls fighting a war without fighting a war—use of information, social media, disinformation, deception,” Gen. Neller said.

Behind Russia’s Cyber Strategy

Nathan Hodge, James Marson, and Paul Sonne, The Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2016

German security officials have said last year’s assault on the Bundestag’s computer network was also carried out by Russia-backed hackers seeking ammunition for electoral meddling. Earlier this month, Ms Merkel warned that there were signs of internet-based attacks and misinformation campaigns coming from Russia that could “play a role in the election campaign”.

Germans detect hand of Russia as political cyber war escalates

Stephan Wagstyl, Financial Times, December 29, 2016

“Information wars”, cyber attacks and computer hacking appear interchangeable terms . . . .  Many political professionals make the same mistake, confusing influence operations with cyber attacks.  Using the term “information war” is sexy, but cyber is only a small, minor part of IW.

Bronk: U.S. must up its game in ‘information wars’

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, December 19, 2016

A massive, ingenious, and concerning campaign of propaganda has been pumping westward for years, supporting the Russian agenda in Ukraine and Syria and likely attempting to influence the recent U.S. presidential election, said [Christropher] Paul, a senior social scientist at RAND. According to Paul, the new propaganda model—a modern, media-savvy twist on Soviet-era propaganda methods—is distinguished by four characteristics:

Beyond the Headlines: RAND’s Christopher Paul Discusses the Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’

RAND, December 13, 2016

. . . disinformation and propaganda are part of hybrid warfare; highlights, therefore, the need to raise awareness and demonstrate assertiveness through institutional/political communication, think tank/academia research, social media campaigns, civil society initiatives, media literacy and other useful actions . . .

EU strategic communication to counteract anti-EU Propaganda by third parties

European Parliament, November 23, 2016

With lawmakers poised to authorize $160 million to counter Russian “fake news” and disinformation, and the CIA and the Congress examining meddling in the U.S. election and democracies around the world, it’s time to see weaponized narrative for what it is: a deep threat to national security.

Quotable: Allenby and Garreau on “weaponized narrative”

“Yesterday’s hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee on cyber threats highlighted the fact that the United States is at war on multiple fronts with Russia, China and several lesser powers. This is not a war in the traditional sense. It involves continuous cyber intrusions into all aspects of American life: politics, economics, governance and the military. . . . . It involves a massive information warfare campaign, once called propaganda, against U.S. and allied policies and institutions.”

Quotable: Dan Goure on preparing for information warfare

. . . Soviet propaganda was tied quite rigidly to communist ideology; it was not flexible or innovative. It often used satirical elements and sometimes manifested itself in a naïve and primitive manner. This is why a considerable part of the Soviet people did not really believe it; there were even those who joked about it. Putin’s entourage has taken the mistakes of the Soviet era into consideration. Nevertheless, Soviet propaganda should not be underestimated. It was immensely important and, according to the Ukrainian information-warfare expert George Pocheptsov, was a key factor in building the country, as important as the military or special service[s].

The Kremlin’s Total Information Warfare with No Moral Boundaries

Vladimir Sazonov, StopFake, November 2, 2016



. . . the term is being used to discredit — or at least muddy the waters for — legitimate fact-checking efforts.

It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news’

Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post, January 8, 2017

Russia’s recent cyber adventures have the hallmarks of an old Soviet specialty: disinformation.  While many Americans have just awoken to the world of disinformation — sometimes known as “fake news” — in the recent presidential election, Moscow’s efforts date back decades and have become increasingly prominent over the past decade as techniques have been updated for the digital age.

How Russia’s Disinformation Campaign Could Extend Its Tentacles

Vera Zakem, National Public Radio, January 6, 2017

. . . there are already tools and systems to help digital investigations and gumshoe reporters connect the dots and discover scams. Metadata—the data about data—can provide a digital signature to identify actors on the Internet. And the Web itself allows us to examine timelines, serialize events, and identify primary sources. Some signatures are harder to find than others, but they are all there; you just need to know where to look and what to analyze.

How to Counter Fake News: Technology Can Help Distinguish Fact From Fiction

Martin J. O’Malley and Peter L. Levin, Foreign Affairs, January 5, 2017

The so-called weaponization of news that has recently been tied to Russian intelligence services plays on the human urge to note and click on trending news stories, the cyber center emphasized. The approach has the added advantages of low risk, high probability of success, minimal investment and big payoffs.  “By either compromising a legitimate news outlet and transforming it into a watering-hole site or by purchasing banner space on the site and directing the users who click to malicious sites, cyber adversaries can capitalize on society’s natural proclivity to follow media coverage of major events,” [James] Scott noted in his post.

‘Fake news’ morphs into information warfare

George Leopold,, January 5, 2017

With social media on the rise, and trust in the mainstream media in decline, an organisation could launch a devastating attack and then control the way it is interpreted by society. The more democratic the society, the more devastating the effect is likely to be.

Think hacking’s bad now? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Prospect, January 6, 2017

In discussing Western responses to Kremlin meddling in various elections and referendums around the world—and Russia’s systematic use of disinformation campaigns to undermine democratic political institutions—the first signs of an autoimmune response are emerging.

Why the West Is Failing to Counter Kremlin Disinformation Campaigns

Jacub Janda,, December 30, 2016

The truth is that while the American media landscape has been in a constant state of change over two centuries, the spread of hyperpartisan, scurrilous, and even phony news stories has been more common than uncommon throughout the history of the republic.  Ultimately, despite the increasingly Wild West state of journalism, Americans have been better at finding the truth than less free societies.

The Founders Anticipated ‘Fake News.’ Here’s What They Did About It.

Jarrett Stepman, The Daily Signal, December 30, 2016

. . . the New York Times will keep finding new national crises of unacceptable speech for social-media companies to quell. Americans will never agree on the definition of “hate speech,” “fake news,” or the latest manufactured outrage. So long as the platforms are held responsible for their users’ content, they will remain embroiled in an inexorable political struggle.

Memo to the New York Times: Definitions of ‘Fake News’ Are Subjective

Mark Epstein, National Review, December 23, 2016

In light of the rise of fake news on social media, the German Interior Ministry has proposed the creation of a “Center of Defense Against Disinformation,” according to a report on Friday from the German news magazine “Der Spiegel.”

Germany plans creation of ‘center of defense’ against fake news, report says

Deutshe Welle, December 23, 2016

On 1 January, the Czech Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CPTHH) is formally opened, within the Ministry of the Interior (MVČR). With a 20-strong staff, its main focus will be to tackle disinformation and political manipulation through the media–and yes, essentially this means Russia’s current ‘political war’ on the West–and to respond openly. My snap verdict is that this is a worthy start, but the Czechs, like other European countries, need also to move beyond this fashionable but essentially reactive approach and think more strategically and perhaps also robustly about fighting this political war.

One-and-a-Half Cheers for new Czech centre to resist Political Warfare

Mark Galeotti, In Moscow’s Shadows, December 28, 2016

It’s been less than a week since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for helping “liberate Aleppo.” But that isn’t stopping Russian propagandists—and their allies on the American fringe—from denying that civilians were bombed there at all.  Both Kremlin-backed networks and American far right websites have adopted and deployed the Western buzzword “fake news” for the very real bombings in Aleppo. Worse, they’re dubbing private American citizens “professional propagandists” for starting fundraisers in support of afflicted Syrian civilians.

Putin TV: Aleppo Slaughter Is Fake News

Ben Collins, The Daily Beast, December 28, 2016

In case you haven’t heard, patently false articles presented as factual news stories are causing a stir across the American media landscape. While we know these hoax news or fake news stories — particularly those centering around politics — are threatening our collective worldview in potentially damaging ways, we’re still struggling with who to blame and how tokeep this kind of news from spreading. A new tool aimed at showing how fake news proliferates on Twitter could help.  The software, called Hoaxy, was developed by researchers from The Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University . . .

Hoaxy Is A Search Engine That Tracks The Spread Of Fake News

Allee Manning, Vocativ, December 27, 2016

What is most striking about 2016 is that nothing—not fake news, not truth, not gossip, not porn, not even the weather forecast—appears in a context. The membrane separating the reputable from the disreputable has been ruptured, and we are just beginning to see the consequences: serious news-seekers being force-fed headlines about pizza being code for children sex-trafficked by liberal Washington elites; honest journalists being click-baited to the margins by fanatics working themselves into a lather of paranoia and hate; political discourse being sabotaged by starving trolls competing frantically for chump change.

Watch Me Lie!

Martha Bayles, The American Interest, December 21, 2016

Social media is being invaded by fake news and conspiracy theories, while mainstream outlets are obsessed with the Kremlin’s interference in the electoral politics of Western democracies. Moscow’s meddling has become a universal explanation for everything that happens on Europe’s periphery and, it seems, elsewhere, too. So it’s critical that people get the story right. But that will not be easy.

The Cold War Isn’t Back. So Don’t Think Like It Is.

Ivan Krastev, The New York Times, December 21, 2016

Among 10 “critical” management and performance challenges facing the Pentagon is boosting the military’s cybersecurity and cyber capabilities at a time when hackers from Russia and China are increasingly targeting U.S. systems—including those used by government personnel–with cyber attacks.

Key Challenges Facing Trump’s Pentagon Include Cyber, Acquisitions Management

Morgan Chalfant, Washington Free Beacon, December 23, 2016

If we have learned anything from Putin’s attack on the American political system, it is an old but vital lesson: information is power. We may soon learn how he likes a taste of his bitter medicine.

Commentary: Here’s how Obama can hit back at Putin over hacking

Tim Weiner, Reuters, December 21, 2016

But amid all the media handwringing about fake news and how to deal with it, one fact seems to have gotten lost: Fake news is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since news became a concept 500 years ago with the invention of print—a lot longer, in fact, than verified, “objective” news, which emerged in force a little more than a century ago.

The Long and Brutal History of Fake News

Jacob Soll, Politico, December 18, 2016

“If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect,” [President Obama] said echoing his warning in the closing days of the campaign that the internet had become a “dust cloud of nonsense.”

The Birth of a Narrative: ‘Fake news’ didn’t become a problem until Nov. 11

Bill McMorris, Washington Free Beacon, December 18. 2016

. . . this may sound odd for a columnist to say, but we need more reporting, less pontificating.  We should also try harder to debunk fake stories. A false story on Facebook about President Obama banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools had more than two million shares or other interactions, and a make-believe story about Pope Francis endorsing Trump had nearly one million such interactions.  When so many Americans believe false claims, we should weigh in aggressively on the side of truth.

Lessons From the Media’s Failures in Its Year With Trump

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, December 31, 2016

We saw fake news play a critical role in the public’s outcry in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. From my perspective, it was astounding that individuals and even elected officials were so loose with the truth and so unaffected by the facts.

Did ‘fake news’ play a role in Dakota Access decision?

Craig Stevens, Washington Examiner, December 26, 2016

Other reporters, editors, and anchors quickly became enamored of the idea that misinformation on social- media networks and the Internet tricked voters into supporting Trump, that America fell for a con ginned up by liars with Facebook accounts eager to make a quick buck and assisted by cybernauts in league with the Kremlin. Such was the genesis of the controversy over “fake news.”

‘Fake’ News and the Victorian Gentleman

Matthew Continetti, Commentary, December 14, 2016

The 2016 presidential race was rife with disinformation, none more blatant than fake news — hoaxes, half-truths, outright lies — that flashed through the internet at warp speed.

The reality behind Russia’s fake news

Jill Dougherty, CNN, December 2, 2016

“I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie.’ ‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”  I think Baker is mostly right about this: The media should be cautious about ascribing motive and should use the word “lie” rarely for that reason. The word “untruth” or a version of it works just fine, and it’s far easier to know whether someone spoke an untruth than to know if the person deliberately did so.

Lies, Journalism and Objectivity

David Leonhardt, The New York times, January 6, 2017

This isn’t fake news, it’s gullible news. And it just might be worse than the intentionally false fake news. “Fake news” isn’t coming from respected outlets but rather from fly-by-night websites created as virtual click farms. It lives in the Internet’s underbelly.
‘Gullible News’ Is a Worse Problem than Fake News
David French, National Review, January 4, 2017

Immediately challenge any misinformation, disinformation, and blatantly false stories with as much truth and facts as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible. Follow with deliberately researched stories bearing witness to the truth. Undermine the credibility of the sources of the misinformation, disinformation, and falsehoods by issuing periodic reviews, perhaps bi-weekly, of these sources to establish their history of untrustworthiness.

EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, May 25, 2016

[Report]  EU strategic communications with a view to counteracting propaganda




[Report] Understanding Russia Today: Russia’s Many Revisions

Frederick W. Kagan, Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute, December, 2016

[Report]  The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money

Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, Institute of Modern Russia, November, 2016

[Report]  The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses: Russian Influence in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom

Alina Polyakova, Marlene Laruelle, Stefan Meister, and Neil Barnett, The Atlantic Council, Second Edition, November, 2016

Facing very uncertain economic prospects, the Putin regime is basing its legitimacy on three pillars of the monopolistic propaganda: the defense of the motherland against alleged Western plots against Russia’s sovereignty, the brilliance of Putin’s foreign policy successes, and the relentless besmirching of Western democracies  In this latter narrative,  Russia is a separate civilization-state whose values are different – and superior– to those of the “barren and neutered” West.

Russian subversion of Western democracies is old news

Leon Aron, American Enterprise Institute, January 6, 2016

For decades, the United States, together with its allies, has enjoyed almost absolute control of the media narrative in the English-speaking world, both at home and abroad. Recently, however, the success of RT, and some other outlets, in attracting an international audience, has punched a few holes in the establishment’s complete command of the news space. Audiences have welcomed this, embracing diversity in news, because they gained access to a range of stories and opinions that often reflected the reality around them, yet were inexplicably absent in the bulletins of their local broadcasters. It is just that reality, and reporting thereof, with which the chief of American intelligence is now taking an issue.

American spies would prefer if RT didn’t report the news, thank you very much

RT, Russia Today, January 6, 2017

— and see Joel Harding’s rejoinder –

RT lies, RT publishes fake news, RT publishes disinformation, RT originates fake news which is then promulgated throughout the world on Russian proxy sites.  RT is probably part of a central coordinating body helping coordinate, synchronize, and disseminate central guidance throughout the Russian Information Warfare machine. …so yes, I would prefer RT close its doors, dry up, and blow away.  In other words, I wish RT would not report – anything. It’s not news if it’s RT.  If it’s RT it’s fake news.

American spies would prefer if RT didn’t report the news, thank you very much

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, January 6, 2017

Now is not the time to reevaluate clear truths about WikiLeaks and Russia simply because you may like the consequences of their improper actions. Nor is it the time to cast election results into doubt absent compelling evidence. It’s the time to investigate — not hyperventilate.

The Four Key Truths of the WikiLeaks Mess
David French, National Review, January 6, 2017

The reality is that our relationship with Russia will remain competitive, and often adversarial, for the foreseeable future. At its core is a fundamental disconnect in outlook and about each other’s role in the world.

How We Fool Ourselves on Russia

William J. Burns, The New York Times, 7 January 2017

In this paper, we provide empirical evidence on how Russia since 2014 has moved towards a preference for active measures towards Sweden, a small country in a geopolitically important European region. We analyse the blurring of boundaries between public diplomacy and active measures; document phenomena such as forgeries, disinformation, military threats and agents of influence and define Russian foreign policy strategy.

Russia’s strategy for influence through public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case

Martin Kragh and Sebastian Asberg, Journal of Strategic Studies, January 5, 2017

This war seeks, at home and abroad, to erode our values, our democracy, and our institutional strength; to dilute our ability to sort fact from fiction, or moral right from wrong; and to convince us to make decisions against our own best interests.

Putin’s Real Long Game

Molly K. McKew, Politico, January 1, 2017

. . . while the hacking focused attention on one particularly stealthy, intrusive way of influencing other states, it is just one lever that the Kremlin pulls.  The others include disinformation campaigns across a range of Russian-financed media outlets, support for violent fringe groups and even occasional plots against high-profile government critics.  And in some cases, experts say, the Kremlin and its allies resort to an old-fashioned but highly effective technique: trying to buy seats at the table of mainstream politics, never sure where or when their support might pay off.

How Russians Pay to Play in Other Countries

Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, December 30, 2016

The Obama Administration was right to put Russia on notice about its cyber operations. But let’s keep some perspective. Based on what is currently known, the DNC and Clinton email leaks, which contained no classified information, may not have been the affront to U.S. democracy some have described.

Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy?

Andrew Parasiliti, The National Interest, December 30, 2016

—  and see Joel Harding’s comment.

Along with this comes a far more sinister development: In Russia, Stalin has reemerged as a leader to admire. According to polls conducted by the Levada Center, a majority believes Stalin had a positive effect on Russian history, and he has come out among the top three Russian leaders of the twentieth century. Growing admiration of Stalin is a stark reminder that no Communist party officials or KGB bosses were ever held accountable for their crimes. Gorin says that this is more than just a problem of history.


David Margolin, The Weekly Standard, January 2, 2017

Russians often talk about their government-controlled TV as “the zombie box”: a recent poll suggests that Russians won’t let themselves be turned into uncritical “zombies” after all. According to the poll, which was published last week by Russia’s independent Levada Centre, a growing number of Russians want their country to make friends with the West.

“The Zombie Box”

Disinformation Digest, December 2, 2016

Although President Obama’s sanctions against Russia for interfering with the U.S. presidential election came late, his action on Thursday reflected a bipartisan consensus that penalties must be imposed for Moscow’s audacious hacking and meddling. But one prominent voice in the United States reacted differently. President-elect Donald Trump said “it’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.” Earlier in the week, he asserted that the “whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”  No, Mr. Trump, it is not time to move on.

Trump refuses to face reality about Russia

Editorial, The Washington Post, December 30, 2016

Many people are familiar with the alleged efforts of the Russian government to hack computer systems belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. What is now becoming clear is that these apparent efforts are actually part of a much larger strategy to subvert advocates of liberal democracy around the world. . . . . Russia’s other attempts to undermine American unity aren’t secret at all. . . . Among them are the nascent campaigns for both California and Texas to secede from the United States.

Russia’s blueprint for political chaos: Alleged election hacks may just be part of Vladimir Putin’s grand game

Matthew Sheffield, Salon, December 29, 2016

“I think every credible member of Congress, and the United States Senate, that I know views Vladimir Putin as a threat — views Vladimir Putin for what he is: a thug and a bully and a KGB agent,” [Senator John] McCain said. “I’m proud to have been sanctioned by Vladimir Putin. I don’t think there’s anything but unanimity [regarding him] in the Senate of the United States.”

ERR interview: ‘Every credible member of U.S. Congress, Senate’ views Putin as threat, says McCain

Estonian Public Broadcasting, December 27, 2016

. . . there are increasing indications that Russia appears to be implementing emergency measures, effectively preparing to mobilize. For some, this has been a question of the exploitation of a “besieged fortress” or “foreign threat” narrative to mobilize popular opinion to maintain longer-term support for Putin. This is a “patriotic mobilization,” essentially, to sustain high levels of popular support for Putin . . .

Preparing for war?  Moscow Facing an Arc of Crisis

Andrew Monaghan, Strategic Studies Institute, December 2016

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee criticizes Donald Trump, and the leader and members of his own party, for mishandling a “grave danger” to the republic.

‘What the Russians Did Was Utterly Unprecedented’

Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, December 27, 2016

Thanks largely to the government’s extensive control over information, Mr. Putin has rewritten the social contract in Russia. Long based on economic performance, it is now about geopolitical status. If economic pain is the price Russians have to pay so that Russia can stand up to the West, so be it.

In Russia, It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Sergei Gurievdec, The New York Times, December 25, 2016

“I don’t think we should resort to some of the tactics and techniques that our adversaries employ against us,” Brennan told National Public Radio. “I think we need to remember what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for our country, our democracy, our way of life, and to engage. And the skullduggery that some of our opponents and adversaries engage in, I think is beneath this country’s greatness.”

CIA director: US should not ‘resort’ to Russian tactics in hack retaliation

Daniel Chaitin, Washington Examiner, December 23, 2016

Our goal here is to imagine what a proportionate response in cyberspace might look like and what the United States might plausibly seek to accomplish in the process. Drawing on our ongoing research, we argue that retaliatory cyber operations against targets of value to President Putin, coupled with a willingness by the United States to claim credit for the attack, might deter future meddling by the Russian Federation.

An Eye for an Eye: Deterring Russian Cyber Intrusions

Evan Perkoski and Michael Poznansky, War on the Rocks, December 19, 2016

. . . the Russian government is pushing Ukraine to non-military (information, political, and economic) defeats. The Kremlin ultimately seeks Kyiv to accept peace on Russia’s terms.  By implementing technologies of managed chaos,  Russia is searching for the right keys to establish control over Ukraine.

Russia using “organized chaos” to subvert Ukrainian government – analyst

Viacheslav Husarov, Euromaidan Press, January 30, 2016

Russia has simply ceased to be a knowledge economy and is rapidly deteriorating further. These problems are punctuated by a tsunamilike brain drain of young educated Russians — mostly to the West and developed economies — who no longer see a future for themselves in a declining Russia. This year the number of such emigrants is expected to reach 330,000.

Russia in Decline

Alex Alexiev, American Thinker, November 2, 2106
In this issue of the Disinformation Review, we present you with a record number of over 100 disinformation stories, as reported by our network in the course of the last two weeks – we would like to thank our contributors very much for not letting up during the holiday period.  The prevalent theme for pro-Kremlin outlets throughout this period was: war. According to disinformation oriented media, it seems that a significant part of the world is preparing for World War III against Russia.

War is everywhere, even Queen Elizabeth knows it

Disinformation Review, November 8, 2016

“HE WHO controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” George Orwell wrote in “1984”. As Russia’s politics grows more Orwellian, the fight over its past is heating up. The Kremlin’s latest target is Memorial, the country’s most respected human-rights group, set up in the 1980s to commemorate victims of Stalin’s terror.

The battle for Russia’s history: Remember, remember

The Economist, November 5, 2016

Since 2014, the West and post-Soviet countries have been trying to fight Russian propaganda. Approaches differ: some develop fact-checking departments and conduct their own investigations; some invest in monitoring and analyzing Russian propaganda. The governments of Ukraine and Baltic countries have banned Russian TV channels in order to minimize the influence of propaganda on the local Russian-speaking population.  MYMEDIA talked to Belarusian activist Pavel Marozau, the founder of the anti-propaganda internet TV channel ARU.TV . . .

Belarusian activist: Putin acts while the West talks

Yana Biliaeva, Kyiv Post, November 3, 2016



Obviously, the Kremlin is feeling irritated by the fact that both Europe’s supranational institutions and many individual EU member-states have come to recognize Russia’s offensive cyber operations as one of the most imminent direct threats posed to European security.

Europe seeks consolidation in the face of cyber and information threats by Russia

Sergey Sukhankin, The Ukrainian Weekly 



Xinhua, the state news agency, has more or less asked Mr. Trump to shut up. “An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable,” read the headline of a Xinhua commentary on Tuesday about Mr. Trump’s posts.

Enough With the Tweets, China’s State Media Tells Trump

Chris Buckley, The New York Times, January 4, 2017

The dominant battle space for Chinese information warfare programs is the internet, using a combination of covert and overt means. The most visible means of attack can be seen in Chinese media that is used to control the population domestically, and to attack the United States, Japan, and other declared enemies through an international network of state-controlled propaganda outlets, both print and digital, that have proved highly effective in influencing foreign audiences.

Chinese Information Warfare: The Panda That Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon, January 3, 2017

The success of Beijing’s information operations in Western countries is a seventh factor in accounting for the Western allies’ timidity over Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. These operations have been assisted by the Chinese acquisition of media enterprises in Western countries as well as the courting of key decision-makers, journalists, and academics through fully paid visits to China; the contribution of substantial funds to political parties; the establishment of pro-Beijing associations of many types, including Confucius Institutes in universities; the regular insertion of Chinese produced supplements in metropolitan newspapers; and the organization of periodic “patriotic” demonstrations, concerts, and other events by Chinese embassies, consulates, and other pro-Beijing entities.

It is High Time to Outmaneuver Beijing in the South China Sea

Ross Baggage, War on the Rocks, December 28, 2016

The new [Chinese] line [about the fall of the Soviet Union] is simple: blame the West and blame the Soviet leaders — like Gorbachev — who let the West in. It’s one reason why China has pushed through harsh new laws designed to force out foreign nongovernmental organizations, why the national press is getting shriller and shriller in its hostility to the United States, and why censorship is worsening. At the same time, there’s no sign of the political reforms that some Western observers once confidently predicted.

What China Didn’t Learn From the Collapse of the Soviet Union

James Palmer, Foreign Policy, December 24, 2016

A campaign against dissent and Western influence in media, arts, education and law is stifling creative thought and open debate, according to some people working in those areas.

Xi’s Power Play Foreshadows Historic Transformation of How China Is Ruled

Jeremy Page and Lingling Wei, The Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2016

China has been exposed to the world through trade, travel and the internet, and its citizens are in many ways increasingly sophisticated. Even so, party propaganda remains deeply bound to the view that China faces not just disparate critics and foes, but a closely meshed conspiracy that unites those forces. The video is an especially feverish dose of that worldview.  It says plotters and subversives are “stirring up mass incidents and using social tensions as a point to break through and serve as the fuse for ‘color revolution.’ ” They are, the video says, “using foreign nongovernmental organizations to nurture ‘proxies’ and to establish a social basis for ‘color revolution.’ ”

Chinese Propaganda Video Warns of West’s ‘Devilish Claws’

Chris Buckley, The New York Times, December 22, 2016

After a year dominated by controversy over China’s soft power forays into Australian politics, experts are warning the emerging superpower is using Australian media to exert political influence with implications for press freedom.

Chinese whispers: How China is using the media as a form of soft power in Australia

Andrew Barclay, Hong Kong Free Press, December 26, 2016 



As part of the government’s efforts to promote its “New Southbound Policy,” the Ministry of Culture has earmarked a budget of US$600 million to attract international filmmakers and TV crews to produce their future projects with counterparts in Taiwan, Deputy Minister of Culture Yang Tzu-pao said Monday.

Taiwan seeks cooperation with international filmmakers, directors

Huang Tze-chiang and Ko Lin, FocusTaiwan, December 26, 2016



Some argue that the spirit of the North Korean people has been beaten into submission so total that opposition is unthinkable. We don’t believe that here. The desire for freedom, like the dignity of the person, is universal. A hope placed in human hearts by God cannot be removed by Kim Jong-un. The regime attempts to control every mind, every tongue, every life. But the refugees with us today demonstrate that no oppressor can control the soul.

Notable & Quotable: North Korean Freedom

George W. Bush, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2016



[Report]  Daesh Recruitment – How the Group Attracts Supporters

NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, November 25, 2016


Counter Extremism Project

[Report] Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Trends, Dynamics and Policy Responses

Tanya Mehra, ICCT – International Center for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, December 2016

But even if U.S. counterterrorism policies don’t dramatically change during Trump’s presidency, the rhetoric probably will. U.S. officials will likely describe the fight against terrorism as an epic struggle, and trace the ideological roots of that terrorism to Islam and a political-religious movement within the faith that endangers Western civilization. Bush and Obama stayed away from that rhetoric in part because of their assessments of the jihadist threat. But they also did so because they worried that bolstering the clash-of-civilizations narrative would undermine their efforts to eliminate that threat. The signs so far suggest that Trump, and many of his advisers, do not share that concern.

The Coming War on ‘Radical Islam’

Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, November 29, 2016

Trump’s election has opened a new space for such Muslim Americans to express themselves politically. Oppressive sharia codes are as much a threat to these reformers as they are to unprotected American traditions. The new crop of Muslim reformers seek express delineation between Islam as a religious belief system and Islamism as a socio-political regime. They understand the vital need for open and uncensored public debate.

The Free-Speech Muslims

Karen Lugo, City Journal, December 23, 2016

Trump’s election appears to have emboldened Sisi to step up his Islamic reformation campaign. Just days later, Sisi pardoned 82 prisoners, among them Islam Behery, a former TV host and prominent leader of a growing neo-Mu’tazilah-style movement that claims Islamic scriptures are man-made and should not overrule reason and critical thinking.  Behery’s movement has gained sweeping popularity as horrors committed by Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and other Sunni jihadist groups have mounted in recent years.

Why Trump’s bid to amplify Muslim reformers will keep Americans safer

Cynthia Farahat, The Hill, December 29, 2016

Here U.S. Cold War strategy is instructive. Faced with an ideological battle against Communism, President Harry S. Truman embraced “rollback.” * * * With the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States should recognize that it is party to an ideological battle just as vital . . . the White House should view this as an opportunity and use the unprecedented Arab anger at the Brotherhood as a chance to roll back its influence, with the goal of defeating an ideology that is anathema to U.S. interests and security.  Make no mistake: The Muslim Brotherhood is about ideology. * * * * * Instead of embracing Erdogan as a partner, the White House should seek to roll Turkey back. Erdogan should be persona non grata in Washington. The U.S. government should ramp up free and uncensored broadcasting into Turkey, lionize its prisoners of conscience, punish Erdogan’s flouting of sanctions, and reach out to Turkey’s secular Kurdish parties.

Roll back the Muslim Brotherhood

Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute, September 13, 2013

A large percentage of the world’s approximately 1.6 billion Muslims reject sharia supremacism. Many of them provide us with essential help in fighting the enemy. To condemn Islam, rather than those who seek to impose Islam’s ruling system on us, can only alienate our allies. They are allies we need in an ideological conflict.
Does Trump Grasp the Reality of ‘Radical Islam’?
Andrew McCarthy, National Review, December 31, 2016

The Islamic State put all this on steroids, issuing a vast stream of propaganda in at least twenty languages from Syria and exploiting social media to recruit and direct its operatives. The United Nations estimates that thirty thousand foreign fighters have gone to Iraq and Syria—more than all jihads in the past combined. Older groups also embrace information technology: Hezbollah even operates a television station. Terrorist groups can communicate—and thus direct recruits, proselytize and fundraise—far more easily and cost effectively than their predecessors.

How to Fight Terrorism in the Donald Trump Era

Daniel Byman, The National Interest, December 25, 2016

An offensive to retake this city has diminished the terror group’s declared caliphate and its capacity to produce sleek videos encouraging people to come join them. Islamic State has instead turned its focus to calling for followers abroad to launch terror attacks in their home countries.

Berlin Attack Echoes ISIS Propaganda Shift

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ali A. Nabhan, The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016

Being able to clearly name, isolate and shame extremist ideologies is crucial in the fight against divisive beliefs and ideas. With this in mind, this short post is designed to equip its readers with a lexicon they can employ when discussing extremism or countering radical views. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, and should instead be viewed as an aid when identifying, discussing and opposing extreme narratives. While many forms of extremism exist, this toolkit will concentrate specifically on Islamist and far-right ideologies. . . . Islamism . . . . Jihadism . . . . Non-Violent Islamism . . . . Far Right . . . . fascist . . . . neo-Nazis . . . . radicalisation . . . terrorism . . . . self-starter . . . . lone wolf . . . .
The Extremism Lexicon: a toolkit for tackling Islamist and far-right extremism

Alex Simpson, Quilliam Foundation, July 13, 2016

Given their experiences of being drawn in by radical ideologies and extremist thinking, living the reality of that lifestyle and then coming out the other side, they are among the most authoritative and credible voices on the matter.  Who better to speak to individuals at risk of being radicalised than people who actually lived through to same manipulation and deception?

Why former radicals are important for counter extremist measures

Quilliam Foundation, July 29, 2016

Omar Mateen’s actions fed into the “clash of civilizations” discourse that ISIS has relied on to increase its recruiting capabilities with youth disaffected and alienated from Western culture, which they see as having rejected them. Consequently, public expressions of Islamophobia help incubate online and homegrown radicalization. It is clear that the type of Islamophobia in reaction to terrorist attacks is one of the broader, long-term goals behind ISIS’s support and perpetration of attacks like the Orlando massacre.

Islamophobia: What the Islamic State Really Wants

Muhammad Mansour, Fikra Forum



[Report]  From Awareness to Action: A Cybersecurity Agenda for the 45th President

CSIS Task Force Cochairs, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Karen Evans, and Sameer Bhalotra, January 2017

Trump may want to use the high-visibility first trip to do something other than affirm tradition . . . . He may want to make a grand strategy statement, letting the world know he is going to shake-up the global status quo. * * * * * Making a splash abroad will likely require a large rally — similar or bigger than candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin in the summer of 2008 — and may be chosen based on the right mix of pomp, circumstance, strategy and significance.

Trump’s Trip Abroad: An Important Signal

Markos Kounalakis, CPD Blog, December 16, 2016

Whatever the more short-term implications on his and his administration’s ability to dominate the media and drive a narrative, and whatever the longer-term effects on the stature of the American presidency and the country, the constant tweeting from inside the Oval Office will offer the public a window into the president’s own real-time thoughts and feelings as it has never had before.

Trump’s Twitter addiction could reshape the presidency

Eli Stokols, Politico, November 29, 2016



The United States is more secure, more respected, and more engaged in the world than we were when President Obama took office eight years ago. We have brought the international community together to confront the most serious challenges we face and to seize the most significant opportunities that will shape our future.

Quotable: Public Diplomacy in Secretary Kerry’s “Cabinet Exit Memo”

In the final hours before the Christmas holiday weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law—and buried within the $619 billion military budget (pdf) is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms.

Under Cover of Christmas, Obama Establishes Controversial Anti-Propaganda Agency

Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, December 26, 2016

Standing up for our values is the right thing to do, and history has shown that doing so helps the American people as much as it helps others.  WE HAVE MANY TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL THAT, IF DEPLOYED ACTIVELY AND CONSISTENTLY, CAN HELP AVOID THE NEED TO GO TO WAR WHILE STILL ADVANCING OUR VALUES AND INTERESTS.  ▪ Diplomacy ▪ Rhetoric ▪ International institutions ▪ Foreign assistance ▪ People-to-people programs ▪ Trade, entrepreneurship, and business programs ▪ Public-private-nonprofit partnerships

Freedom: Why US International Leadership Remains Vital

American Internationalism Project, American Enterprise Institute, November, 2015 [included in the AEI series What to Do: Policy Recommendations for 2017]

President-elect Donald Trump is poised to become the first tweeter-in-chief, an executive comfortable making pronouncements on policy or companies with 140 characters. He will assume control of a federal bureaucracy that tries very hard to do the exact opposite, one that muffles its social-media presence under pages of rules to avoid making waves.

How to Tweet if You’re in Government and Not Donald Trump: Write, Review, Edit, Seek Approval, Wait, Edit, (Maybe) Send

Aruna Viswanatha and Natalie Andrews. The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2016

. . . foreign policy is – nuanced, delicate and often orchestrated, with repercussions that can last for decades.  It is notconducted by tweets fired off in anger or pique – and the sooner President-elect Donald Trump figures that out, the safer America and the world will be.  In recent days, Trump’s Twitter addiction has muddled established U.S. policy on nuclear weapons and the Middle East and further confused friends and foes alike. That’s the thing about being limited to 140 characters; you can’t get into specifics and you leave a lot open to interpretation.

What a tweeting Trump doesn’t get about foreign policy

Editorial, The Sacramento Bee, December 27, 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

Today, this form of diplomacy is sometimes dismissed as propaganda. But that is unfair. Having witnessed the extreme propaganda emanating from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the men and women who crafted America’s Cold War public diplomacy generally knew the difference between outright lies and truthful attempts at persuasion.  But then, amid the triumphalism that followed the end of the Cold War, public diplomacy was judged obsolete.

How the world perceives the new American dream

Martha Bayles, The Atlantic, October 10, 2015

While diplomats use humor regularly to engage foreign audiences, often with successful results, there is little study of its use as a public diplomacy tool. Unfortunately, there is no formal understanding of the strategic use of humor when engaging foreign audiences. As a result, we see some nightmares when humor is poorly applied.

When Public Diplomacy Is a Bad Joke: The importance of in-groups and out-groups to the successful use of humor by diplomats

Emily Bowman, Take Five Blog, December 1, 2016

States appear to be viewing public diplomacy through a geopolitical lens and are focusing on other states as their primary competitors. However, viewed through a strategic communication lens, the greatest PD competition and threat to states are not other states, but rather initiatives by adversarial publics.

The 4th Quadrant of Public Diplomacy

S. Zaharna, Battles2Bridges, November 9, 2013



. . . both active duty and retired military actively participate in multiple forms of political and partisan expression, from posting comments on political issues to “friending” political figures. Of much greater concern, is that a striking percentage of the 500+ individuals surveyed reported that their military friends, both active duty and retired, have used or shared insulting, rude, or disdainful comments directed against political leaders on social media networking sites.

Strategic Insights: Think Before You Post: A Message to Those in Uniform

Colonel Heidi A. Urben, Strategic Studies Insitute, December 9, 2016



When George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley undertook a historic tour of China in 1985, they may have baffled many of the locals, but they may also have had a lasting influence on a country still emerging from the trauma of the Cultural Revolution.

How George Michael’s Wham! baffled Communist China and inspired its youth

Simon Denver, The Washington Post, December 26, 2016

Whatever the reasons for Asia’s education success story, the global effects are tangible. Where until now knowledge transfers on teaching methods typically flowed from West to East, recent years have shown a reversal of this trend. British schools are looking to Asia’s well-reputed methods for teaching mathematics, while teachers are being flown over in hopes of raising the United Kingdom’s rankings. Similarly, if a budding expat with school-aged children were to seek advice from HSBC’s Expat Explorer, they would find Singapore at the top of the list for two years running.

Asia’s educational arms race

Bonnie Bley, The Interpreter, December 23, 2016



. . . In the months leading up to the Mosul offensive, the Joint Staff hosted a highly unusual war game. The goal: train special operators to disrupt ISIS’s ability to command and control forces and “neutralize its ability to increase morale,” according to a Defense Department official.

How Special Operators Trained for Psychological Warfare Before the Mosul Fight

Patrick Tucker, Defense One, November 14, 2016



According to Google, roughly half of websites are in English. But only about 20 percent of internet users are fluent enough to use them. This means that better translation functions will give billions of people access to countless news sources and online content.

Making the world more accessible through translation

Leigh Hartman, Share America, December 29, 2016



My Administration strongly supports the bill’s structural reform of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which streamlines BBG operations and reduces inefficiencies, while retaining the longstanding statutory firewall, protecting against interference with and maintaining the professional independence of the agency’s journalists and broadcasters and thus their credibility as sources of independent news and information.

Statement by the President on Signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, December 23, 2016

This BBG’s demise eliminates the “firewall” of a nine-person bipartisan board with fixed and staggered terms, and replaces it with one politically-appointed CEO. This change will have consequences.

Farewell, Firewall

Kim Andrew Elliott, CPD Blog, December 21, 2016

Brooke talks with Emily Metzgar, associate professor of journalism at the Media School at Indiana University, Bloomington, about just what the BBG does—and what this latest development might mean for the future of state-funded journalism.

Goodbye, Broadcasting Board of Governors

On the Media, December 16, 2016



It will be telling if, after the report and additional classified information provided by intelligence services, Trump still sides with Putin, denying rather conclusive evidence and siding with a foe of the United States. Let’s hope he comes to his senses.

Trump gives critics ammunition: Is he Putin’s puppet?

Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post, January 1, 2017

An attempt by Trump and his advisers to shift decisively away from the longtime, bipartisan consensus on the important place of democracy promotion in U.S. policy will confront not just the complex interlocking of different U.S. interests but also multiple institutional or contextual constraints. None of these constraints is likely to be decisive, but all of them will complicate any effort to reset the dial of U.S. democracy support at somewhere close to zero.

Prospects for U.S. Democracy Promotion Under Trump

Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 5 Jan, 2017

. . . ordinary Americans have never seen promoting democracy as a high priority—a quick review of annual surveys by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs makes this clear—and because the U.S. government could not and cannot quickly build foreign democracies. This week’s party building or media training will not prevent next week’s terrorist attack. The politicians and pundits who made such inflated claims did a disservice to the practitioners in the field, who know that building democracy can contribute to security, but takes generations to do so.

How to Promote Democracy without Demoting U.S. Interests

Paul J. Saunders, The National Interest, December 22, 2016

At the same time, devout Muslims are facing a world that is increasingly ignorant of and outright hostile towards religion. Western nations with high percentages of Christian residents like the U.S., U.K., and Germany embrace religious freedom and tolerate religious practice. There are correspondingly low rates of radicalization in these countries. However, nations like France, which enshrines secularism and the exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence in its constitution, are moving towards a new paradigm where liberalism and secularization means rejection of the “close-mindedness” and “backwards” thinking that accompanies religious practice.

People of the Book: What Explains the Rise of Extremism in The Muslim World?

C. Waller, Take Five Blog, November 30, 2016

Debates about the extent to which the United States should use its power to lead and shape events in the world…are eternal in our history. So what is the proper balance, given that Donald J. Trump’s threatened disengagement from the world is an extreme position that violates the trajectory of our history? Ironically, the one factor that best informs us in this debate is never discussed: America’s own geography.

Why Trump Can’t Disengage America From the World

Robert D. Kaplan, The New York Times, 6 Jan, 2017



. . . a progressive foreign policy must be a principled foreign policy—one that views as its ultimate objective the advancement of peace, justice, and economic opportunity. These are the goals envisioned by President Franklin Roosevelt in his “Four Freedoms” speech of January 6, 1941 (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear), and they are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Importance of Diplomacy in a World of Multiple Power Centers

Michael T. Klare, The Nation, December 31, 2016

Every year on December 10 the world celebrates Human Rights Day, marking the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the world’s pre-eminent statement of the rights that everyone shares.  That document traces its roots to a January 6, 1941, speech by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, in which he insisted that everyone was entitled to four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

What does it mean to be free from want or fear?

Stephen Kaufman, Department of State, December 13, 2016



What does the new year hold for the United States? Bad things will happen, of course, as they always do. But I like our record: While we make up only about 5 percent of the world’s population, we Americans have a hand in practically every other cool, interesting, inventive, creative, and life-improving innovation you see. Everybody knows. They know it in India and in China and in Switzerland and in South Africa, in no small part because their best and brightest work and study here. So, bitch and moan all you like. You’re walking around with more computing power in your pocket than they used to land men on the Moon, and more personal, creative, and economic opportunities than 99.03 percent of the people who have ever lived could even dream of. Your 2017 is going to be what you make of it.

It Was the Best of Times

Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, December 28, 2016

‘Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls.” That’s the opening fragment of the theme song from “The Brady Bunch,” a sitcom that was, somehow, so much more than a sitcom. The show, which ran from 1969-74 on ABC, offered a vision of America that left a lasting civilizational impression on the minds of young viewers, perhaps especially in the non-Western world.

The Brady Bunch Ambassadors: Florence Henderson’s TV family brought America to India

Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2016