Milestones are important. They were to reassure travelers that they were on the right path, how far they had gone, and how far they had to go. Living in London, I find it surprising how many milestones, many of which are hundreds of years old, are hiding in plain sight. They do not, however, tell us how we are doing. Continue reading “There’s a new #1 “R”… as in longest tenure “→
You know you’ve heard it. Whether it was at the office, at school, or a social setting (how erudite of you!), you heard someone bemoan the loss of the United States Information Agency. Perhaps that someone was you. In my experience, these laments are really a coded acknowledgment that the U.S. lacks a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to operate in an information-driven world. Continue reading “No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency – endnote edition “→
Events in the past year have made a United States Government information program more important than ever. Information is one of the three essential components in carrying out United States foreign policy — the other two, of course, being military and economic. Each has its function to perform in this great struggle for the minds of men, and each has, or should have, an equally high place in the strategic plan.
First Semiannual Report of the Advisory Commission on Information, March 1949.
In 1949, the Cold War was in full swing. Barely four years earlier, the White House and the Congress set about to make various programs permanent in the post-war world. These efforts included various information programs — radio, libraries, press feeds, motion pictures, books, and other publications — and various exchange programs — educational, cultural, and technical. There was one primary authority for these — the eventually named Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 — and several supplementary programs — the Fulbright Act and Defense Department information programs run in Japan and Germany/Austria.
There was a time before USIA when the U.S. Government practiced what we now call public diplomacy. This period is often forgotten or ignored. For too many, the history of U.S. public diplomacy begins with the establishment of the United States Information Agency, or USIA. However, it did not and pretending it did start with USIA not only misrepresents the past and subsequent trajectories, but it is also a disservice to those who worked hard to establish peacetime public diplomacy.
What is it about U.S. public diplomacy that we must hide it from Americans? Is it so abhorrent that it would embarrass the taxpayer, upset the Congress (which has surprisingly little additional insight on the details of public diplomacy), or upend our democracy? Of our international broadcasting, such as the Voice of America, do we fear the content to be so persuasive and compelling that we dare not permit the American media, academia, nor the Congress, let alone the mere layperson, to have the right over oversight to hold accountable their government? [Read the rest here]
Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, here is the latest update on resources that may be of general interest for teachers, students, and practitioners of public diplomacy and related courses and activities. Suggestions for future updates are welcome.
Last week, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to “authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.” The bill, H.R.5736 — Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (Introduced in House – IH), removes the prohibition on public diplomacy material from being available to people within the United States and thus eliminates an artificial handicap to U.S. global engagement while creating domestic awareness of international affairs and oversight and accountability of the same. This bill also specifies Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, eliminating an ambiguity creatively over the last three decades.
For well more than a decade, Korea experts who specialize in international media have been examining the impact of foreign broadcasts and DVDs on users in North Korea. They have done so through a combination of in-country surveys and debriefings of defectors from North Korea, refugees and travelers abroad. In annual reports, Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders invariably have ranked that country as having the “least free” media in the world. Yet the curtain of near total silence appears to be opening as never before in North Korea.
2012 PDAA Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy Excellence
The Public Diplomacy Alumni Association, formerly the USIA Alumni Association, gave its 2012 achievement awards to U.S. public diplomacy professionals working in Zimbabwe, Okinawa, and Washington, DC. The announcement is below.
A high level conference on public diplomacy and China’s reputation in the world will take place in Beijing later this month. The event is co-sponsored by the Charhar Institute, China’s primary public diplomacy “tthink tank”, the Clingendael Institute of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the China-Europe Academic Network (CEAN). The title theme is “Geo-cultural Perspectives on Public Diplomacy – Trialogue among Chinese, European, and American Scholars.”
The forum brings together a mixed group of leading Chinese and international scholars, think-tankers, and practitioners to discuss a geo-cultural perspective on public diplomacy based on a China-Europe-US-Dialogue.
The event starts on May 19 at 9am (Beijing time) and will end at 4:30pm. I am not aware of any webcast or transcription, but I will share what I can after the event.
The conference opens with three 30min keynotes, including one by me:
Zhao Qizheng is the Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Peoples Political Consultative Conerence and Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University. Amb. Markus Ederer is the EU Ambassador to China.
An hour-long “dialogue with journalists” follows the keynote. The second session of the day is “Debating China’s Public Diplomacy” with panelists speaking for 10min each. Tentative topics include “Is there a China model for public diplomacy?” and “What can China’s public diplomacy towards Pakistan tell us?”
The third session will be chaired by Clingendael’s Jan Melissen. Panelists, again with 10min each, include Phil Seib of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy, Ronald Gratz, Wang Jay, and Ingrid d’Hooghe.
What would you highlight as positive examples of U.S. public diplomacy over the past ten years?
What if you put neuroscientists, social scientists, conflict resolution experts, and diplomats together in a room? Is there something to the “human dimension” of conflict that the science of the brain can inform the art of conflict resolution and mitigation? The Project on Justice in Times of Transition, in partnership with the SaxeLab at MIT, launched the initiative “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century” to find out.
The first meeting was February 9-11, 2012, at MIT in Boston. PJTT and SaxeLab brought together a high-level group of experienced leaders from the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Central America with conflict conflict resolution experts, social psychologists, and leading neuroscientists to survey the latest findings in neuroscience and brain research to brainstorm and exchange ideas for addressing conflict.
I attended the February meeting and it was an eye-opening few days that started early and continued over dinner into the night. The presentations were honest, devoid of grandiose assertions of magic bullets, and each were followed by collegial discussions fueled by fresh questions and ideas.
Rebecca Saxe, the Director of SaxeLab, highlighted some of the general assumptions most scientists looking at conflict and conflict resolution share:
People respond to conflict as human beings and there is some generalized experience that can be captured
Behaviors can reflect emotions, associations, norms, and narratives that are not accessible through cognition or introspection
People resist changing their minds and simple persuasion is almost never sufficient to make them change
The science presentations shared research on how particular parts of the brain were involved with specific behavior and emotions, such as fear. Discussions included the role of humiliation in perpetuating war, motivations for “prosocial” and empathetic behavior, group norms, among others.
The acknowledged drawback of some of the existing scientific research is the “normal” person for much of the brain imaging is an MIT student, which all acknowledged is not a true representation. The scientists were eager for advice on how to modify their experiments to test on relevant questions, topics, and people.
The first meeting left all of the participants more interested than when the meeting started. Follow up ideas include:
Convening a second meeting to inventory key areas of research relevant to conflict resolution
Studying specific conflict resolution approaches to test assumptions underlying various established methodologies
Exposing leading neuroscientists to active conflict resolution and negotiation situations
It has long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what words to which people? The pixels or streaks of paint of an image is the only commonality shared by different audiences. The context in which they are received and interpreted matters. Beyond the intended framing, including words or other images, personal and shared history, language, current or developing narratives, and other inputs, both direct and indirect, all matter in the impact of a picture.
On March 16, 2012, Georgia State University, in conjunction with the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College, convened a conference entitled Visual Propaganda and Online Radicalization. This public event followed two days of working meetings between the conference’s speakers and others from a variety of disciplines to better understand the role of images, still and moving, in recruiting, radicalizing, and mobilizing support. Also discussed was the possibility of over-analyzing images.
Conference day presentations are available here. Speakers included David Perlmutter, Scott Ruston, Anne Stenersen, Carol Winkler, Hussein Amin, Saeid Belkasim, Cori Dauber, Doug Jordan, Jad Melki, Shawn Powers, and me, Matt Armstrong.
My presentation was “Now Media, Identity, & the Marketplace for Loyalty.” Video of my part of the conference, which was a quick 15min, is here. This presentation will be more fleshed out elsewhere, including a book chapter Shawn Powers and I are writing presently named “From Nation-State to Nations-State: Conceptualizing Radicalization in the Marketplace for Loyalties.”
In the case of over-analysis, there was an interesting discussion on the use of fancy Islamic calligraphy in logos or brands of insurgent or terrorist groups. The meaning of these texts were analyzed but elder native Arab speakers from and living in the Middle East dismissed some of the conclusions. The contention was the youth cannot read the script or don’t bother to read it. The result is the calligraphy is better interpreted as a picture rather than text. The meaning is derived from the appearance of the image framing the logo as religious, Arab, or something else based on its similarity to other script, or all of the above.
The product of the working meetings will be book from the Strategic Studies Institute on visual propaganda.
If you have not seen the Proctor & Gamble marketing campaign entitled “Thank you, Mom“, you really should. An Olympic Partner for London 2012, the campaign will run for these last 100 days before the start of the summer games. It is the largest campaign in P&G’s 174-year history.
The campaign launched with the digital release of the short film “Best Job,” a moving celebration of mom’s raising great kids and Olympians, according to a press release. The video was shot on four continents with local actors and athletes from each location — London, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles and Beijing — and will be found online, across social media, TV, and print.*
How might the State Department produce similar vignettes that could translate policy initiatives including women’s issues, empowering young people, and other democracy and civil society issues?
Such cross-cultural outreach like this P&G campaign that supports and praises moms would likely enjoy the support of senior leadership in DC and the field. It would likely have traction with Ambassador moms and Ambassador wives. The vignettes would have a ready audience to the growing number of Facebook friends of the various State Department sites, many of which need content.
What do you think?
*Does this make the ad “old media” or “new media”? Try “now media”…
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, was established over six decades ago to be the public diplomacy organization of the West, countering the influences and false promises of Communism. Last year, the U.S. cut its funding to UNESCO resulting in a severe budget shortfall and program elimination by the agency. Defense News reports that immediately after the U.S. cut, China stepped in with “a first-time $8 million funding for the U.N. agency’s education program, while Qatar chipped in $20 million.”
The State Department’s “Smart Power” policy relies on UNESCO as a partner and facilitator for informing, engaging, and empowering people around the world, particularly in difficult places often low on the list of priorities. Today, UNESCO has a role as an anti-extremist organization through developing civilian capacity and self-governance. This mission fits in with and compliments the Departments efforts found mostly in the ever-expanding and increasingly central Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
It is unlikely the timing of the Chinese and Qatari contributions are coincidental. Rather, they are surely taking the opportunity to gain influence with the U.S. withdrawal. Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice testified to Congress that a “loss of U.S. clout is the price for axing funding.”
Almost exactly sixty-six years ago today, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs William Benton also urged the House Foreign Affairs Committee to support the then-proposed international agency. The State Department was vigorously supporting UNESCO. Some in the Department even suggested the U.S. should drop the idea of establishing a cultural and affairs office, then being debated, in favor of relying on UNESCO.
At the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Benton presented a statement from Secretary of State James Byrnes that UNESCO was designed to carry out recommendations of the President and others for an agency “for consistent and thorough interchange of thought and ideas.” Benton listed three basic purposes of UNESCO:
Stimulate the use of the media for mass communication to advance mutual knowledge and wide true understanding among the peoples of the world;
Encourage schools and other educational institutions to build “defenses of peace” in the minds of children as well as adults; and,
Cooperate in the growth and sharing of useful knowledge to the peoples of the world may strive together for a better life.
Today, the concept UNESCO appears to have completed a circle, moving away from the radical opposition of the past. Once again, it is poised to have an important role in the struggle for minds and wills.
But with the U.S. withdrawal, the need to engage and empower people, and build more secure regions, has not gone away. Neither has the need to have other actors do the work. Are we safe in the implicit assumption that China and Qatar will support America’s interests?
(Note: a research paper on how UNESCO was transformed from supporting anti-communism to support communism might be interesting for public diplomacy. Did the East “capture” UNESCO due to poor strategy, possibly of focusing on governments rather than people? Are there lessons to be learned today?)
The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at USC has their annual conference tomorrow, April 6, 2012. The conference will provide a discussion on new technologies and emerging actors in the amorphous “thing” sometimes called public diplomacy.
The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars invites you to join the discussion, with a half day of panels and speakers from around the world. The conference will feature an opening address by Dr. Nicholas J. Cull, director of the Master’s of Public Diplomacy program at USC, and keynote speaker Ben Hammersley, the U.K. prime minister’s ambassador to East London TechCity. We will also have panelists from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, United Nations Global Pulse, Facebook, Carleton University, the South East European Film Festival, the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, and the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles.
Attendance to the conference is free, but you are requested to RSVP with the USC Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars by going to this RSVP link.
The phrase “public diplomacy” is variously viewed as a concept, a bureaucracy, and/or a practice. The community craves to see the word “diplomacy” follow the word “public” and debates when the phrase does and does not appear. Is it something defined by the objective, as Betty Hanson eloquently asked this week? Is it defined by means, by the actor? Is the term “public diplomacy” itself problematic and self-limiting, suggesting an adversarial bureaucratic relationship with other agencies, a use of the softest of “soft power” to “win hearts” and be “liked”, or activities that “influence” rather than merely “inform”, or all of the above?
Unfortunately, I will not be at the conference but I look forward to the discussions and hope the students press the opportunity to engage the uniquely qualified speakers beyond the soft and fuzzy.
By Brian Carlson The following originally appeared at the Public Diplomacy Council and is republished here with permission.
Tara Sonenshine was confirmed Thursday night by the Senate, and she will probably take office officially early this week. (She can be sworn in privately by some current official and begin work, even as a more formal ceremony is planned for a few weeks hence.)
It is a new beginning down at Foggy Bottom. Tara becomes only the seventh Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs since the job was created upon the merger of USIA into the Department in 1999.
It is a propitious time to consider what habits lead to success at the State Department, as well as what experience teaches about being the nation’s Olympic spear-catcher when they think we’re being out-communicated by some guy in a cave. Here are a few suggestions for how to succeed at this job, all gathered from my time working directly with five of the six previous Under Secretaries. (I had no contact with Margaret Tutwiler.)