• Book Reviews,  Psychological Struggle

    Life from inside the storytelling machine: an author offers caveats on influence tools

    By Dr. Amy Zalman The inside cover promise to "unveil the workings of a ‘storytelling machine’ more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell," was incentive enough for me to pick up and start reading the recent English translation of French writer Christian Salmon’s Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind.  Even more compelling for this reader: the ‘storytelling machine’ in question is one that I have been working in for the last  five years, as a proponent of the use of narrative as a tool of influence in U.S. strategic communication. 

  • Events

    Reminder: Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting live webcast

    The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will meet on Friday, September 17, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. The BBG will be considering BBG Governance Committee recommendations, the BBG’s research program and other business. The meeting is open – via webcast – to the public. The public may observe the open meeting via live and on demand streaming at www.bbg.gov. To watch live, click here during the meeting time. To watch after the event, click here. See also: The BBG’s Honeymoon: All Work and No Play Senate Report on the Broadcasting Board of Governors U.S. International Broadcasting: An Untapped Resource for Domestic and Ethnic News Organizations

  • Other

    Thinking about Think Tanks

    The Brookings Institute’s P.W. Singer published an interesting read on the “idea factories” of DC. Factories to Call Our Own: How to understand Washington’s ideas industry …“At its best, a think tank contributes to a better world,” says Richard Danzig, a former Secretary of the Navy who has served on the boards of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Rand Corporation, and Public Agenda and is now chairman of the Center for a New American Security. “It does this by sponsoring thought, research, and dialogue. Optimally, it provides support, time, and space to the privileged few who populate it so that they think more deeply, more broadly, and…

  • Government Broadcasting,  Public Affairs,  Public Diplomacy,  Smith-Mundt,  State Department

    Recalling History: Advisory Commission tells Congress to Expand VOA

    On March 30, 1949, in its first semi-annual report by the US Advisory Commission on Information, the predecessor to today’s Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, recommended an “immediate and broad expansion of the world-wide information program being conducted by the State Department, including the activities of the Voice of America.” A realistic approach requires that we provide a budget better balanced between the three-pronged program of military, economic and information policy. A budget which contemplates $15,000,000,000 for military, $5,000,000,000 for economic and only $36,000,000 for information and educational services, does not provide an effective tool for cleaning out the Augean Stables of international confusion and misunderstanding. … It is in…

  • Congress,  Public Affairs,  Smith-Mundt,  State Department

    Reforming Smith-Mundt: Making American Public Diplomacy Safe for Americans

    The impact of the "firewall" created by Smith-Mundt between domestic and foreign audiences is profound and often ignored. Ask a citizen of any other democracy what they think about this firewall and you're likely to get a blank, confused stare: Why -- and how -- would such a thing exist? No other country, except perhaps North Korea and China, prevents its own people from knowing what is said and done in their name.

  • Now Media,  Wikileaks

    Does New Media Really Matter when Arabs Tweet?

    The actions of the Wikileaks organization will spark a much needed discussion on the roles of so-called “old” media and “new” media in to the modern environment. Just days before the public disclosure of classified material by the website Wikileaks and three major newspaper hand-picked by Wikileaks, Professor Dennis Murphy asked “Does new media really matter?” The cause of the question is itself interesting:an op-ed by Rhami Khouri titled “When Arabs Tweet” in the most classic “old media” outlets there is, The New York Times. The Times is also one of the three papers chosen by Wikileaks to disseminate initial commentary and analysis on the “Afghan War Diary“, as Wikileaks…

  • Congress,  Public Diplomacy,  State Department

    GAO and US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy discuss evaluation tools

    The subject of public diplomacy evaluation tools and methodologies has been front and center this week. Debating the difference between “measures of effectiveness” (or MOE), “measures of performance” (or MOP), and throwing spaghetti at a wall can seem like arcane stuff, understanding the value of engagement, and the ability to communicate that value, is extremely important. Measures are fundamental to discussions on what to do and why. Of course in order to measure, one must not only know the audience (primary, secondary, tertiary as they must be categorized… or do they?), where they are (as they are less likely to be within neat geographic coordinates), and how they communicate, but…

  • Congress,  Media,  Now Media,  Smith-Mundt,  State Department

    Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010 (Updated)

    On July 13, US Congressmen Mac Thornberry (TX-13) and Adam Smith (D-WA), both members of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, introduced “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010” (H.R. 5729), a bipartisan bill to revise an outdated restriction that interferes with the United States’ diplomatic and military efforts. The Smith-Mundt Act, formally known as the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, was intended to improve and institutionalize information and exchange activities to counter Communist activities around the world that America’s ambassador to Russia described in 1946 as a “war of ideology… a war unto death.” Today, however, the Smith-Mundt Act is invoked not to enable engagement…

  • Now Media

    A (Digital) Revolution in Latin America

    By James Davis If Barack Obama’s campaign introduced American voters to the raw power of the web to win elections, the come-from-behind victory of Juan Manuel Santos as President of Colombia showed that e-democracy works even in places where democracy itself is fragile. Santos, a conservative-leaning Defense Minister under popular incumbent President Àlvaro Uribe, ultimately won election on June 20 in a 2-to-1 blowout, racking up 69 percent of the vote. But on the day 38 -ear-old Ravi Singh from Washington-based Electionmall.com arrived in Colombia, Santos’ campaign was clearly in trouble, with polls showing Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus’ reformist Green Party within striking distance of victory in the first round…

  • Development

    USAID gets a policy shop

    According to Mike Allen at Politico: A top official e-mails: “Stan McChrystal’s exit from Afghanistan not only affects military personnel, but is an opportunity for the civilian side of the equation — which has not gotten nearly the credit it deserves for its many successes on the ground, despite of the shenanigans at the top of the Kabul food chain — to shift around some. USAID Administrator Raj Shah is ramping up his in-house expertise on Afghanistan and Pakistan with the additions of Alex Thier, Kay McGowan and Craig Mullaney. Thier, who is widely recognized as a leading thinker on Afghanistan policy, comes from [the United States Institute of Peace]…