Freedom to Connect

By Jerry Edling

“You will not be able to stay home, brother.

You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.” — Gil Scott-Heron, From the album “Small Talk at 125th and Lennox” (1970)

“The revolution will not be televised…but it may be tweeted.” Posted on weeseeyou.com

January 28, 2011

Freedom to ConnectIn some ways, Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was ahead of its time. The lyrics were recited rather than sung, accompanied by congas and a bongo drum, making it either a vestige of beat poetry or one of the first examples of rap. His point, which must be understood in the context of domestic unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., was that the revolution was not a pre-packaged bit of pop culture, sanitized for your protection and brought to you with minimal commercial interruption by Xerox. The revolution, in his opinion, was real; or, as the final line of the song reads,

“The revolution will be no re-run, brothers; The revolution will be live.”

Little did he know that in the 21st century a revolution of a different sort would be live and it would be televised. And yes, as the quip on weeseeyou.com vividly notes, it would be tweeted. As of this writing, the Biblical land of Egypt is illuminated with cell phone lights and fireworks as mobs with no definable leaders spill into the streets to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president after weeks of protest and unrest. The revolution was televised, and the power to bring those images to the world was in the hands of the revolutionaries themselves.

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China and American Public Diplomacy: Another US Deficit

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) will publish another major report on public diplomacy shortly. Written by Paul Foldi, senior professional staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this report focuses on Chinese public diplomacy with the inevitable comparison to U.S. efforts. I was given a sneak peak at the report. It comes at a time when tough talk in Congress on the State Department’s budget could benefit from such an analysis of a country that is both a major competitor and partner across all aspects of national power and daily life.

This report is another in-depth investigation and commentary on a critical aspect of U.S. global engagement. It focuses on the China-United States exchange. This is the third report sponsored by Senator Lugar to reinvigorate public diplomacy. While the other two were on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (6/2010) and the American Centers (2/2009), this report focused primarily on China. The effect serves to expose not only the broad, extended, and expensive effort of the Chinese to engage foreign audiences, it also highlights opportunities and failed opportunities for the U.S.  

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Jazz Diplomacy: a Cold War Relic?

jazzdiplomacy.jpg

By Candace Burnham

Pop quiz: name three jazz artists under the age of 50. Maybe you named popular favorites Wynton and Branford Marsalis, but can you name any of their albums? Does anyone else spring to mind? No? You’re not alone – if anemic record sales are any indication, a majority of Americans would draw a blank at that question. As a trumpet player who graduated from a jazz school, I’m acutely aware of the fact that jazz is simply not as ubiquitous today as it was sixty years ago. Yet, it’s still the crown jewel in US public diplomacy efforts. We export it as representative of American culture, but it’s barely relevant in our own country.

Cultural diplomacy, according to the late public arts funding advocate Dr. Milton Cummings Jr, is, the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding. Governments utilize it in hopes of earning the support of foreign publics. Jazz, the status quo version embraced in government programs like Rhythm Road, doesn’t represent today’s America, but with the respect and press it garnered in the 1950s and 60s, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is hesitant to give it up.

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Zhui: U.S. public diplomacy through Corporate Engagement

imageIn the debate over what is and is not public diplomacy, here’s another example to throw into the mix. In 2009, the ad agency for Nike China won an award for its series on Liu Xiang, a Chinese phenom in the hurdles. Liu carried the inspirations of China into the Beijing Olympic games in 2008. In the qualifying heat for the 110-meter hurdles, however, he suffered a severe and debilitating injury. He left the stadium and comments like ““This is such a disgrace for China” followed him. The Chinese government had invested heavily in Liu as a star for China: he was the first Chinese (or Asian) to win gold in the hurdles, with a world record in the 110 at Athens. But now, Liu was done.

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Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)

imageSince the abolishment of the United States Information Agency, the State Department has struggled to balance the need of the embassies with what Washington perceived was needed. This challenge has been particularly acute on the Internet where the resulting mix of information and voices can undermine the very purpose and effectiveness of engagement.
On January 28, I spoke with Dawn McCall, Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), to discuss the recently announced reorganization of the Bureau. IIP is responsible for developing and disseminating printed material, online information and engagement efforts, and speaker’s programs (a kind of offline engagement using subject matter experts). It is half of the operational capability of the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to engage people outside of the United States.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) completes the other half of the Under Secretary’s toolbox. While most observers like to imagine (or don’t know better) that U.S. public diplomacy is a monolith, the reality is that these two offices are the Under Secretary’s only direct reports. Other cogs in the public diplomacy machine exist within – and report to – the geographic bureaus (such as Western Hemisphere Affairs, European and Eurasian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs) and posts in the field.

Continue reading “Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)

VOA on The Daily Show (Updated)

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

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

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

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

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Kambiz Hosseini & Saman Arbabi Extended Interview<a>
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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Event: Will Wikileaks Transform American Diplomacy?

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

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

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

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

I’ll be there.

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

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

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

Here’s the quote:

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

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

Call for papers: Strategically Managing America’s International Communication

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

This special issue’s editors are:

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

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

All manuscripts will undergo blind peer review.

For more information or to submit a manuscript, contact:

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

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

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

January 3, 2011
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome. 
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry Zorthian, public diplomacy legend, passes away at 90

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

A new public diplomacy as banks close foreign embassy accounts? Not exactly

The term “public diplomacy” is problematic, born out of bureaucratic wrestling in the mid-1960’s as the “struggle for minds and wills” gave way to counting tanks, bombers, and missiles. It’s very use today continues to signify something that is different, but it is not a separate line of activity that is discretely separated other “private” or any other diplomacy. It is not faery dust to be sprinkled on when the time is right. And don’t get me started on niche terms like “baseball diplomacy” or “music diplomacy” or “left-handed comb diplomacy” or whatever. “Public Diplomacy” is a term that should be abolished and replaced with a more generic label as it prevents proper integration of various information, engagement and influence activities across the government, notable but not exclusively, in the State Department. To some, public diplomacy does not fit here because private entities are engaged with foreign governments, the exact opposite of how many define “public diplomacy.” What a mess, but to the point of this post…

The latest debacle in DC is an example that will surely invite some commentator to “coin” a new term, “banking diplomacy.” What I’m referring to is a post by Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin about US banks closing accounts of foreign embassies. To me, this is a fine example of the trouble with “public diplomacy” as it creates immediate trouble (and no doubt discussions and negotiations) behind and in front of closed doors with a variety of organizations. There will be private and public maneuvering, with Josh’s piece likely one such intentional example by some party to the situation. (If Josh was informed by an observer without a direct stake, would that make this less ‘public diplomacy’? My head spins at the mere thought of considering this.)

Continue reading “A new public diplomacy as banks close foreign embassy accounts? Not exactly

Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media

Checkout this event of potential value at the New America Foundation, “International Broadcasting and Public Media.” The event’s description is promising, as are the panelists (described as ‘participants’ but surely the audience will be allowed to participate as well, right?).

In an increasingly digital media landscape, people across the globe are relating to their news outlets in new ways. The missions of media producers are changing, as technological innovations reshape news networks into communities. The assumption is that U.S. public media institutions and international broadcasters are also transforming themselves to serve the emerging public interests in media. How should these institutions be changing to meet the needs of audiences that expect to engage in news and information, not just passively receive it? Even amid the explosion of information, there are information gaps. If foreign coverage one of them, how best is it produced and by whom?

I will not be there, unfortunately, but below are questions off the top of my head I’d like asked and discussed (are there really ‘answers’?).

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Two nominees for the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy announced

Last week the White House announced the President’s “intent to nominate” two individuals to the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy: Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Sim Farar. These are the first nominations to the Commission by this White House, but certainly not the last.
The Commission has seven members, no more than four of which may be from the President’s party. The Commission is charged with monitoring and improving how American interacts with people around the world. Some call this public diplomacy, others strategic communication, and others perhaps simply engagement. The Desert Sun, a Palm Springs newspaper, described the Commission as a “bipartisan panel evaluates and makes recommendations about the federal government’s efforts to understand and influence attitudes abroad.”

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SAGE Initiative, a draft Mission Statement

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The Strengthening America’s Global Engagement (SAGE) is an initiative to develop a cogent business plan for enhancing American public diplomacy and strategic communication efforts. The envisioned organization would compliment government organizations, such as the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The new organization would have an air-gap between the government and programs that would allow greater flexibility and agility. This gap is likely to be more attractive to potential partners and programs that, for a variety of reasons, do not want to or cannot be associated with the US Government. Background information on the SAGE initiative being run out of the Woodrow Wilson Center, with support from the SmithRichardson Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, can be found here.

A draft mission statement and “broad outline of organizational framework” from the Governance Committee is below.

The new institution’s mission is to foster engagement between the U.S. society and the rest of the world with a view to promoting shared values and common interests, increasing mutual understanding and respect, and enhancing America’s standing in the world. The organization will advance these objectives preponderantly through grant making, but will also have organic capacity to itself stimulate peer to peer contacts and to build communities of interest through its ability to convene, to network, and to synthesize the best research available on relevant issues.

This organization will be a congressionally endorsed independent non profit (501-C-3) organization. It will look to congressional appropriation for some of its core funding, while program and project funding will come both from private sources and various government agencies. The governing board of the organization will be made up largely of eminent private individuals with several seats set aside for bipartisan Congressional participation.

News on SAGE will continue to be available here on MountainRunner. Disclosure: Matt Armstrong is on the SAGE budget committee.

Congratulations Melanie Ciolek!

imageCongratulations to Melanie Ciolek on winning the USC Center on Public Diplomacy’s Prize for Best Student Paper for 2010. Melanie’s paper, How Social Media Contributes to Public Diplomacy: Why Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook Outreach Improves Understanding of the Limitations and Potential for the State Department’s Use of Social Media, was published on this blog back in June.

Melanie wrote “How Social Media Contributes to Public Diplomacy” as a student in my Public Diplomacy and Technology (PUBD510) last semester. (See and comment on the draft syllabus for Spring 2011.)

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #53 (Courtesy of Bruce Gregory)

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

October 22, 2010
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome.
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University

Continue reading “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #53 (Courtesy of Bruce Gregory)