The Irony of Misinformation and USIA

A clear absence of research, making arguments incongruent with history and facts, and unsubstantiated if-then statements are the kind of malpractice that at some point is more than mere accidental misinformation. With the rare exception, modern calls to reincarnate the United States Information Agency skirt beyond malpractice and misinformation and into the realm of disinformation. Calls to “bring back USIA” are prevalent enough to be a genre of its own. And this genre, while well-intentioned, is a Pavlovian reaction based almost entirely on demonstrably false mythologies.

Continue reading “The Irony of Misinformation and USIA

American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination

One of the most important public diplomacy books you have never heard of is American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination by Barry Sanders.  An adjunct professor of Communications Studies at UCLA, an international corporate lawyer, President of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Barry provides a unique, fascinating, and worthwhile exploration of the opportunities and risks of American global engagement.

In American Avatar, Barry looks at narratives, their foundations and  trajectories.  “Now more than ever,” Barry writes, “foreign views of the United States also affects its national security.”

As a panelist at the November 2011 meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Barry explained that stories at the heart of everything: the study and practice of law, movies, group membership, and more.

Barry was in DC to discuss his book earlier this month.  Watch this meeting and read a discussion here.

I recommend Barry’s book for students and practitioners of strategic communication and public diplomacy.

The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement from 1951 foreshadowed Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” Words and deeds needed more than just synchronization as public opinion could be leveraged to support the successful conduct of foreign policy.  Continue reading “The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

The Public Diplomacy of Drones

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “More Drones, Fewer Troops” looks at the policy behind the increasing use and reliance on drones, but it misses an essential point: unmanned warfare’s impact on public opinion and public diplomacy.  While the technical and budgetary advantages of unmanned systems are front and center, their impact on foreign policy are often an aside, usually in the context of meddlesome by-products of using “drones.” We have seen, if not acknowledged, the powerful impact of human intervention (e.g. SEAL Team Six) over the powerful impact of robots, either remote controlled or autonomous.  Leaving the issue of the public diplomacy of these activities on the margins of planning is short-sighted and unwise.

In my article “The Strategic Communication of Unmanned Warfare” (Serviam, June 2008), I explored the impact of ground robots, intentionally avoiding flying drones because, since World War II, flyers and targets were largely anonymous from each: death rained from above.  Today’s communication environment and technical advances are removing the “air gap” between the ground and the flyer, or drone in this case, allowing for direct links between policy and the people on the ground.

This topic requires a deeper discussion.  Public diplomacy and strategic communication must be on the take-offs of drones, not just the landings, crash landings or otherwise.  In lieu of an organization that could look at this, I invite comments and articles on the subject to be posted at MountainRunner.us.

See also Unintended Consequences of Armed Robots in Modern Conflict from October 2007.

Revising Information Operations Policy at the Department of Defense

SCIO_25Jan11.PNGBy Michael Clauser

On January 25, 2011, Secretary Gates signed a memorandum (hereafter 1/25/11 memo) entitled “Strategic Communication and Information Operations in the DoD.”  The memo signals that the Pentagon’s “E Ring” is finally emphasizing the need for reform of interagency strategic communication (SC) and military information operations (IO). It’s frustrating that after eight years of irregular warfare in southwest Asia, it took an Act of Congress (literally) to sharpen the minds and pencils of the Pentagon to take the problems.  And now, Secretary Gates’ memo claims credit when it shouldn’t, takes for granted one of its most controversial statements, plays-up one minor bureaucratic re-organization while glossing over the disestablishment of a vital SC and IO problem-solving office, and most concerning may be too late to affect meaningful change in Afghanistan.

Continue reading “Revising Information Operations Policy at the Department of Defense

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.

Influence and Propaganda Conference

IandP Conference Sign The Influence and Propaganda Conference continues tomorrow. Today’s discussion was fantastic with valuable insights from Todd Helmus, Ted Tzavellas, Steve Shaker, Adam Pechter, Bryan Rich, Michael Dominque, Steve Luckert, Lee Rowland, Glenn Ayers, Glenn Connor, Tim Hill, Cliff Gilmore, and Al Bynum.

Tomorrow is another day beginning with a presentation by Brad Gorham. This is followed by arguably the best panel of the conference: the media panel co-chaired by Russ Rochte and myself. The panel will include Jamie McIntyre, Bill Gertz, and Wally Dean. Following this panel is Mahan Tavakoli, Nancy Snow, Mike Waller, Amy Zalman, Cori Dauber, Carol Winkler, and Jim Farwell. Friday, the last day, has Brian Carlson, Evan Mitchell Stark, Joel Weinberger, John Foxe, and Wil Cunningham.

The conference is presented by the IO Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute. The IO Institute will post a transcript after the event.

Follow (and catch up) on live tweets from the event with the hash tag #iandp.

Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

2010iandpadThis week is the Influence and Propaganda Conference in Verona, New York, outside of Syracuse. Put on by the IO Institute in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, the conference will be a frank and open discussion on the nature, purpose and format of propaganda and activities intended to influence. This conference comes at a critical time as the volume and quality of disinformation and misinformation increases in an environment that empowers virtually anyone. The gatekeepers of yesterday, governments and major media, are increasingly bypassed, ignored, reactionary or co-opted as today’s information flows across geographic, linguistic, political and technological borders with increasing ease and speed.

Continue reading “Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

Event: Influence and Propaganda Conference

The Information Operations Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, invites you to attend the Influence and Fighting Propaganda Conference.

Identifying and countering propaganda and misinformation through dissemination that avoids the label of propaganda will be the key themes of the event. Discussions will explore who, how and why can people or groups be influenced, and difference between engagement from the lowest to the highest levels of leadership.

Russ Rochte, retired US Army Colonel and now faculty member at the National Defense Intelligence College, and I will co-moderate a panel on the media exploring the tension between “Media as an instrument of War” and the journalist’s traditional obligations to the truth, objectivity, informing the public, and verification. What is the impact on the media’s relationship with itself, its readers, and its sources as the media struggles for mind-share and relevance in a highly competitive environment of diminished resources, intensified news cycles, and direct audience engagement by news makers, and pressure to de-emphasize journalistic ethics. What constitutes the media and how does an organization like Wikileaks change the environment? How does this show in the natural conflict between the government and the media and how is it exploited by America’s adversaries?

This will be a two-hour panel, October 14, 10a-12p, with:

  • Wally Dean, Director of Training, Committee of Concerned Journalists (confirmed)
  • Jamie McIntyre, Host: “Line of Departure”, Military.com (confirmed)
  • Dana Priest, Washington Post investigative reporter (invited)
  • Bill Gertz, reporter for The Washington Times (confirmed)

The agenda for the conference is below.

Event website is here
Date: October 13-15 (2.5 days)
Location: Turning Stone Resort, Verona, New York (map)
Registration Fee: Students/Faculty: free; Government: $50; Military: $25; Corporate/Industry: $200
Registration: online or PDF

Continue reading “Event: Influence and Propaganda Conference

Getting a handle on Strategic Communication

I have been in many discussions over the past few weeks concerning DoD’s efforts at “Strategic Communication.” In one discussion I was asked, “just what is ‘strategic communication’ and why can’t DoD get a handle on it?”

A fair question and one I’ve heard often. I thought it time to put this down in print. “Strategic Communication” is the deliberate application of information and boils down to: Who do I need to know What, Why do I need them to know it, When do I need them to know it, Where are they, and How do I reach them. A relatively simple task that scales with the complexity of the goal you are planning to achieve. It is also a matter of situational awareness as a friend of mine pointed out, “As I reflected on our discussion, I thought about my old commander, Maj. Gen. John H. Admire, Commander of the First Marine Division, and his saying for good situational awareness. He told us to ask ourselves, ‘What do I know? Who needs to know? and Have I told them?'”

Continue reading “Getting a handle on Strategic Communication

Public Meeting of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

The US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will hold a public meeting on July 20, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the conference room of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) located at 1850 K Street, NW., Fifth Floor, Washington, DC 20006.

The Commissioners will discuss public diplomacy issues, including measurement of U.S. government public diplomacy efforts.

The Advisory Commission was originally established under Section 604 of the United States Information and Exchange Act of 1948, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1469) and Section 8 of Reorganization Plan Numbered 2 of 1977. It was reauthorized pursuant to Public Law 11-70 (2009), 22 U.S.C. 6553.

The public may attend this meeting as seating capacity allows. To attend this meeting and for further information, please contact Gerald McLoughlin at (202) 632-6570, e-mail: acpdmeeting@state.gov. Any member of the public requesting reasonable accommodation at this meeting should contact Mr. McLoughlin prior to July 15th. Requests received after that date will be considered, but might not be possible to fulfill.

Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus briefing

The Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus is holding a briefing this Thursday, June 17th at 9:00am in Room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building to discuss the National Framework for Strategic Communication, the Secretary of State’s Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy, and the Secretary of Defense’s “1055 Report” on Strategic Communication.

Briefers include Mr. Pradeep Ramamurthy from the White House National Security Staff, Ms. Kitty DiMartino from the State Department, and Ms. Rosa Brooks from the Department of Defense. The one-hour briefing will include time for questions and answers.

RSVP with Katy Quinn in Rep. Adam Smith’s office at Katy.Quinn@mail.house.gov or with Michael Clauser in Rep. Mac Thornberry’s office at Michael.Clauser@mail.house.gov.

See also:

Now Media: engagement based on information not platforms

On July 6, 2010, the MountainRunner Institute will, with support from InterMedia, present a one-day training event titled Now Media: engagement based on information not platforms. Whether you call it strategic communication, public diplomacy, public affairs, signals integration, or global engagement, this event is designed to help you gain a better understanding of the capabilities, capacities, and authorities you need to be effective in today’s global environment. While the emphasis is on actors and audiences relevant to national security, knowledge from the course will be readily applied in other areas. More information can be found here.

Topics include:

  • Convergence of “old media” and “new media” into Now Media;
  • Mobilization and even creation of “diasporas” through increasing access to information, ease of travel, fragmentation of social groups and decreasing demands on assimilation;
  • Adversarial use of online media to engage and influence audiences and media;
  • Identifying and understanding relevant audiences and measuring communication impacts;
  • Frank discussions on the organizational, doctrinal, and legal challenges (real and imagined) facing the US today.

Date: July 6, 2010

Time: 8:30a – 5p (light breakfast at 8a, lunch and refreshments will be provided)

Location: National Press Club in the McClendon Room
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045 (map)

Cost: $300 before June 27, $400 June 28 and after
Group discounts are available for 3 or more; credit cards accepted.

Speakers: Matt Armstrong, President, MountainRunner Institute
 
Adam Pearson, White Canvas Group
 
+ representative from InterMedia
 
+ former leader of State Department’s public diplomacy operations

To register, send an email to Matt Armstrong at blog@mountainrunner.us.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Why the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs tweets

Last week, Federal News Radio interviewed Capt. John Kirby, Special Assistant for Public Affairs for Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on why the Chairman actively engages in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The chairman, who began Tweeting and Facebooking in 2009, understood that social media was quickly becoming a part of mainstream media and it was just as important to listen to online conversations.

Prior to engaging in social media, the Admiral learned from his troops that his internal military audience, which includes younger men and women in uniform, frequently use social media to communicate with each other. 

Other federal organizations can learn from Adm. Mullen’s online efforts, who does personally “tweet,” as he continues to more effectively utilize Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0.

Click here to read the full article by Federal News Radio.

See also:

Renee Lee is a new contributor to MountainRunner.us and will be providing links and overviews of material – online and offline – deemed important for the individual or organization interested in public diplomacy, strategic communication or “signaling integration”, or global engagement.

Renee Lee is a graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California. Renee spent six years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs officer in the Asia-Pacific region. Renee graduated cum laude from the University of Washington in 2003, earning a B.A. in Communications.

UN Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy

Certain countries, China in particular but also potentially Brazil and India, are increasingly leveraging UN peacekeeping as an opportunity to engage local populations to further national interests.  China, for example, has followed through on its word to increase its UN activities to further its image as a responsible power and to create awareness and connections with individuals and countries alike. 

At World Politics Review (subscription required), I have a short article that explores what may be the third transformation of UN peacekeeping.  From its inception as means to keep an agreed upon peace between two warring parties (hence the name), to peacemaking, some countries are using opportunities facilitated by wearing the Blue Helmet to build relations in troubled places that posses valuable resources and, secondarily, markets. 

A subtle evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations is underway. …

The global movement of people, information, goods, and services creates new opportunities, but also new threats for peacekeepers. With the immediate and persistent availability of information, peacekeepers and their home countries will be increasingly held accountable for their actions, as well as their failure to act — a situation countries were long able to avoid. …

This public diplomacy component of peacekeeping, which connects with the general public and leaders alike, is potentially transformative and empowering for a country’s agenda, as increased contact creates awareness of culture, language, and narratives. This facilitates greater understanding, as well as personal and institutional connections, potentially opening markets and access to resources through the development of formal or informal relationships.

Read the U.N. Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy in its entirety. A subscription is required, so subscribe or sign up for a trial subscription.

MountainRunner Institute at InfoWarCon 2010

By Chris Dufour

This week kicks off the second year of AOC’s InfoWarCon in Washington, DC. Subtitled “Future Warfare Today: The Battle for Information & Ideas”, the three-day gathering sports luminaries from different information disciplines beyond information operations, or IO. Joel Harding, the director of AOC’s IO Institute, has put together an agenda with panelists from across the spectrum of informational engagement: strategic communication, public diplomacy, public affairs, technology, and emerging media. The stated purpose of InfoWarCon is to advance the discourse about the evolving role of information in warfare of today and tomorrow, especially the kind where explosions, in the case they actually occur, are shaping events in support of information activities.

InfoWarCon provides the necessary forum to discuss the real and perceived differences and similarities between information warfare and communication in a modern competitive landscape where information, not platforms, matter most. This environment is one where dissemination and reception are increasingly disassociated from geography as audiences are less likely to be contained within the borders of traditional nation-states.

The opportunities and threats of this modern environment can reduce autonomy, empower, or both. Typically, the empowerment to the non-state actor, whether a group or individual and the restriction on acting unilaterally is on the state. The easy answer for this situation is agility to operate in today’s dynamic, fluid, and hyperactive information environment. No longer do major powers solely rely on direct force-on-force combat to achieve strategic objectives. Similarly, non-violent communications campaigns conducted by private organizations or individuals can no longer succeed without considering the competitive information landscape.

InfoWarCon will provide the opportunity to discuss the issues related to this evolutionary, perhaps even revolutionary, environment and the resulting splintering of doctrine and perceptions of influence.

Chris Dufour is a Senior Vice President at the MountainRunner Institute and will cover InfoWarCon starting with Tuesday evening’s kickoff reception. (See this page for the week’s full agenda.) He will live-tweet the event from @MRinstitute, MRi’s Twitter handle, using the hashtag #IWC2010. If you plan on making it out to InfoWarCon this year, ping Chris on Twitter and contribute your thoughts and observations using the hashtag #IWC2010 (“eye”-w-c-2010).

Beyond Boundaries

Advantages of online media, such as blogs, include the ability to traverse time and space to reach audiences worldwide at a moment convenient to the consumer rather the time of broadcaster, and thus the broadcaster’s choice. This access enables social media to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and hierarchies of information dissemination and access, such as governments, news media, and even scholarly journals. Online tools make it increasingly easy for online content to ignore not just geography but to break through language barriers as well. Such is the world of social media.

Every now and again I highlight the global reach of www.MountainRunner.us as an example of the potential of social media. The map below captures some of this blog’s visitors for the month of April 2010. It does not capture those who read the posts via email, RSS, in email forwarded by others, or even all of the visitors to the site (I believe it captures perhaps 50% of the site’s visitors). It also does not capture the increasing use of Google translate to render this site’s content in another language.

image

When I see data like this, it reminds me that audiences are not contained within a single geo-political region, even if the primary topic of discourse is analysis of government activities.

US efforts to enhance the free flow of information to Iran (Section 1264 report)

Public Law 111-84, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), includes the VOICE Act which authorized $55 million for four efforts to “strengthen the ability of the Iranian people get access to news and information and overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.” Passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, these efforts remained authorized but not funded.

Section 1264 of the NDAA required a report by the Administration to provide a detailed description of informational activities related to Iran. That report was released recently without fanfare. It is available here, posted on Google Docs as a 470kb PDF (reduced from the 3mb original document and made searchable).

The report details the information efforts of the US Government toward Iran, including multiple social media platforms, and Iranian attempts to jam transmission and reception.

Continue reading “US efforts to enhance the free flow of information to Iran (Section 1264 report)

InfoWarCon 2010

If you’ll be in DC May 12-14, consider attending InfoWarCon, the “edgy, provocative, and evocative” conference on strategic communication and public diplomacy (even though State will be minimally represented… last year there were objections from the Truman building that “war” was in the event’s title) and cybersecurity / cyberwarfare. Checkout the agenda.

Unfortunately, due to a schedule conflict on my side, I am no longer chairing the initial plenary discussion on cyber and social media as I noted earlier. I’ll still be in DC that week, but I won’t be at InfoWarCon until the last day.

Update on the Broadcasting Board of Governors

After years of neglect, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an essential cog in the wheel of public diplomacy as the body overseeing non-military international broadcasting, is one step closer to getting a fresh board. According to Al Kamen:

…the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved three Democrats and three Republicans to run U.S. overseas broadcasting units such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

By unanimous voice vote, the committee sent the nominations of Walter Isaacson as chairman, and Dennis Mulhaupt, Victor H. Ashe, Michael Lynton, S. Enders Wimbushand Susan McCue as members, to the Senate floor.

But it held on to two of the eight hostages nominated five months ago. Democrat Michael Meehan and Republican Dana Perino still await committee action.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee attempted last month to approve the nominees, but events of the day prevented the meeting. As with this week, Dana Perino and Michael Meehan were to be held up for additional inquiry.