Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Monday, April 6th 2015
Ninety-eight years ago today the United States declared war against Germany, entering World War I. Few recall that one of that war's offspring was what we now call public diplomacy.
Today's First Monday Forum, co-sponsored by the Council and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, featured a panel discussion titled The Untold History of U.S. Public Diplomacy. Two State Department historians and a scholar of public diplomacy's history joined the Council's John Brown to discuss their new archival materials and findings about the Committee on Public Information, created in World War I to influence public opinion in the United States and abroad in support of the war effort.
On the "Read More" page, you'll find an extra that we couldn't show today: a set of illustrations that tell the story of the CPI. We hope the short collection of pictures will motivate you to read into the new volume of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) -- the first of a new series documenting the birth and development of U.S. public diplomacy and featuring visual products as well as texts.
Saturday, April 4th 2015
Have you been shocked by the destruction of Assyrian monuments and other works of art in recent weeks? You can learn more about the relationship of cultural heritage to conflict at an upcoming conference in Washington.
Together with the University of Chicago's Cultural Policy Center I’ve organized a meeting the afternoon of Friday April 17 at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. A panel of experts will review the situation and talk about ways to address this problem.
I hope to see members of the Council and friends there. If you want to learn more and register, click on this link.
Thursday, April 2nd 2015
Recently the BBC, the UK’s government-supported broadcasting giant, set out to do something similar to what The New York Times did a year ago: assess how the news business was changing, where it was heading, and how well prepared they were for the future. Not surprisingly, in both cases, they found themselves at risk unless they acted quickly.
Normally this wouldn’t be headline news for public diplomacy experts. But since the BBC’s brands include the BBC World Service, a familiar name to many foreign audiences, and since the “Beeb’s” well-known stable of TV, radio, and multimedia platforms is grappling with the same challenges of breaking through today’s media clutter that diplomats and everyone else are facing, the study offered an opportunity for them to present some new ideas and new ways for national broadcasters to stand out.
Unfortunately, they fell short.
The authors of the BBC’s Future of News study said they couldn’t predict the future, but the fact is, they don’t need to. The future is already here (it’s just not very evenly distributed, as writer William Gibson has said). The problem of simply getting noticed, much less having influence, in the cacophonous media environments around the world is already daunting, even to deep-pocketed broadcasters, and it will get harder in the future.
Friday, March 27th 2015
From a March 4, 2015, “CRS Insights” paper, “Information Warfare: The Role of Social Media in Conflict” by Catherine A. Theohary, Specialist in National Security Policy and Information Operations:
Social media is used as a tool of information warfare—a weapon of words that influences the hearts and minds of a target audience, and a weapon of mass disruption that can have effects on targets in the physical world. Low-cost, easily accessible social media tools act as a force multiplier by increasing networking and organizing capabilities. The ability to rapidly disseminate graphic images and ideas to shape the public narrative transforms social media into a strategic weapon in the hands of terrorists, insurgent groups, or governments engaged in conflict.
Wednesday, March 18th 2015
As the Washington Post reported today, we have lost one of the greats of American diplomacy.
Or, to paraphrase a New York Times article of a few years ago, “Not since Benjamin Franklin has an American envoy been such a capable public diplomacy officer.”
A career diplomat, Arthur A. Hartman served as President Carter’s ambassador to France and President Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. He passed away in Washington March 16, only five days after turning 89.
While Hartman made an indelible impression on the French intelligentsia in Paris during his 1977-1981 assignment there, it was as Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1981 to 1987 that he made his major mark in his use of public diplomacy.