free flow of information
Sunday, June 19th 2016
“Russia relations today are more strained and more confrontational than at any time since the end of the Cold War. In fact, even some periods of the Cold War seemed more cooperative than our current era.” These were opening comments by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul at the June 14, 2016, hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The subject was “U.S. Policy Towards Putin’s Russia. McFaul is now the Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
Public diplomacy practitioners will be particular interested in his comments on countering Russian propaganda and study in the United States. Here are some key points from his opening statement:Read More
Wednesday, January 13th 2016
“There is a connection between Beijing’s repression and last week’s market shocks,” is the subhead of an article by L. Gordon Crovitz, “China Disappears Information,” in The Wall Street Journal of January 10, 2016. The article will interest all Public Diplomacy people as they continue to advocate the free flow of information.
Writing that China is “in an authoritarian country where providing information is a crime,” Crovitz opened the article with the closure of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong after “five owners and employees were ‘disappeared’ — apparently snatched and detained by mainland security forces — for selling books that offend Beijing.” In Beijing, Caijing magazine’s financial journalist Wang Xiaolu was arrested. Crovitz traced the connections between the downturn of the Chinese stock market and the Communist Party’s censorship. Here are a few key points:Read More
Sunday, December 20th 2015
There’s an abundant historical literature on Public Diplomacy, and a July 24, 2015, report published by the Legatum Institute, “Counter Propaganda: Cases from US Public Diplomacy and Beyond,” provides a crisp historical review. The author is Professor Nicholas Cull of the University of Southern California, well known as the author of the magisterial The Cold War and the United States Information Agency 1945-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2008). For Public Diplomacy, propaganda, and counter-propaganda, the report includes principles, case studies, historical lessons learned, and recommendations in only 12 pages of text.
Professor Cull’s review of propaganda through the 1930s is full of cautionary examples, well explains the word’s negative associations, and summarizes the post-World War I debate to define what is licit and illicit. The compact section on World War II and the longer portion on the Cold War are full of instructive examples – too many forgotten – that still echo in America’s approach to Public Diplomacy.Read More
Friday, November 6th 2015
To think offense – and for concepts “outside the box” – call a Marine.
“In an information wilderness in which massive battles of ideas are raging and ideas are used as weapons, a defensive strategy is only part of the solution. The services must go on the offense in more than just covert and clandestine intelligence and cyber actions. They need the capability to launch or strongly support ideas as well, and should do so through the most effective medium they have: the individual soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine.”
This radical call for decentralization and empowerment was made by Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel G. John David, a student at the Inter-American Defense College, in an article, “Taking the Offensive,” in the October, 2015, issue of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. He described the current Joint Information Environment (JIE) as a well-protected, defensive “stockade.” Borrowing from the concept of the “strategic corporal” as a key to the success of American arms, he argued that an offensive posture must rely on individuals rather than tight message control.Read More
Thursday, October 1st 2015
On October 18-19, 2009, the Chinese writer, democracy activist, and blogger, Ran Yunfei, penned an essay, “Where Will the Fear End?” It expressed thoughts he had prepared for “a talk that could not be delivered” at a conference in Hong Kong because the Chinese authorities barred his travel. Ran called for the free flow of information.Read More