1.TEACHING ABOUT PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND POWER: The bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) is continuing to do productive work to improve the public diplomacy functions vested in U.S. Government entities. Its latest product, Teaching Public Diplomacy and the Information Instruments of Power in a Complex Information Environment, is an 88-page special report intended for scholars and practitioners of public diplomacy, information and influence activities.
The report came out of an ACPD-convened meeting of a group of military and civilian educators and practitioners who met at the National War College in Washington, DC in January 2020. According to Vivian S. Walker, ACPD Executive Director, and Sonya Finley, Professor of Strategy, National War College, the purpose was to “build a body of expertise” and “share theoretical approaches and best practices” on conceptualizing, understanding and teaching the information space. The findings are of special relevance to those teaching and studying in the Professional Military Education (PME) institutions and at State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), but PD generalists and professionals working more broadly in the interagency process should also find the ideas and perspectives useful.
2. SATIRE FOR MEDIA DEVELOPMENT — NOTHING TO LAUGH AT: The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy, has produced a report on a topic that is no laughing matter: comedy as a tool in the media development toolbox.
In Are Punchlines the New Front Lines of Media Development? Dillon Case and Kevin Bleyer argue that in restrictive media environments satirical comedy should be taken seriously because it can be used as “an important tool to promote freedom of expression, foster accountability and transparency, counter disinformation, strengthen media literacy, and support more sustainable business models for media outlets.” Case, CEO of Pilot Media Initiatives, and Bleyer, best known as a writer for Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and a speechwriter for President Obama, make the important point that “the youth demographic, often difficult to reach and engage, is a fan (of satirical comedians), and often considers few sources more credible – in some instances, no one more trustworthy – than satirists.”
The best parts of the 26-page report are the case studies of donor-funded satire news and current affairs programs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Kenya, North Macedonia, Nigeria, Serbia, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
For the text of the August 10, 2020 digital report, go to: https://www.cima.ned.org/publication/are-punchlines-the-new-front-lines-of-media-development/
3. A VIEW FROM CANADA OF “THE UNRAVELING OF AMERICA”: Painful as it may be, public diplomacy practitioners know the importance of listening to both friends and foes and understanding how they perceive us. Now, with the U.S.-Canada border closed due to the pandemic, is a good time to read what our friendly neighbors to the north are saying.
Anthropologist Wade Davis, who holds the Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has written a provocative August 6, 2020 “Rolling Stone” analysis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the America Era. He says the pandemic has had an “absolutely devastating impact” on America’s reputation and international standing. In The Unraveling of America, he asks a tough question: “How can the rest of the world expect America to lead on global threats – climate change, the extinction crisis, pandemics – when the country no longer has a sense of benign purpose, or collective well-being, even within its own national community?” Davis makes clear that “the end of the American era and the passing of the torch to Asia is no occasion for celebration, no time to gloat,” but he questions whether “such a profoundly polarized nation will be able to find a way forward.” He concludes: “For better or for worse, America has had its time.”
For the full article, go to: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/covid-19-end-of-american-era-wade-davis-1038206/.
4. THE NEW “GLOBAL POWER SHIFT”: Dr. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., the “soft power” scholar from Harvard, is always worthy of the PD community’s attention. Whether speaking at the January 30, 2020 “Walter Roberts Annual Lecture” at George Washington University Elliott School of International Relations or churning out yet another article, Dr. Nye deserves to be listened to. His latest work, a short commentary titled The Other Global Power Shift, is no exception.
Focusing on “the technology-driven shift of power away from states to transitional actors,” he argues that “technological change is putting a number of issues – including financial stability, climate change, terrorism, cybercrime, and pandemics – on the global agenda at the same time that it tends to weaken governments’ ability to respond.” In such a “neo-feudal” world, Nye says the United States cannot achieve many of its goals acting alone, and “isolation is not an option.” He concludes that “the most connected states are the most powerful,” and questions whether “openness and willingness to engage with the world will prove sustainable in U.S. domestic politics.”
For the text of his August 6, 2020 Project Syndicate piece, go to: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/new-technology-threats-to-us-national-security-by-joseph-s-nye-2020-08.
5. AHEAD – A SHARP DECLINE IN CHINESE STUDENTS? With U.S.- China tensions rising every day, the Administration’s tit-for-tat moves against China could have major consequences, and not just for the Chinese. PD practitioners worry that the flurry of new, anti-Chinese Communist Party policies – combined with the pandemic — is adversely affecting educational and cultural exchange programs like Fulbright, and the many U.S. institutions which have long welcomed students and researchers from China. (Last November’s annual, State Department-funded IIE Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange showed that for the tenth consecutive year, China was the largest source of international students in the United States with approximately 370,000 students in the country.)
Andrew Swindell, a UCLA Ph.D. international education student with experience as an aid worker in Liberia and a teacher in Myanmar and Thailand, is among those concerned about the upheaval. He has summarized five reasons why “Chinese students just might stay home for good.” Read his August 6, 2020 article in The Conversation at: https://theconversation.com/5-reasons-chinese-students-may-stop-studying-in-the-us-141966.
Dr. Michael H. Anderson is a public diplomacy and Asian affairs specialist with nearly 30 years of Foreign Service experience serving in the US Department of State and the US Information Agency (USIA) and working in South Asia and Southeast Asia. His Public Affairs Officer (PAO) postings included New Delhi, Jakarta, Karachi, Singapore, Manila and Port Moresby. He also has been a journalist, a teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia, an information officer with UNICEF, and an East-West Center grantee. He is a member of the PDC Board.