“Propaganda in Reverse”

“Jingoist newspaper articles, or thoughtlessly provocative speeches in Congress, may become propaganda in reverse.” This was the 1963 observation of emeritus Princeton professor of politics John B. Whitton (1892-1977) in his book Propaganda and the Cold War (Washington, Public Affairs Press, 1963, pp. 10-11).  His chapter on “The American Effort Challenged” included a subhead —…

Edward G. Lansdale, 1956. Credit: USAF Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center.

Ed Lansdale, Vietnam, “Sharp Power” and “Psychological”

                The disinformation, propaganda, and malign narratives that now trouble international relations reach beyond the traditional Public Diplomacy frames of “mutual understanding,” “winning hearts and minds” and “soft power.” They are tools of “sharp power,” defined by the National Endowment for Democracy as “authoritarian influence efforts” that “pierce,…

U.S. Public Diplomacy losing to Public Affairs?

That will be the question tomorrow when the senior public diplomacy official, Michelle Giuda, appears before the Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy to discuss the ongoing merger of two bureaus under her aegis. The Council is co-hosting this event with the Advisory Commission at at George Washington University Elliott School’s Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E…

Powell, Singer, Brooking address an audience

How classic propaganda tactics weaponize social media

If you participate in social media, you are being spun.  And that’s a problem for government communicators, especially in public diplomacy. LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, published just two months ago, has been termed by Amazon Press as “the best book of 2018”.  The book’s co-authors, noted scholars of 21st century new media Peter W.…

head shot of Barry Zorthian

Lessons of Counterinsurgency: A Word from Barry Zorthian

During the Vietnam War, Barry Zorthian (1920-2010) was the Director of the U.S. Information Service in Saigon, and he was the prime mover in establishing the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO).  JUSPAO brought together the media operations of the State Department, the U.S. Information Service, USAID, the CIA, and the Military Assistance Command,…

Folded newspaper section "China Watch"

Sharp Power Focus on China

Dr. Michael Schneider, the director of Syracuse University’s D.C. Public Diplomacy program, calls our attention to an update on the topic of China’s “sharp power” thrust. The Journal of Democracy carries a set of eight articles on “China in Xi’s new era” examining the country’s internal changes in the wake of the 19th Party Congress, its expanding global ambitions, and its…

Photographers and “propaganda,” friends and enemies

Today’s Public Diplomacy practitioners work in a loud, visually saturated, media-intense age when “post-truth,” “many truths,” and “alternative facts” are themes of academic, social, and political debate.  They work in many different cultures at a time when the claims of identity, rather than universality and common humanity, gain sway.   Issue 47 (2017) of Foam:…