Monday, March 14, 2005
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Blogging as public diplomacy?
Hampton Stephens has a fascinating op-ed in today's Boston Globe about using blogs as a low-cost, high-yield way of enhancing U.S. public diplomacy. The highlights:
Read the whole thing to see more specific policy proposals -- Sprit of America is prominently mentioned.
The one nagging question I have is what happens when a blogger puts their foot in their mouth (as often happens) through a U.S. government-sponsored channel? I suspect this kind of downside can be managed, but I'm not completely certain.
Paging Karen Hughes......posted by Dan on 03.14.05 at 11:06 AM
Is the influence of blogs being over-estimated ? They help to reach an influential populace: educated, computer literate, but these are a minotity in many non-Western countries.
Don't misunderstand me -- supporting blogging would still be useful (indeed, I dont' see how it could be harmful), but its important not to over-estimate its impact.
Hack or Flack?
"Liberty as an alternative to extremism and tyranny" is a damn poor advocation! Maybe there's a little too much fairness and balance running through the author's mind!
I agree with the author that blogs are more useful for internal discussion and coordination rather than external persuasion. However, given that the Bush administration a)liberally dispenses disinformation within the US and would not hesitate to do so via blogs, and b)is currently marginalizing Democratic (and otherwise) bloggers here, it is ironic that Stephens suggests the utility of blogging for spreading "the message of liberty:"
In most foreign countries, traditional media like Al Jazeera -- against which Alhurra, established in February 2004, is designed to compete -- is the place most citizens get their political information. However, the particular characteristics of the Internet and Web logs make them fertile ground for alternative political cultures to take root, especially in countries where the state attempts to control access to information.Scary to think, but perhaps this means that here they don't just attempt, they do contol access to information!
Given the domestic tactics fueling the critique of disinformation, this too is ironic:
However, if US officials have conceived of an approach that can overcome foreign skepticism about American ''propaganda" while still aggressively fighting the battle of ideas that is critical to creating a freer, more open world, they have not publicized it.With the blogosphere, their approaches exacerbate domestic skepticism and embattle the converted. Then again, they are wedded to war, not "public diplomacy."
In my opinion, most Iranian blog readers, though they are inclined to oppose their regime, will not take recommendations from "Blogs of America:"
To accomplish this, the radio and television stations could feature ''the best and most interesting bloggers" on their programs, Waller says. ''The bloggers, in turn, would find it in their interests to draw listeners and viewers to US-sponsored media."
And this is likely to generate counteroffensives and possibly targetting of pro-US bloggers:
Spirit of America, a nonprofit group started by a California businessman to fund nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, is developing a blogging tool to give Arabic speakers the same ability to create blogs as users of English software like Google's Blogger. The group says hosting each blog will cost just $12 a year. To make sure the tool is used to promote democratic ideals rather than, say, jihad against the West, each blog created with the tool will display banner ads promoting ''groups, individuals, and news that, in the big picture, advance freedom, democracy, and peace in the region," according to Spirit of America.
By the way, how much money will this group be sucking from the treasury? Seems likely to me that "Hampton Stephens, former managing editor of Inside the Air Force, [and] a graduate student at the Institute of World Politics" is stumping for an opportunity or is promoting say, Spirit of America.posted by: DAE on 03.14.05 at 11:06 AM [permalink]
By the way, how much money will this group be sucking from the treasury? Seems likely to me that "Hampton Stephens, former managing editor of Inside the Air Force, [and] a graduate student at the Institute of World Politics" is stumping for an opportunity or is promoting say, Spirit of America.posted by: Davis on 03.14.05 at 11:06 AM [permalink]
WaPo today: "The State Department spent $685 million on public diplomacy [propaganda] in 2004, but critics complain that it has not been increased enough since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that most of it has not targeted the Muslim world."posted by: DAE on 03.14.05 at 11:06 AM [permalink]
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