Public Diplomacy Fall Speaker Series: Anthony Pratkanis

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The USC Center on Public Diplomacy welcomed Anthony Pratkanis for a roundtable discussion entitled, "Centers of Gravity in Information Conflict: A Social Influence Analysis." As an expert on propaganda and persuasion, Pratkanis frequently contributes to scientific journals and popular press. Most recently, he has evaluated the success of the U.S. military's psychological warfare campaign in Iraq. He is a psychology professor at UC Santa Cruz and the founding editor of the new academic journal Social Influence.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
12:00 pm
Annenberg, Room 207

Event Report

USA Struggles in Information Campaign
By Matthew Mundy

The U.S. is losing the information campaign in the war on terrorism, said Professor Anthony Pratkanis to an audience here, and it needs to refocus its efforts if it wishes to be successful. Pratkanis posited a new model, based upon social influence analysis, that will focus on more long-term strategies and replace other failed models.

The effort to convey information across regions is being lost for a number of reasons, but can be won using soft, rather than hard power, said Pratkanis. Soft power relies on diplomacy, culture and history, while hard power refers to power deriving from the military and the economy. However, as he noted, “soft power has a very hard edge,” and public diplomacy would allow for democratically acceptable forms of influence upon different populations.

Drawing from an abundance of historical analogies, Pratkanis determined a number of pivotal points in the information campaign that the U.S. should concentrate on. Of these, the most important revolved around issues of the primacy of strategy, the necessity of agenda setting and using morally legitimate means of social influence. In all of these areas now, Pratkanis noted, the current campaign is lacking.

“Influence must be consistent with our democratic values,” said Pratkanis, clarifying the central thrust of the talk. An information campaign must use democratically agreed upon tactics and refuse to stray beyond them. Betraying people’s trust, as countries have done throughout time in their information campaigns in international conflicts, will never be a winning solution.


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