Latest Must-Reads in Public Diplomacy: August 2020

The 102nd edition of CPD Faculty Fellow Bruce Gregory's public diplomacy reading list is now available. Known affectionately at CPD as "Bruce's List," this list is a compilation of books, journal articles, papers and blog posts on a wide variety of PD topics and features a number of CPD scholars.

Highlights from this latest list include:

“Ethics in Diplomacy,” Public Diplomacy Magazine, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, Issue 23, Summer 2020. This edition of PD Magazine offers a variety of brief articles on conceptual, historical, topical, state-based and practice-based inquiries into the place of ethics in public diplomacy. They divide into four categories. What should ethical diplomacy look like? What are important ethical considerations? What can be learned from the past? And ethics during a pandemic. Edited by USC students, PD Magazine blends the work of students, scholars and practitioners. It is entering its second decade as a publication that focuses broadly on issues and trends in diplomacy’s public dimension. Congratulations to all.

Haroro J. Ingram, Persuade or Perish: Addressing Gaps in the U.S. Posture to Confront Propaganda and Disinformation Threats, Program on Extremism Policy Paper, George Washington University, February 2020. Ingram (George Washington University’s Program on Extremism) has three objectives. First, he discusses malicious influence activities of state and non-state actors that threaten “not only the stability and security of nations but democracy itself” – and the related problem of deficiencies in the US government’s ability to deal with these threats. Second, he profiles a century of “inconsistent” U.S. approaches to the role of “persuasive communication” in foreign policy and national security. He follows with a deep dive into his central organizational focus, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and its immediate predecessors. Third, he makes four recommendations: the need to learn from America’s past influence efforts, the benefits of developing an overarching paradigm to understand a “spectrum of threats,” the importance of “overt attributed US government messaging,” and a strategic interagency structure similar in intent to the Reagan Administration’s National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 75). Ingram’s historical overview is a useful predicate for thinking about current change agendas. His paper is limited, however, by its predominant attention to threats, organizational solutions, messaging and influence model practices. Missing is discussion of opportunities, solutions grounded in transformative policies and actions and relational model practices. See also Haroro J. Ingram, “Pandemic Propaganda and the Global Democracy Crisis,” May 18, 2020, War on the Rocks.

Sarah Kreps, Social Media and International Relations, (Cambridge University Press, 2020). In this brief, cogent and well-written book, Kreps (Cornell University) assumes that social media can now be treated as an actor in international relations. She then discusses questions that follow from this assumption. What social media features attract foreign interference? Are democracies more susceptible to information warfare than authoritarian states? How can information operations and the Internet be used as instruments of war? How do states assert digital sovereignty? What new technologies, such as AI, threaten democratic vulnerabilities and how can democracies respond? Diplomacy scholars and practitioners will find particularly interesting her thinking on public opinion, traditional notions of the marketplace of ideas, social media as instruments of manipulation and weaponized information, how emerging AI tools lower barriers to entry in propaganda campaigns and the contrasting values of AI and low technology tools in responding to them. Kreps’ central argument is that social media are undermining longtime advantages of democracies in international relations such as public accountability and effectiveness in policy formulation, governance and war. Her book seeks to explain these phenomena and discuss responses to them. (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby) 

Laura Mills, “Empire, Emotion, Exchange: (Dis)orienting Encounters Of/With Post 9-11 US Cultural Diplomacy,” Cultural Studies, published online June 22, 2020. In this probing critique of US cultural diplomacy and its Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), Mills (University of St. Andrews, UK) makes four claims. First, post 9/11 cultural diplomacy is disorienting because cosmopolitanism and affective elements in YES recruitment materials demonstrate how empire and its elements of power and control, are revealed in what is seemingly benign and unquestionable. Second, the entanglement of emotion, empire and exchange can “(dis)orient” participants through elements in YES orientation sessions and program handbooks. Third, the seductive simplicity of an imperialist America frame problematically obscures government and performance complexities, tensions and contradictions within the YES programs. Fourth, challenging characteristics of empire and these disorientations opens the way to a creative re-imagining and reorientation of post 9/11 US cultural diplomacy. Her article is grounded in the views of Michel Foucault and other scholars on how power relations are embedded in institutions and human interaction, Sara Ahmed and others on affect and the literature of Franz Fanon and a host of writers on cosmopolitanism and colonialism. Throughout, Mills cites numerous examples of language and practices in YES programs and program materials. Cultural diplomacy practitioners will find her writing and theoretical logic demanding. But it will reward as it summons a rethinking of their programs and methods. Her article previews her forthcoming book, Post-9/11 US Cultural Diplomacy: The Impossibility of Cosmopolitanism (Routledge).

The full list features many articles on the theme of recent developments in U.S. international broadcasting and works by CPD Director Jay Wang and CPD Faculty Fellow Vivian S. Walker. View the list here.


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