Two public diplomacy initiatives have emerged; one from the Bush administration; the other from America's private sector. Together they suggest a subtle maturation taking root in U.S. efforts to connect with publics abroad, although change is never easy.
The complementary roles of U.S. international broadcasting and U.S. public diplomacy
American journalists, writers, scholars, decision makers, and other experts tend to be confused about the relationship between international broadcasting and public diplomacy. For example, in article about President Bush's nomination of Karen Hughes to be under secretary of state for public diplomacy, Fred Kaplan wrote:
The State Department announced Thursday that figure skater Michelle Kwan would become a public diplomacy ambassador representing sports and U.S. values to the world. The 26-year-old five time world champion who vaulted onto the world figure skating stage at 15 is now a graduate student in political science and international relations at the University of Denver, alma mater of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Kwan seems like a good safe choice to represent U.S. values in diversity and sports excellence.
In what can only be described as anti-climactic, Al Jazeera International is starting its English channel broadcasts to North America November 15 with a whimper, rather than the desired flourish. After failing to meet several self-appointed inaugural air dates over the past year, the controversial Arabic TV channel kicked off its service to the U.S. via bottom-tier, off-the-beaten-track delivery services on which Al Jazeera International's audience in America will be miniscule to start.
U.S. news media outlets were awash this morning in news about how Alberto Fernandez, a U.S. foreign service officer, described U.S. Iraq policy in less than flattering terms on a major Arab satellite nework. His controversial statement came during an interview program on Al Jazeera, where he admitted that United States policies in Iraq had showed "arrogance" and "stupidity."
Written with Wang Jian.
In December 2005, famed Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige's latest work "The Promise" opened to tepid reviews from his fellow countrymen. With production costs exceeding $35 million, the film failed to capture the hearts of a traditionally accepting audience. While Chinese have come to expect sub-par films in the past, a more market-driven movie industry seemed to have promise, just not the Promise.
The war in Iraq has spawned a new industry in Washington that could be called Psy-ops Journalism. The new breed of journalists are following the money trail to the Pentagon.
With U.S. elections little more than a month away, America's public diplomacy has been cast into the fray. By an odd coincidence, on the same day President Bush charged that a classified intelligence report on Iraq had been leaked to the New York Times to embarrass the administration leading up to the November elections, another news organization published an exclusive story regarding U.S. public diplomacy.