Public Diplomacy 2017-05-06T12:04:23+00:00

Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 5th ed.  –  Online updating pages

Chapter 13: Public Diplomacy

p. 198, rebranding propaganda: although US Secretary of State while this exercise was in full swing (2009-13), Hillary Clinton is admirably sparing in using the term ‘public diplomacy’ in her memoirs of these years, Hard Choices; in fact, it’s difficult to find it at all. By refreshing contrast, we find her remarking on p. 141 that her ‘Af-Pak’ special representative, Richard Holbrooke, ‘became passionate about the propaganda war, which the Taliban was winning despite our vastly superior resources and technology.’ Thus slips the mask.

In the same vein, it’s also interesting that the flabby, blancmange term ‘public diplomacy’ does not feature at all in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the British House of Commons on ‘The United Kingdom’s relations with Russia’ (Further reading below). Dealing with the propaganda of Russia Today and Sputnik News and how the UK should respond to it, as well as using the term ‘propaganda’ we find it instead employing the term ‘soft power’ (as unfortunate an addition to the language as ‘public diplomacy’) and the older usage, ‘information campaign’. This report is also substantively instructive.

p. 201, Twitter: The unfortunate occupation of the White House by America’s national disgrace, Donald Trump, has elevated this to the rank of propagandists’ medium of choice, with its ‘stock in trade: endless feuds, ego stroking and casual cruelty’ (Barbaro, see Further reading below).

pp. 202-3, news management: I should have made clear here that it is also the duty of the foreign ministry to make sure that journalists of its own state are briefed with the official line, and – rather than use the ambiguous term ‘foreign correspondents’ – employed instead the terms ‘foreign diplomatic correspondents’ and ‘home diplomatic correspondents’. The US State Department used to be very good at keeping America’s own diplomatic correspondents abreast of foreign policy developments. It gave daily press briefings to which they as well as foreign diplomatic correspondents were admitted, and permitted a ‘press pool’ of US journalists to fly in the same plane as the secretaries of state on their many foreign trips. It was, therefore, a spectacular public diplomacy own goal for Trump’s State Department, headed if not led by Rex Tillerson, to fail to have a single press briefing until 7 March (2017) and compound this by refusing to allow a press pool to accompany the secretary of state on his very important visit Asia  (Japan, South Korea and China).  These actions not only deeply angered the US press corps but also delivered the news management of US foreign policy, such as it is, into the hands of others – not always friendly (see Lakshmanan in Further reading below).

Further reading: additions and links

Barbaro, Michael, ‘Pithy, Mean and Powerful: How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016’, New York Times, 5 October 2015

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, ‘The United Kingdom’s relations with Russia’, 2 March 2017, paras. 149-56

House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence, ‘Persuasion and Power in the Modern World’, HL Paper 150, 28 March 2014

Lakshmanan, Indira A.R., ‘Rex Tillerson’s poor “tone at the top” on press freedom sets a dangerous precedent’, Poynter Commentary, 17 March, 2017

Osgood, Kenneth A., ‘Propaganda’, in Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy (Gale Group: 2002). An outstanding piece, with real historical depth.

Osgood, Kenneth A., and Brian C. Etheridge (eds), The United States and Public Diplomacy: new directions in cultural and international history (Nijhoff: Leiden, 2010). The long Introduction to this collection of essays is available here.

Twitter diplomacy’ [among other modern oxymorons], Wikipedia

Wiseman, Geoffrey (ed), Isolate or Engage: Adversarial states, US foreign policy, and public diplomacy (Stanford University Press, 2015)