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Debunking the propaganda mystery: the case of U.S. propaganda during the Bush administration.

Propaganda can be stated as an umbrella term covering all forms of persuasive communication, including advertising and public relations. As a label it suffered (and suffers) from certain imprecision and might be regarded among few words in English language which carry as many ethical intonations.

Furthermore, it can be thought as a use of expression-form in such a way to ensure rapid dissemination of ideas through graphic symbols, music, spectacle and combination of words charged with emotions. Propagandists make impression upon the masses of people and the information may be wholly or partially ‘true’, confusing, or ‘false’. Propaganda manifest as an effect of secrecy and censorship and selective release of information is intent on serving or promoting the interests of those in power. The state owned and controlled press broadcasting institutions can be used for propaganda purposes as in the case in Nazi Germany or during Stalin in Soviet Union.

Bernays (2005) suggests that in theory, every citizen make their mind on public issues and matters of private conduct. Yet, in practice, we have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government to sift the abstruse economics, political, and ethical judgement involved in every issues thereby narrowing our field of choice to practical proportions (p.38). Nevertheless, some of the phenomenon of this process such as manipulation of news, the inflation of personality, and the general commotion by which political or commercial products or social ideas are brought into public awareness can be criticised. However, though this kind of instrument of organising public opinion may be misused, such organization and focusing are seen necessary for an orderly life (ibid. P39).


Duke (2006) provides interesting insight into the US Defence Department engagement of a systematic black propaganda program following the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003. It is maintained that the Pentagon contracted the Washington-based Lincoln Group to complement the military’s psychological operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The propaganda mechanisms include tactics like planting favourable news articles in the Iraqi news media (cited in Guth 2009 p.12).  Similarly, the case study of both the Afghan and Iraq war undeniably suggest that the Bush government did engaged in all shades of propaganda not only to deceive domestic audience but targeted audience of these countries to serve US government interest.  However, the psychological operation tactic employed to demoralize the Taliban and winning the support of Afghan people through institutions like the CIC or the OSI has shown to be ineffective as a long term strategy.

Evidently, in the case of Iraq war it can be argued that domestic public has been target of biased and persuading information with negative targeting of Iraq such as Saddam possessing weapon of mass destruction. Nevertheless, it can be noted that the role and direction of U.S. overseas information has seen divergent opinion and those aligned with the military tended to take a more tactical approach. On the other hand journalist and public relations practitioners tend to prefer the strategic approach favouring the use of white propaganda though they distance themselves from the term (Guth 2009, 13).

Nevertheless, Black (2001) suggests that it is possible to conduct public relations, advertising, and persuasion campaigns, plus the vast range of informational journalism efforts, without being unduly propagandistic ((Black 2001, p. 15).

A fully functioning democratic society needs pluralism in its persuasion and information albeit narrow-minded self-serving propaganda that the modern media savvy audience members unconsciously or uncritically consume. The mutual exclusiveness of open-mindedness and mass communication is seen highly important.




Black, J. (2001), ‘Semantics and Ethics of Propaganda’,Journal of Mass Media Ethics’, [online] (2/3) 16, pp.121–137.  Available from                                                                                                      < =d626b51c-cf04-4ea3-949d-439f39f60859%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=106 >  [18th March 2012]


Bernays, Edward L. (2005), ‘Propaganda/Edward Bernays; with an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller’, Brooklyn NY, Ig Publishing.


Guth, David W. (2008), ‘Black, White, and Shades of Gray: The Sixty-Year Debate over Propaganda versus Public Diplomacy’,Journal of Promotion Management’, [online] (3/4) 14, pp. 309-325.  Available from                                                                                                                                                < =7fedb6ee-fa31-4b7c-b953-48d09e8d2c14%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=123> [18th March 2012]


Sennett, A. (2009), ‘Play It Again, Uncle Sam: Casablanca & US Foreign Policy’, ‘Journal of Popular Film & Television’, [online] (1) 37, pp 2-8. Available from

< =8fcb977b-90d7-4c98-b8fc-9909ceede910%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=123> [101h March 2012]



Comment on isabelletreat The new public diplomacy: a greater role for domestic civil society?


Isabelletreat I found this blog very insightful and think you drew on some important issues especially in regards to a new focus on domestic populations, and as Cull argues Public Diplomacy is not exclusive to government officials but requires citizen effort too.

I would like to simply add to what you have said by referring to a publication by Kathy R. Fitzpatrick ‘U.S Public Diplomacy’s neglected domestic mandate’ (

Fitzpatrick begins with a quote that I think addresses the issue completely, “Ignorance of the world is a national liability” (Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton).

She then traces this U.S Public Diplomacy’s neglected domestic mandate to the beginning of the Cold War.  The United States Information and Educational Exchange Act in 1948 was set up to increase a mutual understanding of the US in other countries (this led to the creation of the United States Information Agency).  However, at its inception there were never any instructions on how mutual understanding would be achieved at home.  This ideal of mutual understanding thus remained just that, an ideal.  Fitzpatrick argues that as a result today Americans have turned inward and there is an overwhelming focus on domestic concerns as the interest in foreign affairs that was prominent during the Cold War has been neglected.  This could be down to the fear of propaganda or mistrust in the government, however it is vital for the US with an increasing reputation around the world for being ignorant to step up its game in ensuring mutual understanding really does become mutual, and listening has as much importance as talking.

The Public and Cultural Diplomacy of NATO and the EU

Comparing the Public and Cultural Diplomacy of two states is fascinating and leads to a great deal of insight in to their foreign policy aims and targets.  Observing non-state actor’s involvement in Public and Cultural Diplomacy likewise provides an interesting take on the methods in which Public and Cultural Diplomacy can be conducted; however there is a lot of scepticism around where we draw the line on who we can call actors.  NATO and the EU are organisations that are made up of member states.  Any form of Public and Cultural Diplomacy therefore must be analysed as a body working together, and the focus of the Diplomacy (the receiving state) and ‘projects’ undertaken are completely relevant to the different organisations.

One of the differences that can be observed between NATO and the EU is that the EU has a much more decentralised style towards Public and Cultural Diplomacy compared to the centralised style of NATO.  This can be seen on their websites where there is a striking difference in structure and management.

The European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) seeks ‘to facilitate cultural co-operation’ with members working in over 150 countries.  This is based on the notion that the EU is multicultural and not only prides itself in this but brands itself as diverse.  The EUNIC network describes itself as an active network, a learning network, a partnering network and an advocacy network.  By drawing on this diversity it centres its activities on the ‘Language Rich Europe’.  One of these projects is ‘Projects – From Routes to Roots: Transnational writings in contemporary Europe (’.  This was held at a university in Victoria, Australia in 2011, and involved three authors form Germany, Italy and the UK who reflected ‘the transnational’ in a contemporary Europe.  They discussed their work and debated with the audience to draw attention to how global migration and the legacy of colonialism has brought new communities to Europe, resulting in the evolving face of Europe made up of transnational identities.

Unlike the strong focus on culture by the EU, NATO has a strong Public Diplomacy division.  This Public Diplomacy division includes a NATO Multimedia Library, Fellowship and Sponsorship programmes, a NATO information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine and a NATO Information Office in Moscow, Russia (  Among the Fellowship and Sponsorship programmes is the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) (, and among the programmes in the SPS is a programme of support between scientists and experts from Russia and NATO countries.  This programme brings these different experts together to work on issues such as defence against terrorist threats and countering threats to security such as environmental, disaster threats or modelling sustainable consumption, food security and biotechnology.  This NATO-Russia cooperation promotes, encourages and co-ordinates joint co-operative nationally funded projects, involving experts from NATO countries and Russia.

These two examples of Public and Cultural Diplomacy by the EU and NATO make very different use of academia to bring the organisations closer together with non-member countries.  I can’t help but consider the specific focus of NATO on Russia and Eastern Europe in the Public Diplomacy division reflects the Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the USA during the Cold War yet it also reflects the fact that NATO is a collective defence organisation whereas EU encompasses a lot more than that.  An ordinary civilian from a country that is a member of both organisations would undoubtedly feel a greater sense of belonging to the EU than NATO, so it is of great significance that the EU builds on this image of diversity and culture and demonstrates this around the world.



From Telegraph to Twitter: Arms Control Diplomacy in the Information Age


Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance

University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

January 17, 2012

The Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Arms Control describes in this report the changes in Diplomacy and how technology and innovation have changed the conditions for statecraft in the 21st century. She takes the facts back in the telegraph and perhaps the beginning of printed press era where diplomats discussed treaties in ‘smoked filled rooms across green baize tables, among grizzled diplomats with endless amount of time’.

Besides accelerating diplomacy missions, technology also centralized foreign policy by reducing the independence of diplomats. Analysing the past and how diplomacy was handled and the way diplomats behaved, one cannot argue the changes that influenced and changed the nature of the diplomatic service.

What in the past involved diplomats sending short expensive telegraphs messages, today governments have a whole new range of tools to keep diplomatic relations: media, internet, social networks (Tweeter and Facebook) and meetings all over the world.

The Secretary mentions the downside of such rapid technological advancements. Leaders suffer from lack of time to reflect and pressure on decision-making for important issues and also electronic threats (internet not being the safest place to keep government’s secrets).

Gottemoeller mentions also Hillary Clinton and her successful attributions to this new era of technological advancement. Virtual embassies were opened trying to access the world and to spread the American culture and engage the targeted country. The so called civil society 2.0 incorporates a younger generation with a higher set of skills in computing to deal with this new way of keeping relationships.

Professional hackers are now an important element to help governments solving virtual issues and barriers.  Social networks also play a very special part in nowadays communication. Tweeter was used by an American diplomat asking for help in Japan after an earthquake.

The Bureau of Arms Control is able to detect the difference on the way treaties were dealt with before internet and other innovations and how they are managed in today’s reality. The Secretary compares the negotiations of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 1991 signed by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev and the renegotiations that are happening now.  A diplomatic atmosphere of respect took over the negotiations. Emails and electronic technology is used to accelerate the process. Information is clear and published in fast pace in online news media and social networks. 

To the future

No matter how fast technology advances and emails take over telegrams, diplomats must be attentive and careful with being ‘too advanced’ and forget to act diplomatically. Governments and the media have to be thoughtful and sometimes take a step back and let things fall in place not rushing the decision-making process. She concludes asking for ideas from readers on how to incorporate new technologies into arms control diplomacy.

There is not a great difference between old diplomacy and new diplomacy besides technological advancement. Diplomacy will always exist to negotiate, promote culture and maintain peaceful international relations among international actors. Technology moves in a fast pace and can be used with caution in favour of governments. Wrong doing can be easily detected anywhere in the world with special technology. But diplomats must remain diplomats not robots. They can have use of many different tools to facilitate their jobs but diplomacy cannot be only an exchange of emails and Facebook updates but an exchange of respect, dialogue, understanding and cooperation.

The New Public Diplomacy: A Greater Role for Domestic Civil Society?

When Cull drew seven lessons for the future of public diplomacy from its past, one of the lessons he pointed out was “public diplomacy is not a performance for domestic consumption”, meaning that governments should not use their diplomatic efforts abroad as a way of impressing domestic constituencies.[1]

ImageHowever, while engagement with the public at home in this fashion may be rightfully criticized, in the same article, Cull concedes that public diplomacy is not the exclusive preserve of paid government officials, but highlights the importance of citizen and people to people diplomacy, especially with regards to conveying a positive brand message.[2] Accordingly, it seems that recent considerations of the ‘new public diplomacy’ include a new focus on domestic populations.

Writing with a specific focus on the nation branding aspect of public diplomacy, Tatevossian also recognized this in her 2008 article, by emphasising that home constituencies not only play a vital role in the projection a certain brand image through their interactions with foreign audiences, but, more importantly, that any brand image must realize and respect who the domestic society is and what they believe in. Citing Fiona Gilmore, she establishes this as the first rule of branding:

“The important thing to realize about branding a country is that it must be an amplification of what is already there and not a fabrication… The country’s brand should be rooted in reality and in fundamental truths about the destination”[3]

Thus, seeing that only a reality-based brand image will generate trust and have credibility abroad, governments need to find a way to respond to the breakdown of the distinction between the domestic and the foreign, which Riordan identifies as a main component of 21st century challenges for foreign services. He envisages a greater, more comprehensive engagement with domestic civil society in order to identify ‘what is already there’ to improve the credibility and thus the impact of public diplomacy initiatives abroad.[4] Seeing effective public diplomacy at home as essential for success abroad, he imagines diplomats taking on the new role of “diplomatic entrepreneurs” working to establish networks with non-state actors at home, which will facilitate access to civil society abroad where opportunities for dialogue and cooperation can be more easily established.[5]Image

Bátora, too, advocated the idea of networks between foreign ministries and a broad set of stakeholders at home. By conceding that “value and image assets that constitute the basis of a state’s attractiveness are embedded within societal actors of the respective state,” he suggested that non-state actors needed to be convinced to become associated with states in order for them to harness their soft power potential.[6] However, looking at Canada as an example, Bátora found that the lack of interest in foreign policy had a negative effect on consensus about meaningful goals and values which made it difficult for foreign ministries to identify commonalities with civil society.[7] In line with Gilmore’s first rule, the Canadian foreign ministry undertook two large-scale initiatives to identify the domestic constituency’s priorities for diplomatic initiatives. The two campaigns, making use of modern technology, such as web-based debates, generated broad and positive input from the population and helped in establishing contact points with main societal stake holders at home, but their ultimate impact on foreign policy is still ambiguous, with the final report about the initiatives receiving but “meagre attention.”[8]

Thus, what is the role of the domestic population in the new public diplomacy? Their importance has been increasingly recognized and the idea of networks with civil society, is spreading, yet there seems to be little consensus about the methods of engagement and more research into this topic is needed.

Still, the importance of a successful domestic dialogue has been underlined by Henrikson: If countries are able to identify issues to focus on which are “reflective of deep social interest and responsive to the prevailing public sentiment of a country,” it is possible to create a broad home support basis for activities – such as peacekeeping in Norway – which also increases their legitimacy abroad.[9]


[1] Cull, Nicholas J., ‘Public Diplomacy: Seven Lessons For its Future From its Past’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6.1 (2010), p.15

[2] Ibid., p.15

[3] Tatevossian, Anoush Rima, ‘Domestic Society’s (often-neglected) Role in Nation Branding’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 4.2 (2008) , 183

[4] Riordan, Shaun, ‘Reforming Foreign Services for the Twenty-First Century ‘, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 2.2 (2007), p.165 and p.168

[5] Riordan, Shaun, ‘Reforming Foreign Services for the Twenty-First Century ‘, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 2.2 (2007), p.166 and p.168

[6] Bátora, Jozef, ‘Public Diplomacy Between Home and Abroad: Norway and Canada’, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 1.1 (2006), p.59

[7] Ibid., p.56

[8] Ibid., p.66

[9] Alan K. Henrikson, ‘Niche Diplomacy in the World Public Arena: The Global ‘Corners’ of Canada and Norway’, p.72

Public Diplomacy – The Only Means to an Effective and Sustainable Outcome on Iran’s Nuclear Programme


The Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear programme has generated support and condemnation, cause divisions amongst members of the international community, as well as create a perception of a state of instability within the international political and economic sphere.



TheUnited Statesand its allies (UK, France,Germany, andIsrael) have, in their respective bids to acquire public opinion (and international legitimacy), resort to public diplomacy to win the hearts and minds of both national and international audiences. Indeed, bearing in mind that memories ofIraqare still very fresh in the public’s mind, it is therefore no rocket science that opponents ofIran’s nuclear programme, concentrate on, and place much emphasis on informing, as well as indoctrinating members and citizens of the international community.



Moreover, despite of the unsavoury rhetoric and threats, there now appears a recognition (at least behind close doors) that Iran’s nuclear programme can not be meaningfully addressed or resolved through military coercion, but rather through dialogue and other peaceful resolutions. For whether opponents of Iran’s nuclear programme can militarily partially destroy its nuclear site is not doubted but whether they can cause collateral damage to Iran’s nuclear site is very questionable. Indeed, in echoing the Director of US National Intelligence James R. Clapper, “An Israeli bombing attack might only set back Iran’s nuclear development program by one to two years.” (Press TV, 2012). In a similar development, the former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden asserted that Israellacks the capability of inflicting significant damage on Iran’s nuclear sites, and that any Israeli attack on Iranonly has the ability to make matters worse (Dilanian, K. (2012). U.S. intelligence chief sees limited benefit in an attack on Iran). Hayden further noted that even a month-long bombing assault by theUnited States would not be worth it.




Indeed, the battle is more a contest of winning public opinion and the moral high ground than military strength. Iran, occupying a strategic geopolitical area (the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway through which, daily, 40% of the world’s oil exports pass) thus, also advances the need for a peaceful resolution to the dispute. As such, opposing factions have realised that the only way of winning this battle is through diplomatic means (i.e. gathering moral support from the emerging and influential national regional bodies like the African Union, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their peoples.



According to Los Angeles Times, most experts argue that Iranian scientists now possess enough technological know-how so that no air campaign, not even sustained bombing by US forces, could destroyIran’s ability to someday produce a nuclear weapon should it choose to do so. This shows that irrespective of all the proposed contingency measures, a public diplomacy aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear programme is not only fundamental, but also appears to be the only means to a peaceful and successful solution to the Iranian nuclear programme.



Since it appears to the leaders of the international community that citizens of the global World have no appetite for a potential Third World War or Second Cold War, both factions have turned to the Fourth Estate as they seek to maximise the CNN effect to their advantage. Thus, the process of seeking to promote and enhance the national interest of both Iran, the United States and its allies (Israel, UK, France, Germany) have now become the primary, and perhaps, as the current nature of the international environment suggests, the only way that both factions can claim a genuine victory. Public diplomacy is, in this case, the only means to a successive and effective outcome.




“Just as non-proliferation is vital to the US, the peaceful use of nuclear technology is valued in Iranas an inalienable right” (Salsabili, M. (2012). “Iran Talks: Why Time is Ripe for Compromise)”. As such a diplomatic negotiation aimed at both addressing the suspicions, and providing a fair and constructive settlement is the only long-term solution to this international phenomenon.



Furthermore, that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear programme is not the bone of contention, but whether its nuclear programme has military objectives, seems to be the cause of concern to some members of the international community. As such, this inherent suspicion, misunderstanding, misinformation and misrepresentation can, and will undoubtedly be remedied not by the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and ICBMs, but by a readiness for respectful diplomatic engagement by both factions.








PRESS TV. (2012). Israeli attack on Iran, unlikely: Clapper. Available: Last accessed 29th Feb 2012.


Salsabili, M. (2012). “Iran Talks: Why Time is Ripe for Compromise”. Available: Last accessed 14th April 2012


Dilanian, K. (2012). U.S. intelligence chief sees limited benefit in an attack on Iran. Available: Last accessed 21st April 2012.


Dilanian, K. (2011). Iran has technical means to make nuclear bomb, IAEA says. Available: Last accessed 21st April 2012.


Klare, M. (2005). Oil, Geopolitics, and the Coming War with Iran. Available: Last accessed 21st April 2012

Comment on: The Impact of US Citizen Diplomacy by frs110


I cannot disagree with the fact that citizen diplomacy is somehow influential, positive and successful in many occasions. There are many citizens, with no interests, that help only for the sake of helping and trying to do their part in helping those in need.

I agree that Peace Corps is an important independent actor that is part of Public Diplomacy and has great results. However, as any other independent actor, it seems to have its negative points:


“In January 2010, the issue of safety and security received renewed public attention due to reports on the ABC television newsmagazine 20/20, one concerning the 2009 murder of volunteer Kate Puzey in Benin and the other addressing the rape of volunteers. The stories catalogued incidents illustrating failure of some Peace Corps staff to maintain whistle-blower confidentiality, inaction in response to volunteer reports of threatening behaviour, a lack of compassion for victims of crime, a tendency to blame the victim, and insensitivity to the parents of a crime victim.” (TARNOFF: 2012)


*I was not able to comment under the post.