International Communication

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Public Diplomacy" is a strip club where propagandists give lap dances to their imperialist sugar daddies.

In the article "A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas" the authors are fond of tossing around the terms "strategic communication" and "public diplomacy."  I find these terms offensive.  The fact that these terms are being used more and more often, and the fact that their use is rarely challenged, shows that we are living in the midst of a "Global War of Euphemisms," rather than ideas.

Back in the day propaganda was called "propaganda."  The Department of "Defense" was more accurately named the War Department.  "Biosolids" were known as toxic sludge.  "Extraordinary rendition" was known as torture.  You get the point.

The authors of this article are repeating a message that has been so fashionable that it has become a cliche in papers on communications theory.  The United States is failing to spread its message to the world.  If we could only come up with the right buzzwords, a better catch-phrase, or a more clever jingle the other 95% of the world's population that isn't American would rush to embrace us with open arms.

The article talks about how one Muslim cleric described "democracy" as a religion.  It's true.  Instead of being accompanied by Crusaders, witch trials, and the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition, "democracy" is followed up with cluster bombs, depleted uranium, waterboarding, drone attacks, and CIA-backed death squads.  People that fail to realize this will continue to be left scratching their heads and asking themselves, "I wonder why they don't get America's message?"

The authors of this article, and their fellow propagandists at the Consortium for Strategic Communication, are the shock troops in the latest mission to sugar-coat American imperialism.  We have a global war for resources, which we euphemistically refer to as a "war on terrorism."  But the "War on Terrorism" has gotten a lot of bad publicity, so now it's being spun as a "War of Ideas."

Given the successes of the "War on Drugs," the "War on Cancer," or the "War on Poverty" it should be obvious that declaring war on something is a surefire way to make it worse.  Now that a "War of Ideas" has been launched, we can sit back and watch as the free discussion of ideas atrophies and withers away.  If ideas are really "bulletproof" as the tag line from "V for Vendetta" says, then we need to take a few pot shots at our own ideas of American exceptionalism and see if they stand up to the test or not. 


  1. That is truly an interesting argument. While reading that piece, I was more struck with the methods of communication being described and completely glossed over what you're pointing out. But, the more I read your post, the more I think that you are definitely right in your thinking and I agree. We have become a society of "buzzwords" and it's no wonder that people don't understand what we are trying to convey.

    I think the only thing I'm really struggling with is this question. How do we go back to a world where things seem much more straightforward and leave behind the world of "buzzwords" we have come to know? I don't necessarily think that it would be as simple as snapping one's fingers.

  2. Its interesting how words can be manipulated to change meanings and the way people interpret them. I recently saw a video which dictated the evolution of the word shell shocked, which originated in WWI to describe the overwhelming number of soldiers dealing with psychological trauma. The video (which I have desperately searched for on google but cannot locate) then goes on to note how this phenomenon had a new name after every 20th century war. By the 1970s during Vietnam this was called Post Dramatic Stress Disorder. The author of the video notes that with each war new words were added making the name of the trauma less tangible and more vague thus less powerful. Ultimately, the author believes that by making the verbiage more technical it becomes less human and thus citizenry treatment and understanding of veterans going through this significant psychological trauma less forgiving and supportive.

    It is interesting how branding a disease, campaign, etc can facilitate different emotions in people. An interesting study would be on the strategic of branding "pro-life" and "pro-choice."