Ransom (Random?) Thoughts: 20 Years! Historical (hysterical) events in American public diplomacy, 1999-2019 [in rough chronological order]

  • 23rd January 2019
Ransom (Random?) Thoughts: 20 Years! Historical (hysterical) events in American public diplomacy, 1999-2019 [in rough chronological order]

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–Elimination of the Cold War-founded/USG-funded United States Information Agency (USIA) (1999); its function integrated into the State Department; see
–Creation of a State Department Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public affairs, an often vacant post with no current employee, the last one of whom stated (1)
–Denigration of the “public diplomacy” function within the State Department hierarchy, especially in the field [this is a personal comment (ca. 2012) from someone who had the privilege of being a PD dip for some twenty years (2)].
–Proliferation/academisation of college programs on public diplomacy; but what “real jobs” will these earnest grads get after borrowing for tuition fees? See.
–Privatization of public diplomacy: Let business “do” it. At whose expense/ investment? The consumer?
–Modification/elimination of the adjective preceding “public diplomacy,” formerly modified (but not always) (see “Diplomacies, from Public to Pubic“)
–Digitalization (the latest graze [3]): Who needs personal, face-to-face contact when you’ve got a cell phone! (Part of the ahistorial cyberutopian mentality?)
–And perhaps, as the USA abandons 20th-cent “public diplomacy”, as traditionally (wrongly?) formulated during the Cold War, other countries — notably in Asia, and to some extent in Eastern Europe and Africa — are proclaiming it with abandon (in their interpretation, of course). (Check my blog on references to PD in many countries, especially China, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia …)
–Question: Who will come up with an original idea beyond — digilization/ “fighting” trolls’ fake news?
***(1) “Basically every country creates their own narrative story,” Stengel said. “My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke [call] the chief propagandist job. I’m not against propaganda, every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”
(2) I go to “report” the HR Dept at the State Dept after my last posting in Russia (early 90s). A Department functionary, behind an inquisitorial-looking (to me) desk, as she picks up my bio from her printer (I recall from my faulty memory):
“She: You look pretty clean.
Yours Truly [YT]: Thank you Madam.
She: You spent most of your time in hardship posts.
YT [ironically, beyond her comprehension] : Well, they weren’t that hard …
She: But you are public diplomacy, aren’t you?
YT: Yes, Madam.
Original Article

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