Monday, March 19, 2007

Public Diplomacy: Propaganda or Reaching the Masses?

Public diplomacy is a concept that is intensely debated between politicians. It refers to a form of diplomacy to another country in which the government is not catered to, but rather the citizens of the country. It is not considered propaganda since the truth is not twisted in any way. It is merely a way to get the word out to the people of a different country, and let them know what is going on. It would seem that this would be unnecessary if two countries were getting along. But after looking at a few examples, you will see why public diplomacy can be a helpful thing, not only in examples from many years ago, but also in modern times.

In history, there have been many different occasions when countries have been under a virtual deluge of propaganda. The citizens hear so much negativity about the good guys and so many positive things about the bad guys that most of them are extremely misinformed when it comes to what is going on. One example is Nazi Germany. The Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda released many different posters that were meant to incite nationalism and a general anti-American sentimentalism. This not only gave Germans a skewed view, but also inspired many of the young men to join the army. Public diplomacy came in rather handy when the USA began to dispel some of the myths about brutality and poor leadership.

A more modern example would be the war in Iraq. The Iraqi Information Minister became infamous after he skewed many different facts, causing all of the Iraqi people to not only believe that Iraq was winning the war, but also that the USA was invading for many different reasons than the ones that were factual. This caused wide public confusion when Iraq was actually defeated, even when the Iraqi people were convinced that they were on the verge of victory the entire time. Many believe this caused a heightened level of animosity towards Americans. Public diplomacy was used to cool this situation down. Essentially, the Iraqi people were told that their information minister had been lying the whole time, and that the USA was not present to hurt anyone. It may not have gotten rid of all the anti-American feelings, but it certainly dispelled some hurtful lies.

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