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Public diplomacy

(publicdiplomacy)





Public diplomacy is a term that is very closely associated with the United States Information Agency , whichused it to describe its mission. After the dissolution of the USIA in 1999, the term continued to be used within the US government , especially the US Department of State . It is used as the foreign policy equivalent of the term public relations .

Aside from the use of media like the Voice of America , it alsoincludes other kinds of interaction with the public in other countries. Arranging student exchange programs, hosting seminars,and meeting with foreign business and academic leaders are all considered public diplomacy.

Relation to propaganda

The terms public diplomacy and propaganda are closelyrelated. The term public diplomacy clearly originated as a euphemism for propaganda. According to publicdiplomacy.org , a website sponsored by the USIA Alumni Association,

The term was first coined in the mid-1960s by Dean Edmund A. Gullion of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Explainingthe origin of the term, Gullion wrote (1967) that:
"Even beyond the organ of the Government set up to handle information about the United States and to explain our policies,what is important today is the interaction of groups, peoples, and cultures beyond national borders, influencing the way groupsand peoples in other countries think about foreign affairs, react to our policies, and affect the policies of their respectivegovernments.
"To connote this activity, we at the Fletcher School tried to find a name. I would have liked to call it 'propaganda.' Itseemed like the nearest thing in the pure interpretation of the word to what we were doing. But 'propaganda' has always apejorative connotation in this country. To describe the whole range of communications, information, and propaganda, we hit upon'public diplomacy'."

The dictionary definition of the word propaganda is "The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or ofinformation reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause." Notice that the definition saysnothing about whether the material is or is not true; the essence of propaganda is that it is distributed with the intention ofsupporting a cause. The word literally means "that which ought to be propagated" and originated in the Catholic Church todescribe the church agency responsible for evangelising. See the article on propaganda for more detail.

In the United States, however, the word "propaganda" carried and carries the connotation of falsehood. The USIA has alwaysmaintained that its agencies, such as the Voice of America , aretruthful. In a famous remark, Edward R. Murrow , then director ofthe USIA, said:

"Truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must becredible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that."

Broadly speaking, then, public diplomacy means truthful propaganda.


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