propaganda

The Travelogue podcast from Condé Nast grapples with the question of whether tourism to North Korea is right or wrong.

An embattled anti-propaganda unit intended to combat Russian and Islamic State militant group (ISIS) misinformation is losing key staff even after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began to fund the program at the urging of Congress. Nash Borges, chief technology officer at the anti-propaganda Global Engagement Center’s (GEC), left the unit last Friday according to Defense One, which obtained a copy of his final email to staff.

A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized Wednesday for propaganda leaflets that superimposed a key Islamic text on the image of a dog. The leaflets distributed by U.S. forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul, on Tuesday depicted a lion, representing the U.S.-led coalition, chasing a dog with a section of the Taliban’s banner, containing a passage from the Koran in Arabic, superimposed on its side.

Information campaigning in various forms is as old as politics itself, and nor is it the sole province of political bogeymen. Research shows that democracies are better than autocracies at influencing foreign public opinion, and businesses, politicians and states all use the mass media strategically for their information campaigns. The names we give a particular information campaign not only reflect our inferences about its aims; they can in fact amplify its power and advance its goals.

After coming under pressure from lawmakers, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken steps toward spending tens of millions of dollars to counter propaganda by Islamist extremists and governments such as Russia. A State Department official confirmed on Thursday that Tillerson last week approved the use of about $60 million by the Global Engagement Center toward the anti-propaganda efforts.

The tragic condition of U.S. foreign policy ever since the Reagan administration is that public diplomacy has consistently occupied a tertiary status in the scale of national priorities. [...] It is OK to send messages like the Tillerson-Mattis one only if we reassure the North Korean people that we haven’t abandoned them. The Tillerson-Mattis message can thus serve a psychological disarmament purpose, at least to a limited degree. But we must have a parallel track of diplomacy — with the North Korean people. We must give them hope.

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