For New Messages, Press Play: Updating the US Communication Strategy

For years, much of the world has considered the US communication system of messaging influencing more than a little draconian. Even lesser developed countries and regions that many may have quietly assumed to be easily duped or seduced have looked askance and with more than a little distrust at Western messaging tactics and objectives. According to Corman’s article 21st Century Model for Strategic Communication, the new Pragmatic Complexity Model “de-emphasizes control and embraces complexity and replaces repetition with variation. A number of international affairs issues from the quagmire that is the  Iraq war to the debacle of the war in Afghanistan to the spectacle of the Bush years to the shame of the Abu Ghirab prisons, the US lost a great deal of credibility and soft power, if not military might. Moreover, the information revolution has granted the power of information and opinion to the globe. Corman’s that successful diplomacy hinges on the delivery of the right message is a bit of an oversimplification. Winning ideological hearts and minds has become predicated on so much more than that. Pres. Bush’s creation of the Office of Global Communications with its mission to “ensure consistency in messages that will promote the interests of the United States abroad, prevent misunderstanding, build support for and among coalition partners of the United States, and inform international audiences.” Herein lies one problem. International audiences, ie. “people on the streets” in foreign towns and cities have had to balance blaring messages of freedom and democracy with the images of the destruction and mayhem our wars have wrought. Many in the Muslin world, as Corman  points out (having viewed alternative, Non-western media fare) have become resentful of having Western ideals and ideologies imposed on the culture and consciousness. 

Even before the years during which the Message Influence Model was popular and effective, the US communication strategy was characterized by sending messages and achieving US objective and policy goals. Just think of the virulent Anti-France sentiments when France dared defy the US Iraq war imperative. Legions boycotted French wine and even fries, for goodness sake.  The myriad challenges facing world leaders coupled with the dissolution of barriers facilitated by ICT, necessitates a change in US response, strategy and understanding of the complex nature of global issues. Countries and cultures are now reserving the right to choose for themselves rather to be dictated to or force-fed messages from the front office. Many Muslims are turning their noses up at our notions of freedom and democracy and turning an eye to our legion of problems and issues, and ask, “What has it gotten them? I’ll keep my culture’s imperfections, thank you!” 

I agree with Corman that “There is no “magic bullet”—no single message, however well-crafted—that can be delivered within the existing system that is likely to change it.”  We have entered an age where collaboration and dare I say, Listening, not waiting to “message” is essential indeed detrimental to mutual peace and cooperation.

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About inteltakeover

This blog is written and maintained by of a group of graduate students in the International Communication program at American University's School of International Service.
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One Response to For New Messages, Press Play: Updating the US Communication Strategy

  1. Lauren B. says:

    This is kind of the anti-globalization argument isn’t it? The non-West’s reaction to encroaching Western globalization is to turn inwards and exaggerate their own culture. My comment might be a tangent, but while I do agree that the non-west is rejecting American pub. diplomacy messages from the “front office” at the moment, I also think that they are receiving even stronger messages through Western entertainment media. I believe that these messages influence their negative response to our political ones. Not that I don’t believe that Johnny Depp has universal appeal.

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