Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 18-19 Public Diplomacy Review

"Propaganda only becomes malevolent when you don't have the power to critique back."

--Ian Cooke, a British Library curator of an upcoming exhibition on propaganda; image from


The Accidental State Department Employee - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well

Drones for America! - Drew Christie, New York Times: "In this animated satire, a former K.G.B. agent welcomes a future in which Americans live under the watchful eyes of drones."

Best Propaganda Film (OSCAR 2013 SPOILER! LEAKED CLIP!!) - prisonplanet.com: "Spoiler Alert!!! In this pre-recorded (leaked) scene from the 85th Academy Awards, airing on Sunday February 24th, Benny and Kevin present the award for Best Propaganda in a Motion Picture."


Snapshot Captures Activity, But the Results? - Joe Johnson, publicdiplomacycouncil.org: “Have you subscribed to Under Secretary Sonenshine’s biweekly Snapshot of Public Diplomacy in Action?  It’s the first newsletter of public diplomacy activities available to the general public that I recall.  That’s a step forward in this age of government transparency. 

Every Snapshot contains text and photos about conferences, receptions and other happenings organized by U.S. public diplomacy staffs around the world. But I wonder what unintended impressions thoughtful taxpayers might draw from these activity reports.  Do they seem soft, perhaps superficial?  In the impending reduction of government budgets, isn’t this the first thing you would cut from the foreign operations budget? ... A common weakness in the public relations field is the stress on activities to the neglect of communication strategy.  PR’s first cousin, public diplomacy, shares that.  I hope that behind most of those squibs in the Snapshot there are results-oriented plans.” Image from

U.S. Department of State -- Art in Embassies - artfunc.com: "For five decades, Art in Embassies (AIE) has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy through a focused mission of vital cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchange.  AIE is a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors, and encompasses over 200 venues in 189 countries.  Professional curators and registrars create and ship about 60 exhibitions per year, and since 2003, over 58 permanent collections have been installed in the Department’s diplomatic facilities throughout the world. AIE fosters U.S. relations within local communities world-wide – an integral aspect of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s commitment to smART power. In the last decade, more than 100 artists have traveled to countries participating in AIE’s exchange programs and collaborated with local artists to produce works now on display in embassies and consulates. Going forward, AIE will continue to engage, educate, and inspire global audiences, showing how art can transcend national borders and build connections among peoples. To learn more about Art in Embassies, click HERE to visit the U.S. Department of State web site."

Don’t shoot the messenger…well, unless the delivery sucks - starkbusinessadvantage.com: "Recently, I read a government report entitled Getting The People Part Right from The US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy submitted to the State Department on June 8th, 2008. The key finding was that “It should be just as important to pay attention to the person sending the messages on behalf of the U.S. as the magnitude of the messages sent.” WOW! What a revolutionary insight! You may ask, what caused the need for this report? Well, the main problem was that the State Department expected Public Diplomacy (PD) officers to be managers much more than communicators.

As a consequence, the Foreign Service examinations have inadequately tested for public-related instincts, knowledge and skills. Yikes! That’s a big miss. Fortunately, the report reset, as the number one priority, that PD officers above all should be effective communicators, because of their mandate to persuade and influence foreign public audiences. Gee…Glad it only took from 1776 until now to get that right. While this may seem laughable, it happens more often than you think in professions and industry as well. Who hasn’t heard of the doctor who has a lousy 'bed-side manner?' Who hasn’t heard of someone placed in a leadership role who is indecisive and/or easily frustrated and/or defensive? Who hasn’t heard of 'The Peter Principle?' My guess is that we all have." Image from

My Modern Family - Steve Inskeep, Daily Beast: "Unfortunately, the public nature of adoption also allows this very personal matter to be used to make political statements. International adoption amounts to a form of public diplomacy—bringing citizens of two countries together in a powerful and personal way. Surely it’s no accident that the bureaucracies of the United States and China, cultivators of the world’s most important relationship, have devoted enough resources to smoothly manage the complex paperwork necessary to transfer custody and change citizenship for thousands of children. ... But there is a flip side. ... Russia blocked adoptions to the United States. It was an act of power diplomacy, retaliation against a human-rights law passed by Congress."

The State of America’s Voice: Good, According to VOA Director, But Audience Drops - BBGWatcher, usgbroadcasts.com: "The Voice of America (VOA) director David Ensor posted an upbeat message about VOA on his blog, but recent audience surveys show that during his tenure VOA has lost some of its global audience. The global audience for all Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) entities has also declined. The 2012 weekly audience for VOA of 134.2 million is actually smaller than what it was in 2008 (136.5 million).

The world’s population has increased since 2008 as have VOA’s and BBG’s budgets, but there has been no significant audience growth in recent years. (The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) admitted that it had overestimated its global audience in FY 2011.) The Voice of America, however, still has by far the largest audience of all BBG-run broadcasters. VOA gets about 25 percent of the agency’s budget. VOA remains the most cost effective in terms of audience reach among BBG entities. Director Ensor’s glowing 'State of America’s Voice' report does not mention audience losses in FY 2012 and the lack of global sustained audience growth for the last several years." Image from entry

Alhurra made audience gains, Brian Conniff tells media - BBGWatcher, usgbroadcasts.com: "Quoting Brian T. Conniff, President of Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), Adam Clayton Powell III reported in the Center on Public Diplomacy Blog [at] that Alhurra television audience has recently increased. The CPD author did not provide any new audience research data in his article. ... Previous audience research by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) shows that Alhurra has lost some of its audience in 2012.

BBG’s data for 2011 did not show Alhurra among top ten stations in Iraq and Egypt. Alhurra has not become a major media player in the Middle East." Image from entry, with caption: Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012.

COP opposition statement on the situation on Radio Liberty [Google translation] - svobodanew.com: "Mr. Kevin Klose, President of Radio Liberty [:] Dear Mr. [K]lose, In recent years, the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin stepped up offensive against the Russian press. Introduced censorship on federal and almost all the regional channels. The state provides a direct 'political leadership' on a daily basis by the body of electronic and print media, which are controlled by governments and affiliated with commercial companies. Power groups, under various pretexts, putting pressure on the editorial policy of independent media. Dozens of journalists and media managers fired and subjected to ban. Closed or are on the verge of closing many opposition papers. It was during this difficult period of Russian civil society has lost an important and reliable source of information and authoritative analysis and critical comments, which for decades had 'Radio Liberty'. Radio on medium wave was terminated. A significant part of the staff, many of whom enjoyed well-deserved reputation and respect, both in professional journalism, and at a wide audience, were dismissed. We are fully aware of the fact that the responsibility for this lies with the Russian authorities, consistently ratcheted Russian legislation so as to erect new barriers to work, 'Radio Liberty' and other stations outside the control of the ruling political group in Russia, and then and provide a pretext for the final ban on their activities. However, we have good reason to believe that the leadership of 'Radio Liberty' were not exhausted all the possibilities to continue the full broadcast, which were not used all legal means to maintain access to the radio broad Russian audience. Coordination Council calls on the opposition to 'Radio Liberty' to make every effort to resume the broadcasting station. We declare our readiness to contribute fully to the return of 'Radio Liberty' in Russian air, and are ready to guide the radio station and its employees to any assistance they may require, and which would be in our best. Signed by: Andrei Illarionov, Boris Nemtsov, A.Dolgih, A.Piontkovsky, Kasparov, V.Naganov, A.Pivovarov, G.Alburov ... " Via TL on Facebook

"Unless officials loosen their editorial grip, CCTV will remain gasping for air" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "CNN, 6 Feb 2013, Ying Zhu: '[T]he commercial underpinnings of CCTV shouldn’t disguise the fact that CCTV is ideologically driven, and its U.S. arm is the latest effort by the Chinese government to try to project the country’s soft power. As a result, for CCTV-America, ratings and revenues are secondary

to a higher calling: polishing the image of China. ... For a start, there appear to be limits on controversial news that deviates from the Communist Party script, meaning it can get left behind when Western outlets are covering major news that could embarrass China’s leaders." Image from

Public Diplomacy Mission: China seeks to boost its public image globally - Ding Ying, bjreview.com.cn: "China feels the need to urgently make up for lost time in a field it is unfamiliar with—public diplomacy. While most developed countries such as the United States, Japan and European countries have established mature systems of public diplomacy, China's public diplomacy is still in its early stages, said Ma Zhengang, Vice Chairman of the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) and former Chinese Ambassador to Britain during a recent online interview. 'Changing situations inside and outside China make carrying out public diplomacy an urgent task,' Ma said. ... Shu Yi, another Vice Chairman of the CPDA, made note of the many conflicts breaking out in the world today, exacerbated by the global economic crisis that caused widespread concern and anxiety. ... He believes that the core of China's public diplomacy is to give foreigners an accurate picture of China so that they view the country's development objectively and reasonably, while helping Chinese people to see the world from a more comprehensive and balanced point of view. ... Since China is not yet adept at public diplomacy, Ma suggested learning from other countries. The United States, for example, has great advantages in this field, he said. The U.S. State Department, which handles public diplomacy, has great international influence after so many years of activity. Additionally, Hollywood and famous U.S. brands like Coca Cola are effective methods of bolstering the country's image. ... China's public diplomacy is carried out at both governmental and non-governmental levels.

Governmental efforts consist of Chinese leaders' foreign visits and cultural exchanges with other countries through governmental agencies. Non-governmental initiatives involve colleges, research institutes, the media and individuals through communications with other countries. Ma concluded that there are many ways to boost efforts in public diplomacy. First, China should encourage all organizations and individuals working on public diplomacy to forge synergy. Second, it needs to bring the role of the newly established CPDA into full play in organizing activities at home and abroad. Third, theory and research on public diplomacy should be promoted. Fourth, more personnel training should be conducted." Image from article, with caption: An Indian student practices Chinese calligraphy at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on February 2 during a cultural outreach event

Taiwan’s Incomplete Third Line of Defense for National Security - Kwei-Bo Huang, goforesters.info: "Many clues indicate that, except at the top leadership level, the exchange and sharing of information between MND [Ministry of National Defense] and MOFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] have not been institutionalized satisfactorily. For example, the coordination of strategic communication by MND (synchronizing the military’s messages with its actions to shape domestic and international public opinions) and public diplomacy by MOFA (using public communications media, exchanges, educational-cultural programs, and dealing with an array of state and non-state actors for the purpose of influencing the politics and foreign policies of other governments) appears even weaker. Such coordination is a requirement for dealing with today’s rapidly changing external environment. MND does have a Political Warfare Bureau, but it is militarily and domestically oriented. MOFA set up a Public Diplomacy Coordination Council and a Department of International Information Services after its new structure was determined in 2012, but they are not given enough training, tools, and resources for effective public diplomacy and have few connections with MND. The lack of interagency collaboration further deteriorates the preparedness of these units for the trials associated with strategic communication or public diplomacy."

IDF claims victory in Pillar of Defense social-media war: Social-media experts say official Israel effectively conveyed its narrative to unprecedented numbers - David Shamah, timesofisrael.com: "Last November’s Operation Pillar of Defense — in which Gaza terrorists fired some 1,500 rockets at Israel, and the Israeli air force flew a similar number of raids at terror targets — was notable for a number of reasons. The eight-day conflict, which ended with an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that has held for the three months since, saw six Israelis killed, about 170 Palestinians killed (120 of whom were engaged in terrorism, according to the IDF), Gaza rocket fire hitting as far north as Rishon Lezion, and the Iron Dome defense system intercepting 84% of the rockets at which it was fired. It also marked the first time Israel beat the Palestinians in hasbara — public diplomacy — said Sacha Dratwa, the IDF director of new media. How does he know? 'This was the first time the foreign media asked more questions about our Twitter activity than about our bombings in Gaza.' Drawta, along with other Israelis in government and thousands of volunteers, helped Israel marshal the power of social media to get Israel’s message out during Pillar of Defense. ... In the case of Operation Pillar of Defense, the message was that innocent Israelis were being pummeled by rockets being fired by terrorists, and the IDF was trying to defend Israelis by rooting out the terrorists operating from civilian areas — but without harming Gaza civilians, if at all possible.

That message, said Dratwa, was consistent among all the organizations and groups presenting Israel’s case in social media, 'with the consistency evident even in the terminology, pictures, and fonts of the text we used. That coordination was one reason for our success in the war.' The IDF’s work was complemented and supplemented by the social-media efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Digital Diplomacy Department, headed by Yoram Morad, has been working for the past year to expand the MFA’s reach in social media. ... A plethora of private and public groups and individuals helped out during the war, as well. Stand With Us — a student advocacy group active on college campuses around the world — reacted to the war almost immediately, using the skills of its many volunteers to reach the world with Israel’s messages. ... The 'war room' at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center worked overtime to brand Israel during Pillar of Defense, said the IDC’s Alik Shor: its claim to fame was the #israelunderfire Twitter hashtag, which was adopted by almost all of those on Twitter who were advocating for Israel." Image from article, with caption: Sascha Dratwa, IDF director of new media

Everyone’s issue - Neville Teller, Beit Shemesh, Letter to the Editor - Jerusalem Post: Sir, – "In 'Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats' (Into the Fray, February 15 [at]), Martin Sherman notes, as if in passing, that the recent flood of criticism of Israel’s hasbara (public diplomacy) performance has been largely confined to the English-language media. Sherman finds that the Hebrew media have not provided the same degree of cogent and justified discussion of this vital issue, and concludes that this probably reflects a lack of awareness and interest among the Hebrew-speaking population. But this is the very heart of the problem. Why is Israel so neglectful of what the world thinks? Is it an inborn Israeli characteristic ('who cares!').

Those of us with experience in living outside Israel are only too aware of how often its case goes by default or is completely misrepresented in the world media. Years of neglect of this slow drip of negative publicity has resulted in left-wing and liberal opinion throughout Europe and beyond coming to regard Israel very nearly as a pariah state. Total delegitimization, once a remote danger, is now very real. It is time for action, by both the incoming government and concerned non-governmental bodies.Sherman has issued a wake-up call. Hebrew papers and TV stations: Please note!" Image from

Audio: Public Diplomacy and Public Relations - A7 Radio's "The Jay Shapiro Hour" with Jay Shapiro: "Israel's Public Diplomacy and Public Relations have failed to reinforce Israel's military victory and image of democracy. This is a front in the battle for survival that has been neglected or only been the object of lip service. This must change. Jay tells you how and why."

LGBT Movement Building in Belize: an internal look - unitedbelizeadvocacymovement.blogspot.com: "[A] base of leaders with strategic vision will be needed to push the issues of legislative and cultural advancement [re the LGBT community] forward as well as the mainstreaming of services. Our issue is inspiring others to act either through quiet or public diplomacy and to arbitrate between the community and policymakers and opponents alike."

Zero Dark Thirty - Viewed from Afar? - Michael Canning, publicdiplomacycouncil.org: "'Zero Dark Thirty' will win us

few friends overseas, it will play to already-given expectations."  Image from

State Department Official Speaks on Public Diplomacy Efforts in the Middle East - law.widener.edu: “'We try to communicate American values and we try to support democracy,' said Mario Crifo as he spoke to an audience of students, faculty, and staff on Widener Law’s Delaware campus on Thursday, February 14th about the work his office does with engagement and educational programs in the Middle East. Crifo, who is the Deputy Director, Bureau of Near East Affairs’ Office of Public Diplomacy for the U.S. State Department, presented 'U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Focus on Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE.' The Delaware Chapter of People to People International and World Trade Center Delaware sponsored Crifo’s talk. Following an introduction from Carl R. Hutter of the Delaware Chapter of People to People, Crifo spoke for about thirty minutes on the work that his office does and why it is so crucial to engage in public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East right now. He touched on developments in the Middle East over the past several years, including the Arab Spring, as well as the difficulties in explaining how Americans value both freedom of expression and tolerance for varied religions. 'We also know that we cannot let those challenges stop us from moving forward,' Crifo observed, before delving into specifics on some of the programs that his office sponsors. He emphasized in particular the importance of English language training programs, which he said were generally not controversial. 'It’s something that people in the region ask for,' he added, noting that language training could provide 'self improvement and a path to a more prosperous future.' Following his remarks, Crifo took a few questions from the audience. Asked about the biggest misperception of the United States that he regularly encountered, Crifo said, 'Many people in the region believe that we’re only interested in the Middle East for security reasons,' before explaining that while that certainly is a driving force, the State Department believes that enhanced security is a benefit that comes naturally from helping people in the region to engage and prosper.”

Media Ecology and Public Diplomacy with Ben Hammersley - Events Calendar, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: "Thursday, March 14, 2013 : 12:00pm to 1:30pm ... The USC Center on Public Diplomacy is pleased to host Ben Hammersley for a discussion about the technological mega-trends that will shape the next decade, and what the internet, social networks, borderless memetics, epidemiology, and the changed media landscape will mean for public diplomacy."

The Hon. Harris Wofford to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal - uscenterforcitizendiplomacy.org: "Harris Wofford has made a tremendous impact on the citizen diplomacy movement. Considered one of the primary architects of the Peace Corps, Wofford was special assistant to President Kennedy and chairman of the Sub-cabinet Group on Civil Rights in the early 1960s, and was a U.S. Senator from the State of Pennsylvania in the 1990s.

The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD) was honored by Sen. Wofford's participation in the 2010 U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy, where he was a member of the International Voluntary Service Task Force and hosted a briefing on 'Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century' presented by the U.S. Department on State. Sen. Wofford will receive the Presidential Citizens Medal today at the White House. The award is the nation's second highest honor, recognizing exemplary service of country and countrymen." Wofford image from entry

Meet the Delegate Liaisons: Arnav and Tomoyuki - Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations: "Hello HPAIR community! To the 2013 Harvard Conference delegates who have arrived on campus already–welcome! We hope you are excited for the next few days, as our staff have put a lot of work into making this conference as good as it can be. We’d like to introduce a couple of our Delegate Liaisons who you will see in your panels. Find out more about the program here: http://www.hpair.org/conf/hconf2013/liaison.php [.] Arnav Sahni [:] Age: 21 Grade: Third year Major: Economics Interests: Travelling, football, scuba diving, theatre Future goals: A policy-making role in the government. Why are you interested in HPAIR? It works as a unique platform to encourage the future policy makers to discuss and find optimal solutions for pressing global issues together. What are you looking forward to the most about the conference? I hope to get involved in interesting discussions and learn more regarding ‘security and public diplomacy’. Also, I look forward to interacting with like-minded people at the conference."

Executive Assistant Job at Peace Corps - Employment Opportunity in Uganda - greatugandajobs.blogspot.com: "Jobs at: Peace Corps Vacancy title: Executive Assistant ... Job details: The United States Peace Corps seeks a candidate to serve as a contracted Peace Corps Executive Assistant in Kampala, Uganda. ... Duties include: ... • Plan, with the direction of CD, and implement

public relations and communication strategy liaising closely and coordinating with Public Affairs Office/Public Diplomacy section at the embassy." Image from


Moving past stalemate in the Middle East: The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it - Maen Rashid Areikat, Los Angeles Times: The U.S. and its partners must play a leading role in keeping the parties focused on one outcome: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders. Maen Rashid Areikat is chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States.

How to Untangle an Incoherent Drone Policy: The Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001 didn't sufficiently address the scope of the conflict. Time for a fix - Michael B. Mukasey, Wall Street Journal.  Image from

Drone strikes: Who's on the 'kill list': Congress should restore the system of checks and balances by using the War Powers Resolution - Tom Campbell, latimes.com: A new War Powers resolution could give the president the authority to make use of drones as a necessary and appropriate force against current iterations of Al Qaeda and other specified terrorist organizations, for a certain period of time.

Beltway Foreign Policy - Roger Cohen, New York Times: “It is not going too far to say that American foreign policy has become completely subservient to tactical domestic political considerations.” This stern verdict comes from Vali Nasr, who spent two years working for the Obama administration before becoming dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In a book called “The Dispensable Nation,” to be published in April, Nasr delivers a devastating portrait of a first-term foreign policy that shunned the tough choices of real diplomacy, often descended into pettiness, and was controlled “by a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers.” Nasr, one of the most respected American authorities on the Middle East, served as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan until his death in December 2010. From that vantage point, and later as a close observer, Nasr was led to the reluctant conclusion that the principal aim of Obama’s policies “is not to make strategic decisions but to satisfy public opinion.” In this sense the first-term Obama foreign policy was successful: He was re-elected. Americans wanted extrication from the big wars and a smaller global footprint: Obama, with some back and forth, delivered. But the price was high and opportunities lost. “The Dispensable Nation” constitutes important reading as John Kerry moves into his new job as secretary of state. It nails the drift away from the art of diplomacy — with its painful give-and-take — toward a U.S. foreign policy driven by the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and short-term political calculus. It holds the president to account for his zigzags from Kabul to Jerusalem.

When Foreign Policy Goals Exceed Military Capacity, Call The Pentagon - Derek S. Reveron, fpri.org: With national security focused on weak states and persistent security concerns among stable allies like South Korea, the U.S. military has been changing over the last 20 years from a force of confrontation to one of cooperation. The military has learned that partnership is better than clientism and is adapting its command structure once optimized for waging major combat to one that is focused on conflict prevention. There is still a tremendous warfighting capability in the U.S. military, but coalition warfare is the norm and developing compatible warfighting partners is a key goal of this cooperative strategy. In some sense, this turns the idea of militarization of foreign policy on its head; the Pentagon is being demilitarized and valued for its ability to impart military capabilities to U.S. partners. Via GG on Facebook.

Documentary as Propaganda: The Gatekeepers and Dishonesty - Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seod Shar, algemeiner.com - Moreh’s documentary, The Gatekeepers, could have been a profound film. Instead, Moreh uses his interviews with six former directors of Israel’s top security services to send a simplistic and deeply partisan political message: If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, terrorism will subside and peace will break out.

To promote this message, the documentary engages in intellectual dishonesty and omits critical context. While most Israelis know the wider context, the average viewer probably does not, and therefore is vulnerable to the filmmaker’s biased version of the facts. The film repeatedly ignores history and context. Image from article, with caption: "The Gatekeepers" screenshot

Aljazeera's propaganda mission – As'ad AbuKhalil, The Angry Arab News Service: "Today, when Egyptians protest against President Mohammad Morsi and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Jazeera is often critical of them, in the style of the old pro-government TV station. Conversely, according to ex-correspondent Suliman, Al-Jazeera executives have ordered that Morsi's decrees should be portrayed as pearls of wisdom. Such a dictatorial approach would have been unthinkable before," he says. "In Egypt we have become the palace broadcaster for Morsi."

Our Friend the Atom: Disney’s 1956 Illustrated Propaganda for Nuclear Energy - Maria Popova, brainpickings.org:  Walt Disney was no stranger to propaganda, from his wartime anti-Nazi animations to his 1955 eulogy for space exploration, and even his internal company culture.

In 1956, just over a decade after the atomic bomb showed the world the devastating power of nuclear weapons, Disney partnered with German physicist Heinz Haber, a professor at USC and personal science consultant to the legendary animator, to produce Our Friend the Atom (public library) — a gloriously illustrated 165-page tome extolling the promise of atomic power as a generative rather than destructive force. The illustrations, representing twenty-two Disney artists — twenty-one men and one woman — with a vibrant mid-century aesthetic somewhere between Saul Bass’s posters,The Provensens’ children’s books, and the anatomical illustrations of The Human Body, cover everything from the Ancient Greeks’ philosophies of matter to Curie and Einstein to the splitting of the atom and its promise for the future. Image from entry

Soviet Russia Had The Most Intense Propaganda Posters - Geoffrey Ingersoll, businessinsider.com:     Propaganda hit a fevered pitch in the years following the end of World War II with the help of radio and television.

In the U.S. there was a lot of red scare and nuclear holocaust propaganda — how could anyone forget those bizarre "duck and cover" instructional videos. Just as horrifying were the messages circulating in Russia. Here we have a series of Anti-American posters designed to paint U.S. arms sales as the very gateway to hell.

 The U.S. wasn't without its prodigious propaganda either. Images from entry

Truth, lies AND storytelling - but can propaganda ever do good? - Arifa Akbar, independent.co.uk: Some of the most important writers and artists in 1920s Leningrad were making picture books for children. One such book, from 1926, was Baggage. Republished by Tate this month, it is an exquisite fragment of early Soviet history made-up of bright, stencil-flat images that resemble Rodchenko's graphic illustrations, alongside punchy, pared-down storytelling. This book was created by the avant-garde duo, Vladimir Lebedev, a painter, and the poet, Samuil Marshak.

Their work toured the West from Paris to London to New York, and became a blue-print for Modernist picture books. To us today – or to my eyes at least – they look like beautiful artefacts of Soviet state propaganda. A MoMA curator writing the afterword in Baggage says they were a "crucial tool for moulding young minds". The story of Baggage is of a woman who boards a train with her "pedigree pooch" but her designer dog is replaced by a shaggy mutt. The old lady represents a bygone world, out of kilter with the new egalitarian one. Yet one informed Russian I spoke to – Olga Mäeots, the head of children's books at the Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow – says it would be wrong to mistake it for propaganda. Marshak and Lebedev exercised freedom of creative expression in these years, she points out. The state interference would come later when another children's book, The Circus, was destroyed for its "dangerous" non-realist aesthetic, in 1936. If a Soviet message was embedded in their earlier books, it is because they believed in it. It was not dictated down to them. Ms Mäeot's clarification raises interesting questions of how propaganda literature can be defined. Propaganda means different things to different people, depending on where and when they live. In a modern democracy, we clearly have greater liberty to question and challenge the 'truth' of any one narrative, in the way those in 1930s Soviet Russia, or even those in modern-day China, could nto have done. So where is the place of propaganda in our world, and how is it distinct from the most fervent political writing, which also tries to beguile and persuade and portray itself as truth in similar ways. Perhaps it is only separated by degrees? Yet propaganda is not all bad. On an aesthetic level, Rodchenko's Soviet photography is stunning, as were Norman Rockwell's 'support the war' posters in America during the Second World War. Image from


Via RB on Facebook


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