Tag Archive: Soft Power


These are not the best of days for American reporters, editors and correspondents, let alone journalism schools.

The American media is running eight points behind Donald Trump in national esteem.

This Gallup result was registered before CNN’s Anderson Cooper conjured up the impression of the president taking a “dump” on his desk. Ditto for the network’s Kathy Griffin holding up the image of the decapitated head of Donald Trump.

The glory days of Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are clearly in the rear-view mirror. The era of CNN and conjured presidential excrement and bloody heads are upon us.

More to the point, Newsweek ist kaputt. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is gone. Farewell to the Rocky Mountain News, The Tucson Citizen and so many others that depended on Gutenberg’s printing press for far too long.

Let’s face it: many Fourth Estate types (i.e., reporters, editors, correspondents, anchors …) are looking for jobs, any job that keeps them in the business.

The good news is China is hiring. The bad news is China is hiring.

Should these journalists succumb and work for Chinese-government-sponsored and operated media?

Dollars are dollars. Yuan are yuan. Right?

Ketchum, Putin and $55 million

Before getting knickers in a twist or bowels in an uproar, consider that Almost DailyBrett has posed similar questions about the august public relations profession, namely Ketchum PR.

For years, Ketchum served a provocative client, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to the tune of $55 million cumulatively. The ostensible mission was to promote the Rodina’s “economic development” and the country as a great place for “investment.” The fact that Putin was behaving as one would expect from the former head of the KGB appeared to be irrelevant to the brass at Ketchum’s New York headquarters.

Reportedly Putin eventually terminated the nation’s contract with Ketchum, which may have been a blessing in disguise for the New York based agency. No longer would they have to register as foreign agents for Putin’s public relations nightmare in which he wasn’t going to accept Ketchum’s council anyway.

The advocacy side (PR) of the great communication divide is not the only one with moral dilemmas to confront. The same applies to the objective side (Journalism), particularly with so many journalists out of work or soon-to-be beating the bushes for another job.

According to The Economist, China expanded the number of foreign bureaus for its government-controlled main news agency, Xinhua, to 162 by the end of 2011. China’s goal is to establish a total of 200 Xinhua bureaus by 2020.Considering the many American media outlets are shutting down, does the Xinhua expansion – doubling its number of correspondents — provide new opportunities for employment?

Also consider that China completed the rebranding of its television network last year and has announced the formation of CGTN (China Global Television Network) to rival the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera to spread China’s “voice” and to “showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace.”

Just as Ketchum would be tempted to dismiss the concerns about Putin’s Russia with “a client is a client,” will unemployed or soon-to-be-out-of-work American journalists regard a potential opening at Xinhua or CGTN (e.g., major DC bureau) as “a job is a job”?

In a way that sounds just like the Yuppie Nürnberg Defense — “I was only doing it for the mortgage”  — as preached in the Christopher Buckley book/movie, Thank You For Smoking.

The author of Almost DailyBrett remembers the days at USC journalism school, and the protracted discussions about objectively and Joseph Pulitzer’s mantra of “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy.”

Is Xinhua or CGTN, objective?

Are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC or CBS objective, let alone MSNBC or Fox News? Many journalists employed by these institutions are miffed that  their “objectivity” may be somehow compromised by their employer’s corporate parent (e.g., NBC owned by Comcast).

What happens if your media employer is owned by the largest nation of earth, run by a single party, and established as part of that country’s $10 billion annual investment in soft power?

If objectivity and fairness are part of the personal DNA as a journalist, would she or he be predisposed to resign if the “editor” wanted to censure/delete submitted copy if it ran afoul with China’s policy toward Taiwan, the Dalia Lama, Tibet or some other hot-button issue for the totalitarian state?

Would the same journalist be comfortable that her or his objective copy was universally regarded as self-serving China propaganda by the vast majority of readers and viewers?

Some may be tempted to rationalize accepting a position with Xinhua or CGTN and following their “editorial” dictates as a job is job (e.g., Yuppie Nürnberg Defense).

Other journalists may not have these same flexible morals.

If the choice came down to aiding and abetting Chinese propaganda or maybe finding another job, maybe the journalist should even consider wearing a green apron instead?

“Was that a grande latte or mocha?”

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2017/05/31/cnn-fires-kathy-griffin-over-offensive-trump-photo/102349176/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/russia-doesnt-give-a-particle-about-public-relations/

 https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/ketchums-new-client-in-1938/

https://www.ketchum.com/

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

https://www.cgtn.com/

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/

 

 

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It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

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