Here's as profound a relational challenge as you can imagine: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. isn't getting its message across to world opinion. America frequently is viewed as a land where the women wear bikinis and the men are wrestlers. "We are in an information war, and we're losing that war," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Clinton lamented the fact that funding for the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and other U.S.-funded international broadcasters has been cut dramatically since the Cold War with Russia and "unfortunately we are paying a big price for it," The Washington Post reports. Since the Cold War, "Arabic-language cable channels are filling the gap in the Middle East, shaping popular views of the United States held by millions of Arab-speakers, including many of those who are taking to the streets in Middle Eastern capitals," the Post reports from Clinton.
Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton added, "we're cutting back. The BBC is cutting back."
This, of course, may not greatly change, given the stringent budget scene in Washington. So how does the U.S. project itself to greater advantage abroad? We're not going to ban bikinis or drum "Baywatch" or professional wrestling off the air. We know these aren't typical of our country. But abroad, our true identity isn't getting across.
Two questions arise: Given current realities, what is our most representative image, and how could we get it across overseas in a manner that would really count?
Here's the text of Secretary Clinton's testimony.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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