Guest Blog by James Glassman: Obama Should do More Arabic and Farsi Chats on All Networks, Including US-Funded Operations


glassman twn 2.jpgThis is a guest post by former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy James Glassman. I interviewed Jim Glassman, who also previously served as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, in a short exchange for The Washington Note here — and this is a longer video clip of James Glassman’s presentation at the New America Foundation on the subject, “Public Diplomacy 2.0.”
I was particularly glad the first time Glassman spoke at the New America Foundation when he defined his role in public diplomacy as not to make the world love America — but rather to telegraph the message to young people frustrated with their circumstances to find outlets other than violence for their activism and their anger.
These views are James Glassman’s alone. He is the highest-ranking official in the Bush administration to appear on Al Jazeera. I appear on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Al Hurra frequently — and do recommend that President Obama appear as well on all of those networks.

A note from James K. Glassman:
President Obama deserves congratulations for his interview on Al Arabiya, a network that has shown responsibility and professionalism, lately in stark contrast lately to Al Jazeera.
As someone who has dealt with all the major Arabic language stations, I suggest that his next interview should be on Radio Sawa, the U.S.-taxpayer-funded radio network that is aimed mainly at young people, with a mix of music and public affairs. It’s the largest single Arabic-language net in the Mideast and has a big audience in some critical markets, including the West Bank, where it’s broadcast on five separate FM stations.
Next, he should do a call-in show, “Roundtable With You,” on Persian News Network, a U.S.-funded satellite stream in Farsi that reaches more than 28 percent of Iranians each week. PNN is the best way directly to reach the Iranian people.
And before his administration starts what everyone expects will be diplomat-to-diplomat contact, Obama should go to the Iranians themselves, who LIKE us.
By the way, in appearing on PNN (as he did in appearing on Al Arabiya), Obama would not be breaking new ground, but he would have a huge impact. President Bush appeared on Al Arabiya several times, dating back at least to 2004. He also gave a Persian new year’s greeting in 2008 on PNN.
I tried mightily, and to no avail, to get President Bush to go on “Roundtable With You,” but perhaps the White House was right, and it would have been a risk taking unfiltered questions.
But there would be little such risk for Obama. So, two quick hits: Sawa and Persian News Network.
After that, perhaps Al Jazeera and Alhurra.
And one small suggestion to a man who knows that words count: Don’t use the phrase “Muslim world.” The implication is that all societies with Muslim populations — from Indonesian to Yemen to India to France — constitute a monolith.
That is simply untrue, and unconstructive.
Use the term “Muslim societies.”
— James Glassman


14 comments on “Guest Blog by James Glassman: Obama Should do More Arabic and Farsi Chats on All Networks, Including US-Funded Operations

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gee, Cee, the “Message Force Multpliers” were only meant for Amnerican consumption, doncha know.
    Using Letitia’s argument, we can assuime that these bastards were lyin’ to us, but not to the rest of the world?


  2. Cee says:

    You think people are stupid.
    I’m sure things are much worse for us now.
    February 18, 2004
    ** Al-Hurra TV’s debut draws widespread derision, mistrust and criticism from Arab media.
    ** “Sweet” words and pictures cannot cover the U.S.’ “bad policy” and “double standards.”
    ** Skeptics deplore another American “propaganda machine” and expect Al-Hurra “to fail.”
    ** A minority praises the media competition, chiding the “angry” Arab reaction as “naive.”
    U.S. must change policies; can’t ‘beautify an ugly face with cosmetics’– Most Arab media say U.S. Mideast policy and “blind support for Israeli schemes” will be the bane of Al-Hurra. Reflecting the prevailing sentiment, the West Bank’s official Al-Hayat Al Jadida declared: “Launching newspapers, radio stations and TV channels will not improve an ugly policy,” and the independent Jordan Times reiterated that “no amount of sweet words and pretty pictures will change the reality of Israeli occupation.” Invoking U.S. “double standards,” some berated the debut’s “scanty coverage” of Israel’s “ongoing holocaust in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.” Both independent and state-run papers called for the U.S. to “make a comprehensive review of its policy toward the region”–the cause of “the escalation of Arab hatred toward the U.S.'”
    Seen as a U.S. ‘propaganda tool,’ Al-Hurra expected to serve up unpalatable programs– Skeptics throughout the region portrayed the U.S. effort “to improve its image” variously as “psychological warfare,” “brainwashing” and an “attack” on the Arab world. Because the U.S. does not “treat Arabs fairly,” a Saudi writer argued, “manipulating facts in a world where everyone has access to information is not going to help America obtain its goals.” Jordan’s influential Al Rai was typical in denouncing the “invasion” as part of a “new war” that uses “not the blind American war machine but rather thoughts and ideas.” As the “mouthpiece” of the Iraq occupation, the network will be viewed with “suspicion,” an Egyptian daily added.
    Just as Sawa and Hi before it, Hurra ‘will never succeed’– If Al-Hurra’s “raison d’etre” is to compete with Arabic satellite TV, it faces an “uphill battle” to compete with Al Jazeera and Al Arabia. Arab writers resented the “arrogance and condescension implied by the project.” A Jordanian daily ridiculed the endeavor’s “futility”: Al Hurra, like the U.S. Radio Sawa and Hi magazine, will be “an entertaining, expensive and irrelevant hoax.” Saudi Arabia’s independent Al Quds Al Arabi compared the effort to the tactics of “totalitarian Arab and socialist states during the Cold War,” and a Qatari columnist predicted that “Arab curiosity in Al-Hurra will fade…because the Arab viewer has a heritage of hatred to whatever is American.”
    Rejecting Al-Hurra is ‘naive’– One notable op-ed by a prominent Kuwaiti writer defending the new channel ran in Saudi pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al Awsat as well as in papers in Kuwait and the West Bank. Reproaching the “angry reaction” and “agitated mindset” of the Arab press, the writer welcomed “one more color to add to the kaleidoscope of freedom,” but cautioned that Al-Hurra can “only succeed if it does not become the mouthpiece of American foreign policy.”
    EDITOR: Irene Marr
    EDITOR’S NOTE: This analysis is based on 43 reports from 15 countries, February 11-18. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, these people even propagandize the propaganda.
    Letitia, excuse me for telling you that you’re full of…
    Oh,never mind. You know you’re full of it, I’m not telling you something you don’t know.


  4. rich says:

    Letitia King,
    Haven’t consumed the product of the VOA and sister media outlets. But stipulate they’re not independent news organs, at least. Here’s the thing: nominally respectable news broadcasters, private and public, can’t be counted on to deliver objective full-spectrum news and opionion to American audiences.
    There’s a ton of stuff we’re not allowed to see or hear, and a ton of opinions and facts that not allowed to be said. Not just FOX or the big three, but PBS censors the truth as well.
    So there’s just no way American-backed outlets deliver the full range of news to their target populations abroad. And because those audiences have the opportunity to compare your product to the BBC to al Jazeera, they have even better means to assess the product and identify just where the propaganda ends and the news begins.
    Scott Horton, you’ll recall, recounted that PBS producers of Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour forbade him from using the word “torture” to denote, well, torture under the Bush Admin. We can assemble whole volumes of related elisions revolving around lesser topics, but the point’s been pretty much nailed down for a couple decades.
    I have no doubt there’s also some good journalism going on, but that does not compensate for the what’s left out, what’s framed, and what’s misnamed.


  5. Letitia King says:

    Mr. Norheim, we respect that is your impression, but it is not the view of the vast majority of our global audiences who find our journalists’ work to be factual and objective and to make a difference in their daily lives, as confirmed by the professional survey and qualitative research we commission in our major markets every year.


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    “these broadcasters are journalistic enterprises”.
    This is correct in the same sense as saying that those
    “embedded” journalists during the Iraqi invasion were… well,


  7. Letitia King says:

    Mr. Bacon is misinformed:
    (a) these broadcasters are journalistic enterprises, as mandated by Congress, not propaganda;
    (b) they are hardly clumsy — they provide multi-media, market-specific programming in 60 languages to over 80 countries, and
    (c) they do in fact work, reaching over 175 million people worldwide every week, — including 14 million in Iran, 13 million in Afghanistan, 11 million in Iraq, and 11 million in Pakistan — up from 100 million weekly since 9/11. By confusing the broadcasters’ mission, Mr. Bacon confuses their success measures.
    U.S. international broadcasters provide a free press that advances freedom and democracy in places lacking the same, helping audiences make informed decisions about their societies. They advance vital U.S. strategic interests in that free societies respect their citizens’ human rights, live peaceably with their neighbors, and do not knowingly harbor terrorists. Their measures of success aim at gauging effectiveness in the journalistic mission, and thus they emphasize regular audience reach, news reliability, and enhanced audience understanding.


  8. Don Bacon says:

    James Glassman was former Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which controls US worldwide radio and TV propaganda:
    Voice of America (VOA)
    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
    Radio Free Asia (RFA)
    Radio and TV Martí
    Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN)—Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television.
    This clumsy, expensive propaganda program is an anachronism that hasn’t worked (see above poll results). America is disliked nearly everywhere.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yeah, lets put Obama on American propaganda outlets.
    Kinda like the ultimate “eat me” to every Arab and Muslim that has more than two brain cells to rub together.
    Steve, where do you find some of these yahoos?


  10. Cee says:

    Obama should go to the Iranians themselves, who LIKE us.
    Obama needs to also talk to people who don’t like us because of what this government has done…like supporting these terrorists
    One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.
    The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.


  11. Don Bacon says:

    The basic premise, as framed by Glassman, that US efforts to increase freedom in the world would be in the US national interest and would decrease the threat to Americans has been proven to be wrong thinking, bad diplomacy and just plain wrong as measured by its impact on the US image abroad.
    The neocon promotion of US aggression and “freedom-spreading”, primarily against Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced this:
    from a recent poll:
    Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but there also is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. . . .The U.S. image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and continues to decline among the publics of many of America’s oldest allies. Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9%) and have declined to 15% in Pakistan. . . .However, opinions of the American people have declined over the past five years in 23 of 33 countries where trends are available. In Indonesia and Turkey, where favorable views of the U.S. have declined markedly over the past five years, opinions of Americans have fallen sharply as well. In Indonesia, positive opinions of Americans have fallen from 65% in 2002 to 42%; in Turkey, favorable opinions have declined 19 points.
    Pew Global Attitudes Survey
    June 27, 2007


  12. Iraqi-American says:

    Let’s be frank. U.S. interest in the Arab world is largely driven, at the moment, by interests in Iraq. To deny that, when there are close to 300,000 soldiers and private contractors (e.g. Blackwater) in Iraq, strikes me as overly audacious. And as far as Iraqis are concerned, the only pertinent U.S. policy toward Iraq is a complete end to the military occupation of Iraq. Whether that happens by the end of 2011, or sooner (as President Barack Hussein Obama has hinted at) is an issue that would rightfully be taken up with the Iraqi government. If Barack Hussein Obama would like to apologize to Iraqis directly, on behalf of his predecessor, for the illegal war waged on false pretenses by that predecessor, therein would reside the beginning of a cultural rapprochement as well.


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