W. Lance Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion, 7th edition, Pearson Education, Inc. (Longman Classics in Political Science). In the just published 7th edition of his textbook, Professor Bennett (University of Washington) updates his analysis of the meaning of news and relationships between the media, politics, and public opinion. Contains new examples and case studies; greater attention to digital information, the blogosphere, and citizen journalism; and emphasis on government-press relations in the context of the Iraq war.
Tony Blair, Lecture On Public Life, Canary Wharf, London, June 12, 2007. In one of Blair's last speeches before leaving office - his media as "a feral beast" speech - the former British Prime Minister looks at the changing nature of communication and its impact on politics and the media. Blair argues the always fraught relations between the media and political leaders have become qualitatively and quantitatively more difficult, because the media are "becoming more fragmented, more diverse and transformed by technology." Coping with the media, "its sheer scale, weight, and hyperactivity," has become a vast and overwhelming part of leadership.
Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, (Penguin Group, 2007). Two high tech entrepreneurs discuss ways in which networks operate without command leadership and rigid structures. Hierarchical, top down organizations are spiders. Cut off the head and they die. Starfish organizations are decentralized networks. They regenerate missing parts and are more resilient when challenged. Successful networks leverage shared interests, ideas, and trust in circular communication patterns often enabled by the Internet. Well written. Anecdotal. Draws on a wide variety of government, private sector, and civil society examples.
Nathan J. Brown and Amr Hamzawy, "Arab Spring Fever," The National Interest, September/October, 2007, 33-40. Brown (George Washington University) and Hamzawy (Carnegie Endowment) contend that hope remains for democracy in the Middle East (but not "on any U.S. administration's timetable") despite the political realities that have silenced optimists or caused them to regret electoral outcomes. The authors divide Arab regimes into three categories: "weak or failing states, strict authoritarian states, and semi-authoritarian states." Observers tend to focus on the first two. Reform is most likely, however, in semi-authoritarian states, such as Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Bahrain, which "allow some space for popular participation." Includes a critique of U.S. democratization efforts and recommendations for new approaches. The full text is online at Carnegie's website. Online also for National Interest subscribers.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Interview with LTC John Nagl on the U.S. Army's Counterinsurgency Field Manual, August 23, 2007, Video Link on the Small Wars Journal blog. In this brief video clip, LTC Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and a co-author of the Field Manuel, explains its origins and purposes and more than holds his own with Stewart. Interesting at several levels: the Army's use of the "The Daily Show," Stewart's interview style, implications for its impact on public perceptions of General Patraeus, Nagl's "message authority," and his sparing but politically effective use of humor.
Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, (Picador, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, 2006, 2005). New York Times columnist Friedman has updated and expanded his blockbuster on globalization in an affordable new 3.0 edition ($9.90 in paper from Amazon) making it easier to assign to students as required reading. Friedman weaves new flattening forces and comments from readers of earlier editions into his thesis. Contains two new chapters: one on "how to be a political activist and social entrepreneur in a flat world," the other on "how we manage our reputations in a world where we are all becoming publishers and therefore all becoming public figures."
Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies, Library of Congress Website. The Library of Congress and the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training have collaborated to post the Association's massive oral history collection on the Library's website. The site (easily navigable) contains 1,301 transcripts of interviews with U.S. diplomats and others engaged in foreign affairs. Most interviews cover events in the period after World War II. Many of the interviews capture the views and experiences of Foreign Service Officers and others engaged in public diplomacy. For a list of interviews not yet posted, see the Association's website.
Douglas M. Gibler, "Bordering on Peace: Democracy, Territorial Issues, and Conflict," International Studies Quarterly, September 2007, 51: 509-532. Gibler (University of Alabama) takes issue with democratic peace theorists who begin with regime types and then calculate their effects on conflict potential. He argues that peace and democratic regimes are more likely to be symptoms than causes "of the removal of territorial issues between neighbors." Gibler tests his assumptions using a conflict model that controls for the effects of border relationships. His conclusion: "joint democracy does not exercise a pacifying effect on dispute initiation." A prepublication version of the paper is available online.
Todd C. Helmus, Christopher Paul, and Russell W. Glenn, Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operations, RAND, National Defense Research Institute, 2007. Three RAND researchers adapt and apply commercial marketing methods to efforts by the U.S. and its allies to shaping indigenous attitudes and behavior during armed conflict. Drawing on interviews, cases, best practices, and past mistakes in the marketing and advertising industries, the authors apply their concepts to the character of stability operations, the behavior of armed forces, and methods of persuasive communication. They conclude that actions help set conditions for credibility, which enable persuasive communication.
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, Revised Edition, (Three Rivers Press, Paperback, 2001, 2007). Veteran journalists Kovach (Chairman, Committee of Concerned Journalists) and Rosenstiel (Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism) have substantially revised their important study of journalism's values and role in society. Contains updated examples, a deeper inquiry into the disaggregation of news consumption and production, expanded treatment of verification and its importance in treating problems of bias, and a new 10th principle of journalism: "Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news."
Marc Lynch, "Brothers in Arms," Foreign Policy, September/October, 2007, 70-74. Professor Lynch (George Washington University) offers advice on "how to talk to America" in the form of a "memorandum" to Mohammed Mahdi Akef, Supreme Guide, Muslim Brotherhood. Lynch urges the leader of Egypt's leading opposition group to treat "these difficult times as an opportunity" and to match actions and words at a critical juncture for the Brotherhood. Will they act as a "firewall" within a moderate Islamist program or a "transmission belt" on the path to radicalization? His "memorandum" offers several practical suggestions with important implications for Americans as well. Available online to FP subscribers only. Lynch is the author of Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Al Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today (2006) and Abu Aardvark, a blog on Middle Eastern media and politics.
Juliana Geran Pilon, Why America is Such a Hard Sell: Beyond Pride and Prejudice, (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007). In this book, self-described as "somewhat eclectic," Romanian born Pilon (currently with the Institute of World Politics, formerly with The Heritage Foundation) examines America's idealism, tarnished reputation, and challenges in its "strategic outreach." Chapters include observations on English and American literature, America's immigrant culture, its historical legacy of pride and exceptionalism, public diplomacy, and soft power. Her recommendations for "global strategic outreach" emphasize the importance of understanding others, "a dose of healthy self-criticism," and if "hard pressed to make so-called structural recommendations . . . an independent entity called the American Global Outreach and Research Agency."
John C. Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007). Robb, a former Air Force officer, consultant, and author of Global Guerillas blog, looks at the future of warfare. Using numerous examples, he argues that a variety of asymmetric adversaries are using ideas, networks, commercially available technologies, and adaptive strategies to leverage the vulnerabilities of large, open state-based societies to advantage. Countering this new breed of adversary, Robb argues, requires new mindsets, "de-escalation of rhetoric," and more flexible and resilient social systems. Includes a foreword by James Fallows.
Michael J. Robinson, Two Decades of American News Preferences, Part 1: Analyzing What News the Public Follows and Doesn't Follow, Pew Research Center for the People & The Press, August, 15, 2007. Professor Robinson (formerly GWU and Georgetown, now a consultant to the Pew Research Center) finds that American news interests and preferences have remained relatively constant despite changes in the size and scope of American news media. Using 21 years of Pew data (1986-2007), Robinson shows that news tastes, measured in 19 categories, have "barely shifted." There is scant evidence that "the American audience has moved toward a diet of softer news." Disaster news and money news remain most interesting. Tabloid news and foreign news continue to be least interesting.
David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, "The Promise of Noopolitik (Postscript)," FirstMonday, June 2007, 1999. Ronfeldt (RAND) and Arquilla (Naval Postgraduate School) have updated their widely read 1999 essay calling for a "revolution in diplomatic affairs." Diplomats, they argued then, need to rethink their approach to statecraft in a world where classic, state-based diplomacy is giving way to the rise of networks, "soft (principally ideational) power," and the growth of three information-based realms: cyberspace, infosphere, and noosphere. The authors have added a postscript for inclusion in a forthcoming (2008) handbook on public diplomacy edited by Nancy Snow (Cal State, Fullerton) and Philip Taylor (Leeds). In their update, Ronfeldt and Arquilla find that Joseph Nye's (Harvard) soft power concept "needs further clarification and refinement" and that nonstate actors are using the Internet and other new media more effectively than the U.S. government and other state actors.
Josh Rushing, Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Rushing, a former Marine and now a correspondent for Al Jazeera International in Washington, DC, writes about Arab and American perceptions, his experiences in Iraq, his participation as a military public affairs officer in Control Room, the documentary film on Al Jazeera, the Pentagon's response, and the value to Americans of seeking to convey positive aspects of their culture and policies on Al Jazeera and other Arab media.
Janet Steele, "Malaysia's Untethered Net," Foreign Policy, July/August, 2007, 86-88. Professor Steele (George Washington University, Fulbright scholar, and author of Wars Within: The Story of Tempo, 2005) looks at how two journalists with Malaysiakini, a Kuala Lumpur-based news website, broke an important anti-corruption story leading to public accountability and mainstream news coverage in Malaysia's restrictive news environment. Steele's case study looks at cyberjournalism in Southeast Asia and "an unlikely loophole for online news organizations and bloggers" in Malaysia driven by former Prime Minister Mahatir's no censorship policy for the Internet - a policy grounded in his desire to attract foreign investment in high-tech industries. Abstract only available to non-FP subscribers.
U.S. Army/Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency Field Manual, (The University of Chicago Press, 2007). Forewords by General David Petraeus, LTG James F. Amos, and LTC John A. Nagl. Introduction to the Chicago Press edition by Sarah Sewall, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. This widely discussed edition of the U.S. military's guide to counterinsurgency warfare "emphasizes constant adaptation and learning, the importance of decentralized decision-making, the need to understand local politics and customs, and the key role of intelligence in winning the support of the population." Contains sections on the media, social network analysis, and other analytical tools. Sewall's introduction (blurbed elsewhere by the Carr Center's Samantha Power) provides a critical, historical, and scholarly perspective.
Gem From The Past
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, (Vintage Books Edition, 1992, first published in 1961). Historian, sociologist, public intellectual, and former Librarian of Congress, Boorstin's landmark study of "synthetic novelty" in American culture continues to reward. Pseudo-events. Spin. News making. Photo-op. Events manufactured to be reported. Celebrities known for "well knownness." Extravagant expectations. Boorstin said it early and said it well.