Wednesday, January 19, 2005

PROPAGANDA NOT WORKING? TRY ART! Larry Kudlow is always good for a laugh, and today he delivers a hot one: Commenting on Condi Rice and her time-for-diplomacy-is-now slogan, Kudlow calls for the putative Sec'yState to put more emphasis on the global brand marketing of democracy:
One of the failings of the Powell administration of the State Department was his inability to market President Bush’s key message of the transformational effect of spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East and around the world.

This is a powerful message that has huge potential to garner greater support if not among certain foreign governments, then surely among the majority of people who live under the rule of governments that are hostile to the US war against totalitarian radical Islamism.
Well, one might say that Powell -- whom America last noticed pointing at little gray squares in a grainy poster and telling us they were chock full of chemical weapons -- failed to "market" "President Bush's key message" effectively, though a more direct way of putting it would be that Powell's not a good enough liar. (He's not bad at it, mind you, but the Bush Administration is a very competitive league.)

Kudlow thinks enough of this mush that he ran to The Corner and called people over to his site to read it -- which, appropriately enough, seems to reflect his general idea of what how the hearts-and-minds thing works: read this, son, and be won over! Here's an example:
Later in the interview, Mr. Bush posed this thought: "If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky’s book 'The Case for Democracy.' Anybody read it? Read it. It’s a great book. And I think it will help – it will help explain a lot of the decisions that you’ll see being made...'"

This is the sort of public diplomacy in which I truly hope Ms. Rice engages... Hopefully, she will not be bashful in quoting Sharansky, as well as the President, in a noble effort to communicate a powerful idea as a solution to some of the darkest and most dangerous parts of the world.
This conjures up images like this, but with U.S. Public Diplomacy agents scurrying onto the blast-gutted scene, tossing copies of Sharansky's book to terrified onlookers.

When they run out of that one, they can try Writers On America, the volume of aesthetes' musings commissioned in the early days of World War Whatever by the State Department to "illuminate in an interesting way certain America values -- freedom, diversity, democracy -- that may not be well understood in all parts of the world."

That the State Department was willing to hire actual poets 'n' such (at $2,499 per essay! Not a bad gig!) to help with the hearts-and-minds thing is a piquant, if left-handed (one might better say left-footed) tribute to the transformative power of art, But while I too like to believe in that power during my dreamier moments, I do think that before a way is paved for art with, oh, say, running water, electricity, and basic civil protections, prose poems on democracy -- especially those that are not a natural outgrowth of local conditions, but essentially commissioned propaganda from the big bombmakers across the sea -- will be of extremely limited usefulness. "First fill the belly," as an author with absolutely no chance of serving the State Department, even posthumously*, wrote, "then talk religion."

(* I should be careful about such statements -- after all, they did hijack Orwell, and if the wager is tempting enough I'm sure one of them will take on BB as a side project.)

No comments:

Post a Comment