Friday, July 24, 2009

Face-Off to Facebook -- All In A Day

Khrushchev, Ruble on Kitchen Debate (courtesy Gregory Asmolov)

The "Face-off to Facebook" conference at George Washington University has come and gone. We would like to thank everyone who attended for their interest and enthusiasm. We were particularly happy to see so many veterans of the 1959 exhibition there in person. For those of you who were not able to join us in Washington this week, we hope you tuned in to at least some of the proceedings via the streaming video on the conference web page.

In the near-term, we will continue to post conference-related material on the School of Media and Public Affairs homepage and on this blog, including video and text from the conference as well as material from the online archive project.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking with the humility (and arrogance) of one who did quite a few exhibitions (as director of USIA’s Exhibits Service from 1976 to 1980) and none of them as varied or magnificent as the 59 show: What did that show do for USIA as propaganda? (That’s a straighter term than “public diplomacy” for what we, the producers of USIA products, cranked out. (A guy with a Russian accent said to my daughter at the 50th anniversary conference: “ ‘Public diplomacy’ makes as much sense as fried water.”)
    Disney World, Burger King, McDonalds do tell America’s story to the millions and billions out there. The 59 show shared a little of that. Do they help or hurt as far as what we do in the UN, Afghanistan and Iraq? Does it make the world “admire” us? In a way yes, no denying it. Does it make the world think we’re powerful? Yes, in a way, yes. But also a corrupt way. Does it make the world more likely to support us in the crucial times and places? Does it answer to the suffering world the zealots - Muslim, Marxist, Skinhead, nationalist - on the other side? Not much. In fact it helps a bit to confirm that we are a boastful, pornographic, materialistic, godless imperialist Great Satan who worships the dollar. That vitiates our role as a champion of democracy.
    That is refreshingly why - but don’t exaggerate it - Obama is able to strike a blow for our side while his predecessor struck most of his for the other side.
    A government agency was sometimes a difficult working environment for doing genuinely effective information work when that involved the truth about critical areas in American society.
    It’s true that the crowds at the 59 show talked down the planted aparatchiks heckling the guides. But the crowd of hundreds listening with sympathy and interest to my wife Katia in the model apartment, also laughed heartily when a heckler asked, “If they have all the stuff in this exhibition, why are American workers sleeping under bridges?”
    The 59 show was a magnificent effort. We all loved it. What a summer! But as Ralph White, the Agency sociologist assigned to evaluate it observed, could have done a more effective job in addressing serious issues that Russians were quite aware of.
    John Jacobs