March 19, 2011

Zogby: Americans Still Don't Get the Arabs

Here's a super-interesting discussion I came across recently with James Zogby on Americans' misunderstanding of the Middle East region, its people, and its consequent public diplomacy implications.

Some of the highlights include:

- Zogby: “I felt that with President Obama having the best of intentions, closing that gap was going to be a must, first. I don’t think public diplomacy begins with our selling of our message overseas as much as it begins with our understanding the region that we want to sell our message to, at home. We don’t understand the Arab world, so we talk at them, and not to them, not with them.” --> interesting case of differentiation between "transmission" and "ritual" views of communication, and the implications of confusion...

- Mentions the age-old concern about the lack of education on the region and the acquisition of that knowledge from the popular culture & Hollywood, instead.

- Clear disconnect between the issues that Arabs themselves pointed out as important/significant for them, and those that are promoted and even "pushed" by the U.S. --> such public diplomacy only backfires.

Yet, he still has some hope. Perhaps we should do, too.

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