Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

By Lester Markel; Council on Foreign Relations. | Go to book overview
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By W. Phillips DavisonTHE CONFUSIONS that can result from the failure to evaluate properly the word "propaganda"1 are revealed sharply when we begin consideration of the State Department's public opinion operation overseas. There are still gaping differences of opinion as to what the government's role should be and, as a result, a number of theories as to what the government should do -- theories that very often contradict one another in whole or in part. In the main these theories can be classified in five categories:
1. That we should give people abroad the facts about us. This may be called the "fair trial," or "cross section of America," theory. It assumes that once people have the facts, they cannot fail to approve of us and to concur with our policies.
2. That we should bring people abroad to understand our objectives. The assumption here is that comprehension of American cultural ideals and achievements will break down anti-American prejudice.
3. That we should persuade people abroad to like us. Here we cross the narrow line that separates information from propaganda. Our purpose becomes to display as in a show window those aspects of American life calculated to arouse a favorable response abroad: the best American music, American generosity, American peacefulness.
4. That we should induce people abroad to favor the
See Chapter One, pp. 12-14.


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Public Opinion and Foreign Policy


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