CUSIB’s Robert Reilly Reviews “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad” by Martha Bayles

Robert R. Reilly, former Voice of America Director

Robert Reilly, the Senior Fellow for Strategic Communication at the American Foreign Policy Council and the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) Advisory Board member, has published a review of “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad,” a book by Martha Bayles focused on post-World War II U.S. public diplomacy and U.S. international broadcasting.

ROBERT REILLY: It was also at this time that the Broadcasting Board of Governors decided to eliminate VOA’s Arabic service and its substantive content, and replace it with Radio Sawa—a 24-hour mélange of American and Arabic pop music, with two short newsbreaks in the hour. What could possibly have guided this decision? Here is where Bayles’ impression that a conscious decision was made to replace public diplomacy with American popular culture is right on the mark. Not only the chairman of the BBG but, on a separate occasion, the director of its Middle East committee, informed me that “MTV brought down the Berlin Wall.” Quite apart from the absurdity of this assertion, they never explained what wall they were intending to bring down in the Middle East.

READ MORE: Instead, We Played Music, By Robert Reilly, Library of Law and Liberty

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