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Executive Talk: Propaganda, Public Diplomacy and National Security


On 12 December, 2013, the Centre for Media and Information Warfare Studies, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies (FKPM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), organised the Executive Talk: Propaganda, Public Diplomacy and National Security. The speaker was Professor Dr. Nancy Snow, a Professor of Communications from California State University, Fullerton and Adjunct Professor at Annenberg School, University of South California, United States of America.

The talk inaugurated with welcoming remarks and opening speech by Prof. Dr. Azizul Halim Yahya, Dean of FKPM.

Prof. Dr. Nancy Snow, a former United States Information Agency (USIA) official and an expert in public diplomacy and propaganda studies who specialises in America’s image and reputation, introduced her presentation by replying to a statement she had heard, “social media is a problem in this country.” She argued that social media is not a problem; the problem is the content, and since the world today is one large social network, everyone is a journalist. She described how the press always wants more information while governments try to hide them, and because of that, there needs to be a balance between giving information and protecting national security.

She went on to explain the two basic ways to improve communication: talk louder or listen closer. She believes that listen closer is more efficient, citing examples including an excerpt from Former US President Jimmy Carter, who said the US government needed to listen more in order to understand the world better. She also argued that more communication “merely multiples the possibilities of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.” This is because “bias and distortion continue to play a large group.”

The term propaganda was also defined as a “process of mass persuasion,” depending how it is used, and provided examples and models in the context of authoritarianism and democracy. According to her, propaganda is most effective when it is based upon credible truth, presented in an attractive form, arouses a human need such as security and suggests satisfaction with fulfilling that need. Besides that, she said that technology advancement is making public affairs and public communication harder, not easier. This is because the “internet spread rumours faster than authorities can set the record straight,” and “using information to control rumours will be a major issue and with more responsibilities.”


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Reported by: Syahrul Nizzam bin Nordin
Academic Studies, Research and Publication Division  

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