and Misuse of Truth
17 , 2006
Nancy Snow seems to tackle the question on a daily basis. The associate professor of communications and an authority on American propaganda, has just seen her fourth book, “The Arrogance of American Power” published by Rowman & Littlefield. In it she discusses how the Bush administration seems to use the term anti-American to label anyone who disagrees with its foreign policy, as well as how the U.S. is using propaganda for public relations.
“It's not that I don't think anti-Americanism is a legitimate concern,” said Snow, who has taught at Cal State Fullerton since 2002. “It’s that we’re living in the age of manipulation of rhetorical labels, including this ism. I do a lot of public speaking and have discovered many Americans who feel cowed from sharing their opinions on the war in Iraq and war on terror in part because they don’t want to be cast in the role of treasonous citizen. I know that’s a strong charge, but a nation like ours that cannot accommodate a wide range of debate and discourse certainly won’t be able to maintain its integrity, much less its eroding image in the world.
“In my latest book,” continues the researcher, who has appeared on CNN, BBC, National Public Radio and the news programs of ABC and Fox, “I show how the arrogance of power first presented by Senator Fulbright in the 1960s has extended to the war on terror today. We’re losing our ability to lead in the world because we project more of an air of declaration than active listening.
“In order to have our intentions and goals as a nation understood by the world, we must first understand. This requires that we listen more and talk less, a tall order for the world’s sole remaining superpower,” said Snow. “For instance, Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, declared her first visit to the Middle East in 2005 a ‘listening tour’ but was met with a great deal of criticism from several groups with which she met who found her demeanor to be judgmental and lacking in authenticity.
“Some of the criticism she received may have been due to her close relationship with President Bush, but the perception in the world over is that we Americans are quick to use public relations lingo like ‘listening tour’ when we really continue to act the same.”
Later this month, Snow will speak on the issue of truth as part of a weeklong program, “Truth: One Word, Many Meanings,” the 21st annual Artist Lecture Series Student Symposium at Hastings College in Nebraska. Other guest speakers include Joe Garden, staff writer for The Onion, Roy Hazelwood, author and consultant on violent crime, and Brad Warner, author of “Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality.”
Snow, who earned a doctorate in international relations from American University, formerly served with the United States Information Agency and the State Department, and currently is a senior research fellow at the USC Center for Public Diplomacy. She is a Fulbright alumna to the Federal Republic of Germany and is a lifetime member of the Fulbright Association.
“In the end,” she said, “I believe most in the power of people-to-people exchange and what Ed Murrow called the ‘Last Three Feet,’ that space between two people in conversation. That space isn't about getting everyone to love us; it’s about understanding and being understood, free of the spin zones and avenues of manipulation that so occupy our mind space these days.”