Thursday, June 04, 2009

Poster Children

Yesterday, this was the opening screen of the White House website. It showed a dramatic close up of a bespectacled woman with less than model-perfect skin wearing a hijab. It's a particularly remarkable image, given how eager Barack Obama was to distance himself from women wearing headscarves during the campaign, some of whom were actually moved off bleachers behind him.

I was less than crazy about the fact that the administration appointed Judith A. McHale as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, since she has had so many ties to the cable television industry during the course of her career, an industry that has such a troubling history of seeking local monopolies on information.

But this web-based campaign indicates a significantly new direction in public diplomacy that is very different from the one taken at the time of the launch of the public diplomacy office during the Bush administration with Charlotte Beers. Unlike Obama's public diplomacy campaign about federal workers, the previous administration could only depict Muslim-Americans as passive suburbanites or cloistered observers of religious tradition, never as active participants in the activities of governance.

See this YouTube video on the White House website about Muslim-Americans in the U.S. government for more.

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Blogger John Brown said...

May I suggest that you take the time to look up the job description of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs on the State Department homepage. You would then realize that it is most unlikely that among Ms. McHale's duties is "the current public diplomacy campaign about federal workers."

7:08 AM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

I've clarified my point to indicate what I meant in situating the campaign in the larger rhetorical approach of the administration when it comes to public diplomacy. I think this is a very different campaign from "Muslim Life in America," which I write about in the Virtualpolitik book. Let me know if you still take issue with what I'm saying, since I'm an avid reader of your blog.

7:21 AM  

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