Communication Essay

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A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas From Simplistic Influence to Pragmatic Complexity Steven R. Corman Angela Trethewey Bud Goodall April 3, 2007 Report #0701 Consortium for Strategic Communication Arizona State University With Contributions from: Robert D. McPhee The CSC is a strategic initiative of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. It promotes advanced research, teaching, and public discussions of the role of communication in combating terrorism, promoting national security, and improving public diplomacy. For additional information or to become involved in one of our working groups, visit our website: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In the global war of ideas, the United States finds itself facing a systems problem that cannot be solved by simply delivering the right message. The question is not “how can we construct a more persuasive message?” Rather it is “what kind of reality has this particular system [that we are trying to influence] constructed for itself?” The present strategic communication efforts by the U.S. and its allies rest on an outdated, 20th century message influence model that is no longer effective in the complex global war of ideas. Relying on this model, our well-intentioned communication has become dysfunctional. Rather than drawing the world into a consensus on issues of terrorism, diplomacy, and international security, it instead unwittingly contributes to our diminished status among world opinion leaders and furthers the recruitment goals of violent extremists. In this paper we explain why message influence strategies fail and what must be done to break the cycle of communication dysfunction. Changing communication systems requires, first, understanding the dynamics at work; and, second, using communication as a strategy to disrupt and perturb
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