Sunday, August 12, 2007


American Propaganda Abroad is former United States Information Agency (USIA) employee Fitzhugh Green's history of American propaganda from Benjamin Franklin to Ronald Reagan. The book also covers some of how USIA operated and what it did.

Green begins with a fascinating account of America's first public diplomats, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. He clearly idolizes them (and others, including Charles Z. Wick, USIA's head under Reagan). Green was notably less impressed with Jimmy Carter's handling of USIA.

The majority of American Propaganda Abroad is not particularly interesting, as Green seems to have been writing for an audience more familiar with the USIA, and as such has included little in the way of background information or introduction to his subjects. There are also little or no transitions between topics. Green includes a little of this and a little of that, seemingly as the mood strikes him.

Green's two fiction chapters, A Typical Overseas Post – Fiction and A Nation-Building Post – Fiction, are not introduced or explained. As such, the reader may wonder if these stories are fictional accounts of how these posts really are (which is the correct interpretation) or if Green is showing the reader fiction to illustrate that things never happen like this. As such, they can be confusing to the reader. Fiction writing is clearly not Green's forte – his narrative and dialogue are stilted.

As the USIA no longer exists, much of American Propaganda Abroad is no longer relevant. Those historical elements are; much of the rest is not. This is because Green at times is more concerned with singing the praises of an administration's approach to the USIA.

Green's recommendation that the United States continue to invest in public diplomacy certainly has not been heeded in recent years. As a result of this and other factors, anti-Americanism is up across the globe and America's image is relatively poor.

American Propaganda Abroad
contains some valuable information, but it is not a true history of the USIA, nor is it a full history of American propaganda. It also is not particularly objective.