You probably missed this dispatch from the front lines of the Propaganda War, but the State Deptartment's Public Diplomacy czarina, Karen Hughes, has pulled the plug on hearts-and-minds glossy Hi Magazine.
What the hell's Hi Magazine? It's a two-year-old English-language lifestyle monthly, financed by American taxpayers, cranked out by some publisher-of-mediocrity called The Magazine Group ("our name says it all"); and aimed at the ever-elusive youth demographic in North Africa and the Middle East. As The Toronto Star wickedly put it,
There is sadness in the Arab world today among NASCAR fans, aficionados of U.S. men's fashions and those seeking more information on Washington's healthy eating pyramid or American dating standards.
If you don't trust the shifty Canadians, check out Hi's surviving website, which State Dept. Spokesman Sean McCormack insisted is "a cost-effective endeavor." Some sample headlines from the front page include: "Cooking Up a Career: Can You Stand the Heat?"; "All in the Family: Long part of the culture in the Arab world, multigenerational living is now being embraced by more young Americans" (we're getting there, praise Allah!); and my favorite, "Ask America," in which inquisitive young Syrians and Yemenese can get their questions "answered by an expert and published on the website."
One question that suggests itself is, "How much of our tax money does this stupid crap cost?" Answer: $4.5 million a year, for a monthly with a circulation of 55,000. Compare that to say, Reason magazine, which publishes about 45,000 copies on a budget of around $2.5 million. And you don't even have to cough up your $19.95 a year involuntarily!
As for the policy consideration, I'll turn it over to Daniel Pipes:
[E]ven had Hi been better conceived and executed, it - and to a lesser degree, such US government efforts as Radio Sawa and Al-Hurra Television - is misconceived. Like generals fighting the last war, diplomats recall the successes of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe in providing precious information to Soviet bloc peoples and thereby helping to bring about the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Doing what they know worked once, they largely adopted the same informational model for Hi, Sawa, and Al-Hurra.
But Muslims generally and Islamists specifically do not lack for reliable information; much less do they (as did Soviet-bloc populations) prefer Western sources of information to their own.
World War IV -- still not World War III!