Trylon Communications  - June 2005

Turning the Tide

In the wake of all of the negative publicity the U.S. has received as a result of the Quran scandals of Guantanamo, there is certainly a need for the U.S. to proactively attempt to burnish its tarnished image in the Middle East. The Council on Foreign Relations recently released a report that offers solid advice on how the administration might reverse the negative views of our country overseas.

The negative images of the U.S. held by many in the Muslim world are mainly the result of media coverage that is anti-U.S. The effects of unfavorable media coverage are reinforced by stereotypes about the U.S. decision-making process, particularly about alleged Jewish influence on U.S. foreign policy.

According to the report, there is an opportunity to change attitudes in the Middle East, but not by trying to sway opinion about U.S. policy. Instead, the U.S. should reinforce positive impressions that have been made regarding the U.S. about international aid (such as the tsunami relief effort) and peace efforts in Israel. The report contained a list of steps the government could take to polish its image:

  • Focus on partnerships in support of local Muslim initiatives, without presenting the United States as the motor of change.

  • Agree to disagree on contentious issues involving other countries, such as Iraq or Israel and Palestine.

  • Engage local and regional media via press releases, interviews, Op-Eds, press conferences, and site visits.

  • Launch an advertising campaign on U.S. aid and support for reform in local and regional media, and acknowledge the U.S. government as the source.

  • Improve coverage of aid programs, particularly those concerning economic, education, and health aid, in U.S. government media.

  • Tap credible spokespeople who speak local languages, such as aid recipients, exchange program participants, and local executives of U.S firms.

  • Challenge stereotypes on U.S. foreign policy and alleged Jewish influence through non-governmental efforts, such as academic dialogues, videoconferences, and documentaries.