Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Karen Rules 

The Karen Hughes memo (with some real time situation reports from Joseph Goebbels):

UNCLASSIFIED STATE 00006202 [122316Z JAN 06] FOR COMS, DCMS and PAOS from Karen Hughes

Subject: Speaking on the Record

1. During my recent trips and meetings with many of you, I have heard concerns about problems with getting clearance to speak on the record to reporters. I promised I would send out a message clarifying my policy on this issue, and providing what I hope is clear guidance for you all in dealing with the press. In this message, I want to share "Karen's Rules" in the hope that you all will have a better idea of what I expect, and how you can react.

JAN 19, 1939: Thouroughly study a fat report about propaganda abroad. Much is being achieved in this area. (page 5)

OCT 24, 1939: Meet with eight holders of the Iron Cross from the Propaganda Companies. They describe the shortcomings that continue to affect the Propaganda Companies' work. These are caused more by personnel problems than any failure of organization. I shall correct these step by step. (page 28)

2. Rule #1: Think advocacy. I want all of you to think of yourselves as advocates for America's story each day. I encourage you to have regular sessions with your senior team to think about the public diplomacy themes of each event or initiative. As a communicator, I know that it is important to get out in front of an issue or at best have a strong response to a negative story. One of my goals during my tenure at the State Department is to change our culture from one in which risk is avoided with respect to the press to one where speaking out and engaging with the media is encouraged and rewarded. I want you out frequently in front of the cameras, in the columns of your local and regional press and mobilizing your staff to wake up every morning with media in mind. As President Bush and Secretary Rice have stated, public diplomacy is the job of every ambassador and every Foreign Service officer.

JAN 7, 1940: Study huge quantities of letters about our foreign radio broadcasts. Thouroughly good and positive. We must expand this area of operations. (page 89)

OCT 10, 1940: A few cultural films. And Ritter's Above All the World. Absolutely naive and primitive, but could well be a big hit with the public. Ritter says patriotic things with a lack of inhibition that would have anyone else blushing. A few things have to be changed. (page 137)

Dec 6, 1940: We step up propaganda in praise of our radio service and the film industry. I am continuing my relentless struggle to ensure that our entire news apparatus stamps hard on public over-optimism about an early end to the war. If such hopes are not fulfilled, then we shall reap a bitter harvest in future.

There have been complaints that the KdF variety shows are too vulgar, and that the comperes are too fond of smutty jokes. Also, naked dancing is creeping back into shows, even in the countryside, in completely perverted forms. I intervene with all vigour, not for moral reasons but on the grounds of good taste. (page 194)

3. Rule #2: Use what's out there. You are always on sure ground if you use what the President, Secretary Rice, Sean McCormack, or any USG spokesman has already said on a particular subject. I always read recent statements by key officials on important subjects before I do press events. My Echo Chamber messages are meant to provide you clear talking points in a conversational format on the 'hot' issues of the day. You never need clearance to background a journalist though you should certainly pay careful attention to how your comments may be used.

JAN 3, 1940: I explain the essentials of propaganda to the press conference yet again. Fritzsche is often too literary for my taste. He fails to properly understand the value of repetition in propaganda. One must constantly be repeating the same thing in different forms. The public is basically very conservative. It must be thouroughly saturated with our views by constant repetition. Until the message sticks. Only then can one be sure of success. (page 84)

4. Rule #3: Think local. Because your key audience is your local--or regional--audience, you do not need clearance to speak to any local media, print, or television. And, you do not need clearance to speak to U.S. media in your country if you are quoting a senior official who has spoken on the record on a particular subject. When you are in the U.S., you do need PA clearance to speak to major U.S. media.

MARCH 4, 1939: I give some more thought to constructing new, more powerful radio transmitters. (page 10)

Rule #4: Use common sense to respond to natural disasters or tragedies. You do not need to get Department clearance to express condolences in the event of a loss, or express sympathy and support in response to a natural disaster. Obviously in the latter case do not commit USG resources for support or relief without approval from the Department; but do not wait for Department authorization to offer a statement of sympathy unless the individual or incident is controversial.

OCT 1, 1940: Serious problems of evacuation of children from Berlin. The NSV has proceeded very clumsily in this area and has created enormous discontent. And I had expressly ordered that the process should be carried out without compulsion. I summon the ten Berlin Kreisleiters and read them the riot act. They are to warn the local Party branches immediately and bring order into the situation. Unfortunately we cannot clear matters up through the press. But I hope things will work out, even so. [...] The mood here is also volatile. The child-evacuation problem has caused us some setbacks. Mothers are becoming nervous, and that is a bad sign. But I shall soon make up the lost ground. (pages 125 - 126)

OCT 2, 1940: My announcement in the press has now clarified the problem of child evacuees in Berlin. Complete peace has been restored. The announcement was absolutely necessary. Saturday's false air-raid alarm has also been investigated. It was due to lack of foresight. I make an enormous fuss and order some major changes. (page 127)

OCT 5, 1940: More rumours in Berlin about gas attacks and evacuation of children. However, I take vigorous counter-measures and have the rumour-mongers locked up. (page 131)

6. Rule #5: Don't make policy. This is a sensitive area about which you need to be careful. Do not get out in front of USG policymakers on an issue, even if you are speaking to local press. The rule of thumb to keep in mind is "don't make policy or usurp the prerogative of the Secretary or a senior Washington policy-maker to set policy direction." When in doubt on a policy shift, seek urgent guidance from PA or your regional public diplomacy office. Use your judgment and err on the side of caution.

OCT 5, 1940: Stupid business in Vienna: our spokesman in Vienna has written a very foolish, buy very caustic article in one of the local newspapers, attacking Berlin, its way of life, and its people. Without any apparent cause. Schirach calls me up as a result, absolutely furious. I give him full powers to remove the man from his post immediately and take him into custody for a few days. (page 132)

7. Rule #6: No surprises. You should always give [the Office of Public Affairs] a heads-up in the event that you speak to U.S.-based media, particularly in the case of on the record television interviews. This ensures that those who should know are in the loop on what is happening.

JAN 16, 1940: The radio has made some psychological errors. I ensure that this does not occur again. One must be incredibly careful in this area, so as not to give away one's hand before the time comes. (page 95)

8. Rule #7. Enlist the help of my office if you don't get a quick response for clearance or help. My staff and I are here to support you in your efforts to get the USG position on the record and out in the media. Both Sean McCormack and I are committed to making sure you have what you need to advocate a U.S. position on the key issues at your post.

JAN 16, 1940: Discuss propaganda abroad with Schwarz van Berk. He is now working as a 'neutral' journalist, writing articles aimed at world opinion. I give him clear guidelines. He must not go into detail, but must provide more colour than news. At the moment we must titillate rather than inform. (page 96)

9. I know this is a departure from how you all have operated over the years. But forceful advocacy of U.S. interests and positions is critical to our effort to marginalize the extremists and share a positive vision of hope for all countries and people. I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to speak out, and look forward to our aggressive promotion of U.S. policy.

JAN 28, 1940: The Times provides yet another glowing testimonial to my propaganda. (page 105)

MARCH 26, 1941: ...Address propagandists of the AO from all European countries. I clarify their propaganda tasks in the world. Great applause. (page 281)

MAY 27, 1939: Yesterday: I order attacks on the foreign press for their lies about alleged flooding on our West Wall. Otherwise a myth will establish itself. My essay, The 'Encirclers', is now to be reprinted throughout our press. For the rest, all is rather quiet on the polemical front. (page 12)

All dated excerpts - quoted text in boxes above - by Joseph Goebbels. From The Goebbels Diaries 1939-1941; Translated and Edited by Fred Taylor; published 1983.

More on "Karen's Rules" from David Corn. See: Can Karen Hughes Spin the CIA Attack in Pakistan?


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