New Political Science
URL with Digital Object Identifier
In recent years the United States has turned to digital technologies to buoy its response to anti-Americanism in the so-called “Muslim world.” At least three concepts appear to be shaping this effort. The first is a marketing-based strategy called “engagement.” The other two are derivations of Marshall McLuhan's “global village” and his aphorism that “the medium is the message.” This article focuses on the uses and misuses of McLuhan's work by foreign policy officials in Washington. It argues that their stated purpose—to empower people and further inter-cultural understanding through dialogue—is dubious. Indeed, pronouncements regarding these potentials now sit uncomfortably alongside Washington's use of these same technologies to manage dissent. By assessing digital engagement and a more general initiative called “internet freedom” (both in the light of what McLuhan, in fact, says), American aspirations involving digital communications are shown to be more than just contradictory; they are dangerously misguided.