In this space a few weeks ago, I suggested that the United States needs to hire a PR agency. Clumsiness at the State Department over who should be the new director of the IMF had led to our country appearing both anti-German and anti-African.
In this space a few weeks ago, I suggested that the United States
needs to hire a PR agency. Clumsiness at the State Department over who
should be the new director of the IMF had led to our country appearing
both anti-German and anti-African.
Some Washington veterans suggested that we already had a PR firm on
hand: the United States Information Agency. No one, of course, would
have characterized it as such prior to its recent absorption into the
But the issue became moot last week when the former USIA (physician,
heal thyself) was forced to pay more than dollars 500 million in a
lawsuit brought by more than a thousand women alleging open, notorious
and flagrant gender discrimination in hiring.
Over the years, a number of qualified, competent women had applied for
jobs - mainly with the Voice of America - as broadcasters, writers,
editors and producers, and were systematically rejected with the
explanation ’we don’t want a woman for that job.’
But what was at work was something a bit more sinister, defined by the
culture of Eastern European anti-Communists fed by the CIA of the 1970s
and ’80s, where the only credentials needed to be a VOA freedom fighter
were being a right-wing opponent of an East European government, able to
speak the language and, apparently, male.
To the ’Captive Nation’ hotheads, coddled for decades by the CIA, their
backgrounds hidden from public view by concealed ’national security’
files and even a ’classified’ section of the USIA charter, male
chauvinism was a part of the culture. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine
Mystique, the bible of American women’s movement for equality - was
surely not celebrated on the Voice of America.
Worse, according to at least one high-placed official, the agency was
largely unmanaged, undirected and certainly undisciplined. Thanks to the
CIA hegemony over foreign broadcasting, especially to Eastern Europe,
the emigres were given mainly a free hand. CIA ’assets’ could be given
jobs broadcasting to ’free Europe’ and thus, there was hardly a place
for American women who believed the talk that ’ain’t nobody here but us
As with most injustices - and aided by the end of the Cold War - it
became clear a settlement was in order. Each woman will receive about
dollars 450,000, including those whom courts had earlier turned
The public relations need, to be sure, still remains. Is there nowhere
in government today where someone can be found to say, ’Don’t do it,
it’s illegal and it damages the ’USA’ brand’?