America Is Not a Hamburger

President Bush's attempts to "rebrand" the United States are doomed, according to Naomi Klein. Klein analyzes of the strategy developed for the U.S. by Charlotte Beers, the advertising executive hired by the State Department as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. One of the problems, Klein notes, is that Beers' strategy of "branding" is itself in conflict with her attempt to equate Americanism with democracy and diversity. "In the corporate world," Klein writes, "once a 'brand identity' is settled upon, it is enforced with military precision throughout a company's operations. ... At its core, branding is about rigorously controlled one-way messages, sent out in their glossiest form, then sealed off from those who would turn corporate monologue into social dialogue." This approach may work for corporations, Klein says, but not for governments. "When companies try to implement global image consistency, they look like generic franchises. But when governments do the same, they can look distinctly authoritarian. It's no coincidence that the political leaders most preoccupied with branding themselves and their parties were also allergic to democracy and diversity. Historically, this has been the ugly flipside of politicians striving for consistency of brand: centralised information, state-controlled media, re-education camps, purging of dissidents and much worse."