A New Elite Medium in the United States

Politics in the middle east has made visible a new American medium. China may be the first non-middle eastern country to use the new medium.

The common media are TV, radio, newspapers, internet and magazines. Advertisers use all sorts of media combinations to reach their target markets. Local political and lobbying groups use similar combinations of media to influence legislatures, governments and policy makers.

What is new is the use of a combination of print media and editorial writers to reach the foreign policy elite in the United States. Insider foreign policy debates involve many hundreds of people, from the State Department to universities, lobbying organizations, law firms and think tanks. I believe that this new targeting of the foreign policy elite through select print media is itself a new elite medium.

Here are three recent examples, plus a fourth unique example.

* In February 2002, the most prominent and influential editorial writer for the most prominent and influential newspaper, Tom Friedman of the New York Times published an article about a peace proposal given to him by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Similar proposals had been made in the previous twenty years through normal foreign office channels. This proposal was unique because it was delivered directly to the entire foreign affairs policy elite who read Tom Friedman in the New York Times.

* In October 2002, another prominent and influential editorial writer for the New York Times, Frank Rich, telephoned the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, at his home and was given a unique foreign policy interview. Sharon gave his approval to a foreign team setting up accounting procedures in the West Bank of Palestine. Sharon singled out the importance of Japan in the accounting team.

* National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice arranged an interview with the most prominent writer for the influential New Yorker magazine, Nicholas Lemann. In the interview Rice explained many of her views on foreign policy in the middle east directly to the foreign policy elite that reads the New Yorker magazine.

What is interesting and unique about these three examples is that they are a new way to deal with foreign policy issues. They display a new channel which goes outside the State department and talks directly to the foreign policy elite.

In each case listed above, there are previous examples of statesmen talking to the press, giving interviews on television and writing articles in important journals. What creates a new elite medium today is the deliberate use of a medium, reading, that is favored by the foreign policy elite over radio, TV and the internet. It also targets the specific daily reading sources of the entire policy elite: the prominent and respected journalists in the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine.

The fourth example is particularly interesting. In the September and October 2002 issues of the New York Review of Books (equally important as the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine to the foreign policy elite) were two articles that were described as follows: the articles provide "detailed confidential reports on (China's new leaders)... compiled by the Party's secretive, highly trusted Organization Department. These reports form the basis of a remarkable new Chinese-language book, Disidai, or "The Fourth Generation," which is being published in November 2002 in the US. Its author is a Party insider using the pseudonym Zong Hairen, whom we have found authoritative and reliable. Practically all of his predictions during the past year about the shape of the new leadership have been confirmed by events. Zong has authorized us to present in English the main findings in his book. We are doing so in two articles.." This summary of the articles and their translation was done by Andrew J. Nathan and Bruce Gilley, distinguished China foreign policy scholars.

China is using the same new approach of a direct print medium to reach the foreign policy elite of the United States.

We can expect this new elite foreign policy medium to be used regularly from now on.


Michael Phillips Nov. 2002