The Evolution of Media and Their Influence in International Relations

Open Access
Boyer, Tess Mackenzie
Area of Honors:
Media Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Steve Manuel, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Susan Mary Strohm, Honors Advisor
  • Soft Power
  • Public Diplomacy
  • Foreign Policy
  • International Relations
  • Radio
  • Voice of America
  • Radio Liberty
  • Radio Free Europe
  • Television
  • CNN Effect
  • Evolution of Media
  • Social Media
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • International Broadcasting
  • Arab Spring
  • Grassroots Democracy Promotion
This thesis examines the evolution of power dynamics in achieving U.S. foreign policies, paying special attention to the resurgence of soft power and public diplomacy in the years following September 11th, 2001. The thesis argues that the use of various forms of media have been critical elements in successful U.S. soft power and public diplomacy efforts, in large part because of media’s ability to frame conflicts, influence perceptions and empower citizens to voice their opinions. In making this point, three forms of media, including radio, television and the newer Internet-based social media, are analyzed as potential contributors to U.S. soft power and public diplomacy, both historically and in the present. First, the role of radio, particularly Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL), during the Cold War is discussed as a traditional use of soft power. Utilizing these radio vehicles resulted in building relationships and strengthening U.S. credibility. Following the discussion on radio, television’s role in the Kosovo conflict is analyzed. It is determined that the Corporate News Network (CNN) was used as a soft power tool through framing the conflict, which, in turn, generated international support for U.S. intervention policies. After providing examples of how these media vehicles were used to reinforce certain international relations outcomes and the implementation of foreign policies, the thesis goes on to discuss social media’s potential to be used as a grassroots soft power tool. The thesis questions and discusses potential U.S. involvement in the Arab Spring, and the degree to which the U.S. government may have accelerated the use of social media in order to generate youth spokespersons as a grassroots democracy promotion strategy. Several key factors which were influential in the success of media during all three events were also analyzed in an effort to highlight characteristics of soft power and public diplomacy that can be an asset if used correctly and a detriment if not.