IT WAS A thoroughly good idea for the U.S. International Communications Agency to think of using global television for a program on Poland. Radio has long been a vehicle for American "public diplomacy," as reaching out to foreign opinion is called in the bureaucracy, but television obviously has great potential. The technology is there. American commercial television--Hollywood, if you like --long ago established its dominance in providing foreign audiences their favorite fare.
To be sure, many Americans are still a bit diffident about putting American diplomacy on the tube. Radio, well, that's all right, but television--a little too much, isn't it? A little 1984ish, perhaps? A little too close to propaganda? There's the dirty word. It embarrasses even some of those who engage in it. That is why they turn to "public diplomacy." But why not be open and use the term, propaganda, unapologetically, and use the medium, television, unapologetically, too? It's very democratic: no one is compelled to click on his set.
If television diplomacy is to be extended, however, it has to be done a certain way. In this regard, we observe that, roughly speaking, two lines of criticism have been directed against "Let Poland Be Poland." The first is that the show simply wasn't good enough. Either there were too many politicians or too many actors, depending on your point of view; in any event, the show was uneven, not offensive but rarely as gripping as the Polish material itself. There is a certain intellectual superciliousness in some of this criticism but the main point is fair. The next show ought to be better TV.
A second line of criticism is more political. To one critic, for instance, many lines sounded like "the Cold War rhetoric of years gone by, heavy-handedly opportunistic and transparent." Perhaps so. But when you get down to it, what is the proper tone of voice in which to speak of the crushing of the Polish renewal? How much emotion is allowed in one's voice? How many adjectives? How white-wine cool must one be? Public officials must be genuine and responsible in what they say, but they are not required to mask their feelings before an outrage. Cold War rhetoric can be overdone. But some things are worse.