Credibility talk in public diplomacy

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'Politics has become a contest of competitive credibility', argued Nye in Soft Power. Indeed, being perceived as honest and reliable is a necessary condition for obtaining and holding the attention of target audiences, as well as for effective persuasion, which is the objective of strategic communication. This task has become all the more difficult with the explosion of information sources and the discreditation efforts of opponents, but it is an essential element in the conduct of public diplomacy. How, then, do states and other international actors go about establishing their credibility while undermining that of opponents? This article employs rhetorical theory, impression management theory, and account theory to situate contests of credibility within the broader context of the accountability of social conduct. The theoretical part discusses the rhetorical strategies that actors use to credit their accounts and discredit those of their rivals. The empirical part addresses the debate between Israel and human rights groups over the Qana bombing incident of July 2006. The analysis of the blame imposition strategies used by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the accounts offered by Israel, indicates the range and variability of credibility talk and the rules for crediting accounts that underlie it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-422
Number of pages30
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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