American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age

American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age

Mike Medavoy and Nathan Gardels, Co-Authors

Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 audio or install Flash.

Audio MP3 Download Podcast

Duration: 37:55

Issues discussed

  • Motivation for writing the book
  • Argument of the book: Mass media culture is the lens through which America perceives the world and the world perceives America.
  • Media as the global public square  
  • America's damaged image as a global role model; retreat of the American Dream.
  • Changes in public diplomacy, and the two tasks it serves today
  • Cinema as a bridge between different cultures when journalism is weak   
  • Suggestions for preventing the Information Age from becoming the Non-communication Age.


  1. How do you give an informed public base knowledge on which to act?
  2. Can you predict the agenda of a meeting between Hollywood and Washington heads?
  3. Discuss the ability to harnessing soft power/cultural power.
  4. Discuss the possible censoring of the book in China.
  5. Discuss cultural influences in Iran.
  6. As Rupert Murdoch apparently moves News Corp to Abu Dhabi, there seems to be a western influence in that area – but is it the wrong kind?
  7. Does global citizen journalism dilute or enhance Hollywood’s power?
  8. Comment on the power of social networking.
  9. How can we be careful of our message when we can’t gauge the world’s reception/understanding of our message?

About the Book

(Excerpt from Foreign Affairs, October 2009) Gardels and Medavoy, two of California's most creative public intellectuals, bring a West Coast perspective to the role of culture in foreign policy. As they trenchantly demonstrate, the shifts in U.S. popular culture since the 1960s have had a dramatic impact on global perceptions of the United States. Today, the global media marketplace is changing again; U.S. cultural products compete with Brazilian and Mexican soap operas, Japanese animation, and Chinese and Bollywood films. In much of the world, MTV offers more local than U.S. content, and companies such as Disney are increasingly producing content for non-U.S. markets and sensibilities. Paradoxically, Americans are often less aware of global cultural trends than people in other countries are; saturated in their own media, they see fewer foreign films and fewer foreign television programs. Gardels and Medavoy offer interesting observations on these and other trends. Their most intriguing prescription is for the creation of an organization modeled on the Council on Foreign Relations that would focus on the role of culture in international affairs. More about the book.

Speaker biographies

Mike Medavoy began his career at Universal Studios in 1964. He rose from the mailroom to become a casting director. In 1965, he became an agent at General Artist Corporation and then vice president at Creative Management Agency. Joining International Famous Agency as vice president in charge of the motion picture department in 1971, he worked with such prestigious clients as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Gene Wilder, Jeanne Moreau, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. More recently Medavoy published a book, “American Idol After Iraq; Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age,” which reflects on the impact of media on U.S. foreign policy with co-author Nathan Gardels, editor of the National Political Quarterly. Learn more.

Nathan Gardels has been editor of New Perspectives Quarterly since it began publishing in 1985. He has served as editor of Global Viewpoint and Nobel Laureates Plus (services of Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media) since 1989. These services have a worldwide readership of 35 million in 15 languages. Gardels has written widely for The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Harper's, U.S. News & World Report and the New York Review of Books. He has also written for foreign publications, including Corriere della Sera, El Pais, Le Figaro, the Straits Times (Singapore), Yomiuri Shimbun, O'Estado de Sao Paulo, The Guardian, Die Welt and many others. His books include, "At Century's End: Great Minds Reflect on Our Times" and "The Changing Global Order." He is coauthor with Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy of "American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age." Learn more.