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Kristin Lord, The Perils and Promise of Global Transparency: Why the Information Revolution May Not Lead to Security, Democracy, or Peace (2007)


Thesis: Transparency is not inherently good or bad, but rather it depends on what is seen, what remains hidden, and how both of these are interpreted and responded to by others, and how closely your status quo matches the other side’s. Effects of transparency will change over time because ideas and values are variables.


Secrecy – deliberate hiding


Transparency – deliberate revealing


2 – Global transparency will indeed bring many benefits, but predictions that it will lead inevitably to peace, understanding, and democracy, are wrong.


2/3 – Greater transparency: reduces uncertainty; increases knowledge and tolerance; decentralizes global power; gives citizens and NGOs new tools of influence; can facilitate international agreements; alerts the world to disturbing events; promises to improve governance; yet it also reveals conflicting values and interests; show vulnerability and encourage aggression; highlight widespread prejudice and hatred; can make conflicts worse; may actually strengthen illiberal regimes and increase their legitimacy


2 transparency allows for “regulation by shaming”


4 – Wars, ever more, are wars of ideas and credibility as well as wars of might. … when information changes hands, so too does influence … Transparency can make the strong stronger as well as empower the weak.


5 Transparency, in sum, describes the relative availability of information without respect to content.


5 transparency isn’t synonymous with truth'


5 – Five factors in particular have led to the rise of global transparency:

1 the spread of democratic governments
2 the rise of the global media
3 the spread of nongovernmental organizations
4 the proliferation of international regimes requiring governments to disclose information
5 the widespread availability of information technologies.


9 – As transparency increases, more and more governments and international organizations conclude that transparency is not only inevitable, but also morally right.


10 – Nonetheless, consumers of information rely on organizations with goals such as profit, entertainment, or the promotion of a particular political agenda that takes precedence over their rule as public educators (these are the risks that McLuhan and Hoffman talk about)


11 – Humans often have trouble processing information and even more trouble processing large amounts of information—something that transparent organizations provide in abundance. Even when the information we receive because of greater transparency is excellent and unbiased, we may not interpret it accurately


12 – Three key factors affect the ability of people to recognize important information “signal-to-noise” ratio … if they expect to find it, and if it does not contradict their existing beliefs … if they work in an environment that rewards correct appraisal


16 – discussions of transparency are often one-sided and are focused on its positive effects with little, if any, discussion of costs … harmony is not always the underlying condition of international affairs … [voluntary] transparency may be more meaningful as a political signal about identity and intent than for the specific information it reveals


17 voluntary transparency may be an indicator of peaceable intent rather than a cause of peace – involuntary transparency (look what we found out…) could lead to conflict'


20 – Those who can persuade others to share their values and interests through a compelling message, will be the true winners in the age of transparency.'


21 – Transparency does not ensure accountability, but accountability without transparency is nearly impossible.


24 – The hope for transparency is that increased knowledge and international understanding will help states to prevent unnecessary wars and to devote their resources to more productive causes. … transparency can make conflicts worse if it illuminates hostility, aggression, or arms buildups.


26-7 uncertainty in international relations is usually bad, and transparency reduces uncertainty


30 – States that are more open and share more information about their decision making can signal their intentions more credibly.


33 transparency may enlighten uncertainty in ways that enhance or detract from stability, making it a push re: deterrence


41 – transparency will facilitate international cooperation in three circumstances: when states want to cooperate but need reassurance that other are complying with international agreements, when states want to cooperate and violations of agreements are punished, and when states do not want to be identified as not upholding some widely held norm in the international community.


54 the marketplace of ideas is distorted by many things, including rhetoric


66 “whether transparency’s effects are positive or negative, transparency does seem to encourage either virtuous or vicious circles”'


72 transparency can help overcome informational and political obstacles to intervention, but can’t do much to improve organizations that conduct intervention


76 Public opinion is malleable and leaders can convince citizens that intervention in foreign conflicts is necessary. According to Peter Feaver, the key to maintaining public support for military intervention is persuading people that the mission will succeed. The president must project confidence. By disseminating this sense of confidence the media plays a crucial role in sustaining public support for war.


93-5 transparency does seem to have a beneficial influence on the spread of democratic ideals


99 states are better able to manage the vast flow of information in the transparent world, while individuals are ill able


114 because weak govts are a greater risk than strong govts, and because transparency does tend to weaken govts, not every govt should aspire to transparency'


116 – effects of transparency will change over time because ideas and values are variables


117 – The effects of transparency depend on what it reveals.


119 – Greater transparency amplifies trends whether they are negative or positive and, for this reason, encourages both virtuous and vicious circles. … Evidence that ideas and values are shared widely legitimizes those ideas and values and encourages their further dissemination, regardless of their content. Transparency is indiscriminate… can lead to a tyranny of the masses


123 – Transparency helps to spread norms about what types of actions are acceptable and appropriate and, when those norms clash with the values of others, makes those differences more evident. … ultimately, one set of values may “win.”'



124 – Whether greater transparency will be negative or positive therefore, depends on the identities of the winners and the nature of their goals.'



124 – Transparency undermines the legitimacy of governments if it exposes gaps between rhetoric and reality, widely held values, and the actions of government.


127 – Transparency complicates diplomacy.


129 – several rules for public diplomacy:

1 governments must be credible sources of information
2 public diplomacy must try to influence where people get their information
3 find credible messengers
4 try to persuade, to marshal evidence in order to influence opinion
5 highlight what values and interests they do share in common
6 match statements, actions, and policies to maintain credibility



128 – The ability to influence how information is interpreted and the norms others hold, is an important element of power.


129 – When a government loses credibility, others will no longer turn to it for information in which case the government will lose a valuable platform to influence the ideas and values of others. (Nye’s soft power)


130 – Diplomacy in the Age of Transparency: Rules of Engagement

1 Assume that whatever you say and do will become public, everywhere
2 Recognize that hypocrisy undermines credibility and losing credibility has a cost
3 Expect others to notice inconsistencies—and to use them to their advantage
4 Don’t let others define your message
5 Find credible messengers
6 Talk to publics not just elites
7 Create a climate of trust and goodwill
8 Find and highlight common values
9 To understand the views of others, analyze where they get their information and the roots of their values


132 – Greater transparency may not provide easy solutions to persistent global problems of conflict, hate, and political oppression, but as a principle of governance it is both just and morally right. … Transparency ensures that abuses of power will be discovered, that those with peaceful intentions will be recognized, that fruitful efforts at cooperation may be realized, that positive ideas and values may spread, and that oppressive governments cannot derive their power from a lie.


Power corrupts…for that reason, the powerful require scrutiny, and the most powerful, the most scrutiny of all.


Strategic Take-aways


Transparency (as national self-reporting) is a quid pro quo – I give up some sovereignty in exchange for economic gain


Transparency is somehow broadcast…those who broadcast may point their own spin on it to feed the audience. This can perpetuate biases since most people can/do not process a lot of information/perspectives.


Ideas and credibility matter more in a world where liberal democracies are more prevalent

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