America's commercial cultural exports already make up a form of "soft power" that influences other societies by implicitly promoting American values like personal freedom, upward mobility and democratic openness. ... The government can't do much to offset the hostility that popular products like "Baywatch" or Britney Spears videos can provoke. "Efforts to balance the scene by supporting exports of American high culture — libraries and art exhibits — are at best a useful palliative."
"... We need to engage people abroad on why they feel uncomfortable when they encounter America in their own living rooms. Many people interpret America in terms of its most visible artifacts — the Golden Arches or Mickey Mouse. American cultural diplomacy could demystify these artifacts and engage in a dialogue on why they're so popular." (NY Times; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)