Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day.
Over the next weeks, there will be a lot of news coverage of the events happening in Ukraine. The framing of this story will be of huge consequence to Russia, who is well versed in media manipulation in the 21st century. There are terms for this: propaganda, for example, and the more gentle (an arguably incorrect in this context) mediated public diplomacy. Regardless, it will be difficult to parse the misinformation from the real information. Andrea Chalupa, who we recently had on to talk about Ukraine, gets at this problem with this enlightening piece. (We will repost the entire piece later today.)
Any article that links to Russia Today (RT) to cite a “fact” was written by a lazy journalist. It’s well-known that Russia Today was started by the Russian government, which has a history of imprisoning and killing investigative journalists. Russia Today has led the charge that Ukraine’s protest movement was a fascist, neo-Nazi take-over of the country. Luckily, the jaw-dropping photos of President Yanukovych’s Versailles McMansion, built with stolen tax-payer money on privatized national park land, clearly communicated to the world why Ukrainians were fighting. They had enough of their government’s sociopathic corruption: an estimated $70 billion was stolen from the budget since Yanukovych became president in 2010. Yes, he was democratically elected (and he lied to get elected), but he delegitimized his power when he violated the Ukrainian constitution by mass-murdering his own people. [Thought Catalog]
About this weekend’s events in Crimea. Is it a war? Or is it more of a show?
A day after what seemed to be the start of a full-scale Russian offensive, however, Mr. Shevtsov and just about everyone else are trying to figure out what it is exactly that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is up to. The swirling drama in Crimea has produced not so much a phony war — as the early and almost entirely peaceful phase of World War II was known — but a strange phantom war in which heavily armed men come and go, mostly in masks and in uniforms shorn of all markings, to confront an enemy nobody has actually seen, except in imaginations agitated by Russian television. [New York Times]
Well, the “phantom war” narrative does seem to jive with RT’s take on Crimea on Sunday.
Contrary to expectations, security in Crimea has actually become more stable. As the far right calls for violence in social networks continue, Crimean locals give out sandwiches and tea, sing songs and pose for photos with self-defense forces. [RT]
Speaking of mediated public diplomacy, it is a slippery concept. James Thomas Snyder weighed in with his opinion in a Twitter exchange on Saturday (as limited a venue it is). You can read the whole thing on our Twitter page.
@Public_Diplomat The term “mediated public diplomacy” is a classic Orwellian “phrasal noun” that obscures more than it illuminates.
— James Thomas Snyder (@jamesthomsnyder) March 2, 2014
— James Thomas Snyder (@jamesthomsnyder) March 1, 2014
Interesting to compare Russia’s use of RT to the U.S.’s use of VOA, even with the extenuating circumstances of this example.
U.S. taxpayer-funded news organization for foreign audiences, Voice of America (VOA), had no correspondent at the White House when President Obama made a statement Friday afternoon warning Russia about any military intervention in Ukraine and offered online only a very brief summary (87 words) of his nearly 3 minute long remarks. VOA did not post any video, audio, or a more complete text of the presidential statement on Ukraine in which he warned Russia not to intervene in Ukraine’s internal affairs. [BBG Watch via John Brown’s Public Diplomacy and Press Blog Review]
— Donna Oglesby (@Winnowingfan) March 2, 2014
— Donna Oglesby (@Winnowingfan) March 1, 2014
— Donna Oglesby (@Winnowingfan) March 1, 2014
Interesting piece points out that Putin’s soft spot may be in soft power leveraged against him. (Too cute of an intro?)
Soft power can hurt. General restrictions on tourist visas, a few thousand travel bans, and a few dozen frozen accounts might make a real difference. If millions of urban Russians understood that invading Ukraine meant no summer vacation, they might have second thoughts. If the Russian elites understood that invading Ukraine meant dealing with their disaffected teenagers on an indefinite basis, they too might reconsider. If wealthy Russians understood that their accounts could be frozen, as has just happened to Ukrainian oligarchs, that might affect their calculations as well. These punishments might seem minor compared to the crime, but Putin is gambling that the EU will not do even this. These measures would have costs, of course. But the price of a military conflict in the middle of Europe would be far higher. [The New Republic]
The CPD Blog has an insightful piece on Indonesia, its public diplomacy apparatus and the U.S.-Indonesia relationship.
However, this must be put into perspective. It does not really reflect an Indonesian preference for the U.S., but rather broader changes in the course of Indonesian foreign policy, namely, the tendency of moving towards a more bilateral execution in the expansion of its so-called foreign policy concentric circles in addition to the initial regional and multilateral implementation. Indonesia has expanded the countries it targets over the years, from its Pacific neighbors to Australia, Europe, and recently North America which has undoubtedly affected its public diplomacy activities. [CPD Blog]
Oh snap. Senior US official: When it comes to soft power, Putin “has no game.”
— Nick Schifrin (@nickschifrin) March 2, 2014
Maybe not the best argument for the robustness Twiplomacy.
— Twiplomacy (@Twiplomacy) February 26, 2014
For those in DC with a nose for public diplomacy: the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy is hosting an open session this Wednesday.
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will meet in open session at the Capitol Visitor’s Center (First Street, SE, Washington, D.C.) in Room SVC 203 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on March 5. The Commission Members will discuss the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative with featured guests Brett Bruen, Director of Global Engagement at the National Security Council, The White House; Elizabeth Berry Gips, Coordinator of the Young African Leaders Initiative at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the International Information Programs Bureau at the Department of State. [U.S. Department of State]
In an economic diplomacy initiative, Nigeria and Pakistan are aiming to improve relations while doubling the trade volume between the two countries.
In an exclusive interview to The Express Tribune, the high commissioner discussed the future of bilateral relations and the potential for Pakistani companies to export to the oil-rich African nation. “Pakistan and Nigeria have entered a new era of economic diplomacy,” Danladi said. “We have agreed that this April, Pakistani experts will be going to Nigeria to establish the Pakistan-Nigeria Business Council.” The establishment of the council — a step in the direction of doubling the trade volume again by 2015 — is likely to be supported by a top-level meeting of the two governments in Nigeria soon after. [The Express Tribune]
— Arturo Sarukhan (@Arturo_Sarukhan) March 2, 2014
Can shared film ventures aid the détente between Iran and the U.S.?
Seeing Iran and the West engaging in back-and-forth diplomacy after years of sanctions and threats, John Marks, president of Washington-based NGO Search for Common Ground, long active in back-channel U.S.-Iran cultural diplomacy, believes that art can affect the political dialogue. “Films can have a real impact in creating a climate in which the (nuclear) negotiations are more likely to be successful,” he says. “American movies and movie stars have a cachet in Iran that most of us (in the diplomatic community) don’t have; if Steven Spielberg wanted to lead an initiative, the Iranians would certainly welcome it.” [Variety]
— Julia Watson (@julia_k_watson) March 2, 2014
Here is a useful transcript of a presentation on Nigerian cultural diplomacy.
However, I will hasten to say that Nigeria has a vibrant movie industry that has, on the basis of sheer volume and commercial vitality, emerged as one of the country’s major contemporary art form. The industry, affectionately called, Nollywood, has, as Jonathan Haynes (2000) puts it, offered, “the strongest, most accessible expression of contemporary Nigerian popular culture, which is to say the imagination of Africa’s largest nation.” Indeed through some of its offerings, Nollywood, even though often derided for feasting on banal themes, has played and has continued to play the traditional role of informing, educating and entertaining its vast audience. [This Day Live]
— AEK (@influxTR) March 1, 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald has a short piece on the U.S. State Department’s ramped-up use of social media.
Officials say social media helps them keep in touch with people on the ground, even if sometimes the reaction to otherwise low-risk tweets is political, like when Secretary Kerry posted an old photo of himself with John Lennon to profess his baby boomer love of The Beatles. Six minutes later, @SamDoyle75 snapped back: “@JohnKerry also were you planning on signing away responsible American gun-owner rights on the treaty w/o American’s approval even then too?” Other issues the US government says it has tackled through social media include recent violence in South Sudan. Exchange programs with other governments allow the US to tap into a global network of alumni when required. In South Sudan, that network was activated in an attempt to end violence in the fledgling country. [Sydney Morning Herald]
— Jordi Arrufat (@Jordiarrufat) March 2, 2014
photo credit: Sergey Ponomorev / New York Times