“[I]t is possible to express life [italics] in art only through ... the lack of a MESSAGE.”
--Polish theater director Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990); cited in Times Literary Supplement (February 19, 2010), p. 23; image from
"It's a great pity that the powers that be don't carry a tin whistle or a songbook in their back pocket. The world would be a happier place."
--Paddy Moloney, a member of the Irish band Chiefstains, noting that he would rather see his brand of cross-cultural diplomacy than the kind more commonly practiced in the world today
VIDEOJoshua Bell "Stop and Hear the Music" by the Washington Post
Clinton Rides Web 2.0 - Wave TechXav - "Riding on the popularity of Web 2.0, United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is making waves as she redefines stolid diplomacy.
Under Mrs Clinton, the State Department has made headlines over the past year by using social media for promoting new missions and reaching out to a wider audience. Officers josh about who gets the larger Twitter following in the department which hosts perhaps the densest hub of dabblers in the new media in the Obama administration. It was less than three years ago that the State of Department slowly began to shape its Web personality. The DipNote, the department’s official blog which keeps track of its latest activities, was set up under the Bush administration. But the website — which has attracted 12 million page views — has since grown, with new additions such as a YouTube channel, Twitter feed, Facebook page and Flickr photo account. ... The top U.S. diplomat is aided by a team of tech-savvy officers. At the heart is Ms Anne-[M]arie Slaughter, former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. As the head of policy planning at the State of Department, she is charged with anticipating trends that will impact foreign policy. Mrs Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation Alec Ross also typifies the new diplomat. The post was specially created for Mr Ross, who was the technology policy adviser to Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. He was the founder of OneEconomy.com, a non-governmental organization using technology to help the poor." Image from
Notes from a Franklin Fellow: China, Blogs and the Meaning of Diplomacy – America.gov: "The goal of digital outreach is meant to help the United States government carry out the mission of public diplomacy by communicating with audiences from different countries. Social media tools such as blogs give voice to more people than ever before."
McHale In Bangladesh - Editorial, Voice of America: "During her 3 day visit in early February, Under Secretary McHale met with Bangladeshi government and political leaders, academicians, and civil society activists 'to see first how the United States and Bangladesh are working together to further mutual understanding, and ultimately, prosperity for the people of our great countries, the region and the world.' ... Under Secretary McHale said the U.S. is working hard to reach out to the Muslim world and build a new relationship. As a moderate, Muslim-majority country with a strong relationship with the U.S., Bangladesh is an important part of that outreach.
The U.S. plans to strengthen that bond through programs in food security, climate change, women's empowerment, business and trade development and more. The U.S. hopes that Bangladesh will continue to build productive relationships with the United States and with Bangladesh's neighbors to promote global stability and prosperity." Image from
The FY 2011 Homeland Security Budget: Spending Doesn't Match the missions - Jena Baker McNeill, Heritage Foundation, posted at Right Side News: "In terms of promoting tourism to the United States, the budget phases out funding for the US-VISIT biometric exit program. This mandate, put in place by Congress in 2007, required DHS to biometrically track the exit of all foreign visitors from the United States by this past summer. DHS has released pilot results, but has yet to determine a specific solution to the mandate--waiting for Congress to choose the course. This stalemate had a tremendous impact on the growth and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), a vital public diplomacy and tourism tool, making the need for a decision by Congress all the more imperative. Not only does the budget fail to focus on welcoming immigrants and visitors--it takes an additional swipe at trade."
Wings Over Iraq: Public Diplomacy FAIL - Starbuck:
"This week, the international community mocked the US State Department's plan to build a massive Borg Cube in the middle of downtown London. Not surprisingly, commentators, such as Foreign Policy Online's Stephen Walt and The NY Times' Nicolai Ouroussof have decried the new design. Both claim that the design sends the wrong message to the world, as the embassy looks more like a fortress than anything else. Quoth Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University: [']So we have to build embassies that resemble fortresses, and that convey an image of America that is at odds with our interests and our own self-image, and especially with the image that we would like to convey to foreign peoples. We like to think of our country as friendly and welcoming, as open to new ideas, and as a strong, diverse and confident society built on a heritage of pluck and grit. You know, we're supposed to be a society built by generations of immigrants, pioneers, and other determined folk who faced adversity and risk with a smile and a bit of a swagger. Yet the 'Fortress America' approach to embassy design presents a public face that is an odd combination of power and paranoia. ['] Who would have thought we'd be sending a mixed message to the world with the design of fortress-like embassies? Certainly not this particularly snarky captain." Image from
The Only Public Diplomacy Campaign That Matters - Spencer Ackerman, Attackerman, Firedoglake: "There are different conceptions of public diplomacy out there. Many of them concern how the U.S. talks to skeptical publics. I tend to feel that public diplomacy divorced from substantive policy decisions is transparent, condescending, credibility-destroying bullshit. Instead, public diplomacy should be viewed as an offensive capability — to attack an adversary’s credibility, aimed at his weak point, to destroy him, and rapidly. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine praising the man who co-wrote Dow 36,000, but by God, Jim Glassman, Bush’s last undersecretary of State for public diplomacy got that. (I’m sure I’ll go back to my comfortable ideological views about Jim now that he’s in charge of promoting the Bush legacy, but credit where due and all.)"
TV Martí: novelas instead of newscasts? - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
Don't worry: there are special shampoos that get rid of virally shared widgets - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting:
"Executives of consulting agency Mindgrub attended a seminar in Baltimore 'to discuss Mindgrub’s new social media marketing campaign for the Voice of America. Voice of America is an international multimedia broadcasting service funded by the US government, which Mindgrub is now working with. Todd and Vince discussed the potential benefits involved in the creating of shareable widgets that can be virally shared on Facebook and other social networking sites. In addition, they discussed how to determine the ROI that can be expected from social activities. ... Mindgrub is currently targeting China for this project and are researching the environment of this country’s most popular social networking sites.' Mindgrub press release, 26 February 2010." Image from
The goodness of neighbours - Raja Karthikeya Gundu, Pragati: "Promoting the cause of democracy without being interventionist means that India’s ability to restrain developments such as the post-poll excesses in Sri Lanka can hit the glass ceiling in the short-term. The reversals in the London conference mean that making Afghanistan policy excessively Karzai-centric may not yield dividends.But what might the recent changes mean in the larger sense? The consistent patterns in the neighbourhood indicate that we may be moving towards a new South Asian doctrine in the process—”trust and security co-operation from neighbours would be rewarded by India with economic incentives and support to democracy”. New Delhi should continue this pattern in bilateral ties and complement it with bottom-up public diplomacy in neighbouring countries. But for now, South Block can afford to reflect and smile."
PR for peacekeepers in Somalia - Monocle:
"What, you might wonder, would be at the top of the African Union Mission to Somalia’s (AMISOM) peacekeeping wish list? Helmets, check. Armoured personnel carriers. Roger. A peace process? Hmm. It’s complicated. Meanwhile, how about half a million dollars-worth of services every month from a top-flight British PR agency? Thanks to the taxpayers of the UN member states, it’s theirs. Since November 2009, heavy hitters Bell Pottinger have led a consortium on a year-long $7.3m (€5.3m) strategic communications contract to, among other things, open a radio station and supervise a major public information 'hearts and minds' campaign to make the mission (AMISOM) more welcome in Somalia. Simon Davies, overseer of the project on behalf of the UN’s support office for Somalia, envisions the radio station, above all else, as the foundation of 'a public broadcast system [for Somalia] not dissimilar to [America’s] NPR'. The UN’s idea of investing in this is that it will hugely improve communications around the country – a benefit to ordinary Somalis but also a major asset to AMISOM in improving its own security and operational effectiveness. There are legitimate reasons to use a contractor for public diplomacy. In the four months since the contract was signed, a full complement of staff has been recruited from Kenya and inside Somalia and work is already under way in both places, says Bell Pottinger’s chief of staff in Nairobi, Stephen Harley. Shootings and kidnappings have made security rules so tight that UN staff can’t travel freely in most of Somalia, but contractors can make their own arrangements. The Bell Pottinger consortium’s international team has actually spent time in the country. The vast majority of UN international staff working on Somalia spend most, if not all, of their time sitting safely in Nairobi." Image from
Editor's Notes: Wrong troops, wrong ammunition: Delegitimization is a genuine threat. Urging ordinary Israelis to become PR ‘ambassadors’ is no way to meet it. Could we please get serious? - David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post: "Such a lovely idea: Encourage Israelis to act as ambassadors for our misunderstood and misrepresented little nation. ... The campaign, backed by expensive advertising in the local media, is designed to offset 'the vast sums of money available to Arab countries for propaganda,' our esteemed new Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein has declared, by conscripting ordinary Israelis to fight the PR fight, armed with 'tools and tips to help them deal with the attacks on Israel.' ... But sending good-natured Israelis into the public diplomacy battlefield, to talk about how delicious Jaffa oranges are,
how their nephew just went to work for this amazing new hi-tech start-up or how much the Israel Philharmonic has improved of late, is to use entirely the wrong troops with entirely the wrong ammunition for the fight. ... Israel will fare better when it allocates resources to meet the public diplomacy challenge in an orderly, streamlined, strategic fashion: Israel needs a proper hierarchy to unify the disparate ministerial and army mechanisms – today, in addition to the Foreign Ministry’s personnel, the IDF Spokesman’s Office, the Government Press Office and Edelstein’s new fiefdom, we have the apparatus Ehud Olmert established in the Prime Minister’s Office, not to mention a new grouping being overseen by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon – adding up to what one despairing insider terms 'a looming bureaucratic train wreck.' And official Israel also needs an adequately equipped unit to monitor how it is being presented; resources to research and convey the enemy’s manipulations and deceits; funds for satellite television; funds to revive state radio’s dying foreign language broadcasts. As things stand, Edelstein’s risible masbirim initiative is only the latest in a long line of haphazard outreach efforts that have made little impact in the familiar forums where Israel is judged, and incidentally are making little impact, either, in new media." Image from
A government without hope - Editorial, Ha'aretz: "It's easy to chuckle at 'Masbirim Yisrael' ('Explaining Israel'), the Information and Diaspora Ministry's campaign to give Israelis 'tired of seeing how we are portrayed in the world' the tools to shape the country's image. The promotion's television spots showing Israelis riding camels and barbecuing, as well as the Web site's irritating lists of trivial achievements resemble repeats of 1960s comedy sketches rather than a 21st-century public relations project. But more than ridiculous, the campaign is disconcerting. 'Explaining Israel' reveals the worldview of Benjamin Netanyahu's government: limitless self-righteousness, eternal hostility toward the Arab and Muslim worlds, a view of Palestinians as invaders and inciters, and commitment to developing the West Bank settlements. This PR drive must not be viewed just as a gimmick, or an attempt to justify the unnecessary existence of the Information Ministry. Instead, it represents how the government wants its citizens to understand their country and represent it to the world."
Israel on the Lake: Ontario MPP's and the Hasbara Agenda - Hannah Kawas, Pacific Free Press - "This has become a trend with the 'Israeli Hasbara' (Israel Public Diplomacy) and the pro-Israel lobby where events and people, including Jewish Canadians, ... New Democratic MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) ... claimed that the word apartheid is 'inflammatory' and 'used inappropriately in the case of Israel'. 'Apartheid does not help the discussion', she states.
I would like to note that none of the attacks and slanders against the term 'Israeli Apartheid' were substantiated or backed by any logical argument or reason. This has become a trend with the 'Israeli Hasbara' (Israel Public Diplomacy) and the pro-Israel lobby where events and people, including Jewish Canadians, are arbitrarily slandered simply for exercising their right to free speech." Image from
Cut Israel a Break - Gil Stein, Metro Santa Cruz: "Nazi Propaganda films were made to convince the world that Germany was a peace-loving nation that was forced to attack Poland. With the creation of the web and the access the 24-hour 'news,' it is so much easier to spread lies and half-truths. The Arab propaganda machine has done a terrific job of creating a fictional reality that portrays terrorists as victims and their victims as evil. The small country created by refugees and surrounded by hostile neighbors is the international bully, while terrorists supported by despots are the world's heroes. Muslim leaders deny the historical Jewish ties to Jerusalem even though Jews have lived in the city continuously since before the birth of Islam. They have created the myth that Israel came about because of the European Holocaust. Modern Zionism had its roots in the 19th century and early 20th (Tel Aviv celebrated its centennial last year)."
My Word: A perplexing Purim - Liat Collins, Jerusalem Post:
"Jordan last month petitioned UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, claiming ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I ask myself: How many Jordanians can decipher the Hebrew script on the parchments they suddenly feel so passionately about? And how do you translate 'hutzpa' into Arabic? With friends (or at least peace treaty partners) like this, who needs enemies? Perhaps it would be best to ask the university staff and students around the world who – with no visible sense of either irony or humor – advocate boycotting Israel in the name of academic freedom. No wonder Minister for Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora Yuli Edelstein discerned a need to improve Israel’s image abroad and grant the general public the means of answering Palestinian propaganda with his 'Masbirim' campaign." Image from
Israeli hasbara-propaganda machine swings into action with shoddy journalism – Khalid, Middle East Monitor
Turkey and Public Diplomacy - Efe Sevi, Association for for Place Branding and Public Diplomacy: "MFA announced that Turkish public diplomacy efforts will be seen on the internet. Although Turkey didn't catch the first wave of 'governments going online', Deputy Undersecretary's statements prove that Turkey has understood the importance of public diplomacy and two-way communication in foreign policy."
Heads of Resistance Hold First Summit in Tehran – Persia House, Booz Allen Hamilton:
'Fascinating Storytelling to Make Seoul Cultural Hot Spot' - Kang Hyun-kyung, Korea Times - "After Korean soap operas and pop idols attracted Asian fans in the 1990s, the nation saw a unique group of visitors -- culture tourists. They are visiting Korea with the hope they get a taste in person of the land of the fascinating stories and iconic vista points. Made-in-Korea cultural goods played a crucial role in shaping these explorers' impression that Korea is worth a visit. ... 'These foreign tourists tend to experience less here than they had thought at home, mainly because few interpretation services that can quench their curiosity were available,' said Park Jung-sook, a professor of the Institute of International Education at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. ... A television journalist-turned-Korean wave expert, Park is seen in numerous positions, both in the public and private sector, because of her extensive involvement in cultural activities and public relations.She works with the Korean International Cooperation Agency as a goodwill ambassador and trains career diplomats on a cultural diplomacy course at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade."
Thailand's “Roving Buakeaw" Project - Madhurjya Kotoky, The Public Diplomacy Blog:
"Thailand initiated an innovative project called the – 'Roving Buakeaw Project' - that allows the government to take account of public opinion when formulating foreign policy. The project is led by the Foreign Minister who along with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs goes to the people to listen on various issues with potential impact on Thai foreign policy. This is an attempt to engage and include Thai citizens from all walks of life, especially in the border provinces in shaping Thai foreign policy. Town halls, local temples, provincial schools etc serve as meeting sites and 'information collected is taken into consideration in formulating foreign policy if and when appropriate.'" Kotoky image from his blog
RP-Thai Food & Fruit Festival at Villa Escudero - Manila Bulletin: "The Royal Thai Embassy in Manila and Team Thailand in the Philippines in cooperation with Villa Escudero Plantations and Resorts will organize a Thai-Philippine Cultural Show on 27 – 28 February 2010 ... at Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort, San Pablo City, Laguna. ... Indeed, the experience of Thai and Philippine culture promises to be a feast in the senses. ... This event which aims to promote cultural diplomacy is a good opportunity to further enhance closer ties of friendship and people to people contacts between Thailand and the Philippines."
Capitalism, Science and Innovation How the three mix (or don't) - Tudor Vieru, Softpedia:
"So, bottom line, we have the oil industry moving against the concept of global warming. This much we do know for sure, as they have made no secret of it. But now, rather than making efforts to match their so-called studies to real scientific data, they changed the register. These corporations – again, driven by the urge for never-ending profits – realized they cannot win scientifically, and have started setting people against scientists, as if science was the devil. This is being constantly done on TV stations, were people are pitted against their doctors, or other profession categories. So it is done very skillfully, and I can't really blame people for falling for it. Without a background training in what propaganda is and how it works, it's very difficult to realize that it's happening. Now, this is called public diplomacy." Image from
Family Well-being and Poverty Eradication: Economist M. Sophia Aguirre discusses the interaction between family relationships and poverty - James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy Rice University: "M. Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D., is an associate professor of economics at The Catholic University of America. She is a specialist in international finance and economic development in the areas of exchange rates and economic integration, as well as theories of population, resources and family. She has testified on issues related to population, family, women’s education and health before lawmakers in the United States and abroad. A presidential appointee to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Aguirre has also held appointments at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and has visited the Instituto de Altos Estudios Empresariales (I.A.E.E.) at the University of Austral in Argentina."
America, the fragile empire: Here today, gone tomorrow -- could the United States fall that fast? - Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times:
Empires do not in fact appear, rise, reign, decline and fall according to some recurrent and predictable life cycle. It is historians who retrospectively portray the process of imperial dissolution as slow-acting. Rather, empires behave like all complex adaptive systems. They function in apparent equilibrium for some unknowable period. And then, quite abruptly, they collapse. Washington, you have been warned. Image from
The U.S. is at a crucial point in defining its direction - David Ignatius, Washington Post: It's usually a mistake to bet against America, as financier Warren Buffett likes to say, given our flexible economy and adaptive political system.
Mike McConnell on how to win the cyber-war we're losing - Mike McConnell, Washington Post: The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing. It's that simple.
As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking. We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options -- and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. Image from
When American and European Ideas of Privacy Collide - Adam Liptak, New York Times: “Google is digitizing the world and expecting the world to conform to Google’s norms and conduct,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, who teaches media studies and law at the University of Virginia. “That’s a terribly naïve view of privacy and responsibility.”
Battlefields may change but propaganda remains constant - Susan A. Brewer , Nieman Watchdog: On the one hand, in wartime the news media serve the government by passing along its message; on the other hand, the media need to tell people what’s really going on and what wars are about. Author Susan Brewer focuses on that dual role, and offers a line of questioning to help cut through the packaging.
West engaged in propaganda against Islam: Qureshi - The Nation, Pakistan: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sunday said that the West has been engaged in propaganda against Islam and urged the need of showing real face of the Islam to the world. Addressing the annual Urs gathering of Syed Ismail Shah Bukhari in Okara Qureshi said that western newspapers and think tanks have been engaged in propaganda against Islam. "We have to prove with our action that Islam is is the religion of peace and it teaches equality."
Korean Comics And Grium’N'Gritty? - Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool: Known as gruim-chaek, the Korean comic books are usually spy thrillers with bad guys are usually loud mouthed Americans and greedy Japanese, causing problems in the country.
The books emphasise the importance of self reliance, a key North Korean philosophy espoused by Kim Il-Sung. And include plots such Americans and North Koreans in an airplane crash in Africa, only for the Americans' selfish actions to see them eaten by alligators. Image from article