"Then you have got public diplomacy, what you say publicly."
--Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; image, with caption: Welcome Home Spc. David Bangson Member Rolling Thunder® Ohio Chapter 8 (former member of Ohio Chapter 2) from
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN THE NEWS
Clinton: U.S. losing global public-relations battle - to 'Baywatch' and wrestling - Joby Warrick, Washington Post: "Even as it seeks to influence events in Libya and the rest of the Middle East, the United States is losing
the crucial war for world opinion, its message distorted by popular culture and drowned out by Arab-language news media, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday. So warped is the U.S. image in many parts of the world that some people regard the United States as a land of bikini-clad women and professional wrestlers, said Clinton, whose State Department is increasingly using Twitter and other social media as a way of getting out unfiltered messages in the Middle East and other parts of the developing world. 'We are in an information war, and we're losing that war,' the nation's top diplomat said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton's stark portrayal of America's public-relations deficit came during questioning by senators about the Obama administration's $47 billion 2012 budget request for diplomacy and development." Image from
Hillary Clinton: "Frankly I wish we were doing a better job in our broadcasting efforts" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting: "Secretary Clinton's words of support for 'old media,' i.e. international radio and television, are appreciated. Nevertheless, there has not been a decline in international broadcasting since the Cold War. Spending on this activity is robust, $758 million in FY2010. ... Reform of US international broadcasting should happen before we discuss budget increases which, given the deficit, probably won't happen."
Hilary [sic] Clinton on International Broadcasting - Public Diplomacy, Networks and Influence: "Everyone who’s ever written anything criticising the prominence of messaging models in US public diplomacy will enjoy the agreement between the Senator [Lugar] and the Secretary about the importance of ‘getting the
message out’." Image from
American factor in the Arab revolution: the mobilization of protest through public diplomacy - ostropoller: "Наталия Цветкова Natalia Tsvetkova [:] Чтобы корректно ответить на вопрос об участии правительства США в данных процессах, необходимо проанализировать эмпирические данные,
которые относятся к взаимодействию между правительством США и представителями общества тех государств, где прошли революции. To properly answer the question of the participation of the U.S. government in these processes, it is necessary to analyze the empirical data that relate to the interaction between the U.S. government and representatives of the society of those states where they had the revolution. Данное взаимодействие осуществляется в рамках так называемой публичной дипломатии США. This interaction takes place within the so-called public diplomacy, the United States. Такие ее программы как обучение отдельных групп населения и информационная пропаганда, осуществляемая через социальные сети как Twitter , радио и телевидение, имеют непосредственное отношение к вопросу о влиянии США на движения протеста в странах Северной Африки и Ближнего Востока. Its such programs as training specific groups and information propaganda, carried out through social networks like Twitter, radio and television, are directly related to the impact of U.S. protest movements in North Africa and the Middle East." Image from
Obama's foreign policy pragmatism: Cautious or indecisive? - Nino Saviano, The Hill: "Pragmatism, even of the cautious kind, still requires that a) we define our expectations clearly; b) that these reflect our interests – security, economic or moral; and c) that we are aggressive in the pursuit of those interests. Our Libya approach failed that test. ... Even our own UN ambassador, Susan Rice, appeared to be scrambling for words in an attempt to finally show much needed resolution on behalf of the Obama administration. She resorted to name calling and described Gadhafi as 'delusional'—arguably a poor choice of words in public diplomacy."
Mark Twain on Foreign Policy - The Mitchell Report: "In the Arab and Muslim world, America has a checkered history stretching back for decades and decades that cannot be expunged in the short term, even with the most artful ‘public diplomacy.’"
Resetting US-Egypt Relations Through Cultural Diplomacy - Ren's Micro Diplomacy: "Given the US’s past with the Mubarak regime, we must restart our relationship with the Egyptian people by demonstrating that the US is engaged and listening. We can do this through cultural diplomacy.
Not with the standard cultural projection variety, but in a way that helps Egyptians celebrate their own culture." Blogger's image from
Conference Call on Vice President Biden’s Upcoming Trip to Finland, Russia and Moldova - jadeslair.info: "MR. McFAUL: ... Well, we do not in any way see the Vice President’s trip as an endorsement for any candidate for president in Russia. ... [W]e want to widen the span of activities that we have with Russia. ... It has to be about innovation, and it has to be about a lot of the topics that we are trying to address in the course of the bilateral presidential commission. For instance, as we’re talking, one of those commissions are meeting led by Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale from the State Department and her colleague Ambassador Mikhail Shvydkoy, who I know you know. They're discussing — they're launching a dialogue on 21st century media. We think this is part of the reset too."
U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission Launches Dialogue on 21st Century Media - Notice to the Press, Office of the Spokesman, US Department of State: "On March 3, Judith McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Ambassador Mikhail Shvydkoy,
Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation, will launch a dialogue between Russian and American media professionals as part of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission." Image from, with caption: The painting was commissioned in 1995 by a US-Russia based company to commemorate the historic meeting of the Russian and American armies at Torgau, Germany in 1945.
The Case for UN Peacekeeping - Micah Zenko, Rebecca R. Friedman, Council on Foreign Relations: "[T]he United States should ... re-launch [...] the peacekeeping policy review that ended abortively after the Haiti earthquake. ... The review should recommend how the Obama administration
could better leverage its support of UN peacekeeping, both domestically and internationally, so that the United States reaps the most dividends from its contributions--both in terms of public diplomacy and the security gains provided by UN peacekeepers." Image from
Vice-President's servant leadership shines in Parliament and beyond - Daily Nation: "American ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger would not know servant leadership if it bit him in the left armpit. The diplomatic cables released by whistleblower WikiLeaks this week reveal that the American envoy was unable to appreciate Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s well-won reputation as an intellectual heavyweight, a first-order altruist and a man of principle. ... As a committed servant leader, Mr Musyoka is an honest broker. He it was that insisted on keeping the lines of dialogue open when the church leadership wanted to reject the new Constitution at the referendum. ... Using public diplomacy to intervene for those likely to be charged at the International Criminal Court and prayers for Al-Amin Kimathi who has been in detention in Uganda since September, the servant leader seeks justice for all."
East Africa: Propelling the Reform Process in Kenya - Meetings With Key Government Officials - Michael E. Ranneberger, AllAfrica.com: "This cable was created on 02 April 2009, according to WikiLeaks. C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 000656 ... SUBJECT: PROPELLING THE REFORM PROCESS IN KENYA: MEETINGS WITH KEY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ... FROM THE AMBASSADOR ¶1. (C) Summary. On March 23 I met separately with the National Intelligence Chief, the Foreign Minister, and the President,s permanent secretary to press on implementation of the reform agenda.
... These meetings are part of our continuing efforts to propel the reform agenda, which also include vigorous public diplomacy and outreach to civil society, the private sector, religious groups, and the media, among other steps. End summary." Image from, with caption: Michael E. Ranneberger, [Center] the United States ambassador to Kenya, Sunday in Enoosaen, a town that offered cows to America after Sept. 11.
UW-Madison conference looks at Obama education agenda - Kerry Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison: "'The Obama administration has ... expressed a desire to revitalize and reinvent international education policy and public diplomacy, but recent efforts are now threatened by renewed budget cuts and partisan conflicts,' says ... Mark Johnson, assistant professor of educational policy studies."
Appeals court rules lawsuit by VOA translator, fired for making "anti-American" video, can continue - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
Cuban television documentary claims Radio Martí broadcast false report called in by Cuban agent - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
BBG’s Internet Only Strategy Loses Audience and Fails in Russia - FreeMediaOnline.org: "Inside-the-Beltway parochialism and arrogance toward the needs of their audience have continued to define the management style of BBG and VOA executives. ...
Deprived of good outside expert advice in a very complex and specialized field of international broadcasting and public diplomacy, the new BBG members rely on the same group of BBG managers. Inside sources have told Free Media Online that even the new Republican members of the BBG went along with the staff’s recommendations to cut VOA radio broadcasts to China." Image from
Voice of America Journalists Protest Ending of VOA Radio to China, Part Four - freemediaonline.org
Image from article, with caption: Save Voice of America Radio to China Group on Facebook
Radio Free Asia hopes for the best as it plans to move into VOA Mandarin's peak listening hours - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
"China has sought to step up its peacekeeping personnel dramatically" - Global Strategies: Thoughts on Oregon solutions to global problems: "I previously linked to Senator Lugar report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 'Another U.S. Deficit – China and America – Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet' with regards to study abroad programs. There is another component of the report that I find both interesting and significant. If China is to become a responsible stakeholder in the global system, they need to increase their support for global peacekeeping efforts."
Five Whitehead Students Selected As Digital Diplomats - Karen Lynch, Seton Hall University News & Events: "Five students from the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations were selected for the U.S. Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service Program (VSFS).
The VSFS is part of a growing effort by the State Department to harness technology and a commitment to global service among young people to facilitate new forms of diplomatic engagement." Image from article, with caption: Pictured from left to right: Joe Messina, Katie Leininger, Christina Fuerst, Jonathan Castaneda (not pictured Raphael Baseman).
Secretary-General, in Message, Urges Young People to Use their Ingenuity to Explore Innovative Ways to ‘Put the Web to Work for Our World’ - "Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the thirty-fifth United Nations International School-United Nations Conference: 'The Web: Wiring our World', today, 3March, in New York: ... The web has become the backbone of global commerce and the global information society. It is a tool for public diplomacy and advocacy, enabling us to spread our messages, form virtual networks, mobilize support and raise funds for causes via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook."
U.S.-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission Holds 6th Meeting - Media Note, Office of the Spokesman, U.S. State Department: "The U.S.-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission (EPC) will meet on March 3, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez will head the U.S. delegation, while Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs and Public Diplomacy Selim Yenel will lead the Turkish delegation."
Iran: the case for human rights based sanctions Million Voices Campaign - Emanuele Ottolenghi, abrainsavingproject.blogspot.com: "In order to ensure the people of Iran remain confident that the West will not sacrifice their aspirations on the altar of a compromise with their torturers, four steps are required. First, diplomatic engagement on the nuclear file; second, symbolic sanctions that signal our displeasure at
Iran’s internal conduct and our condemnation of its human rights abuses; third, a strong effort at public diplomacy directed at the Iranian people; and fourth, a concerted strategy of tough economic sanctions to be rolled out the minute that engagement fails." Image from
"More BBC Radio aired in the US every day than US radio aired in the UK every year" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
MKs call for state to help fund Chabad Houses - Rebecca Anna Stoil, Jerusalem Post: "Almost three years after the deadly attack at the Mumbai Chabad House, the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee on Thursday discussed terrorist threats against Chabad Houses worldwide,
as well as Israel’s cooperation with programs for outreach and education of overseas Jewry. MKs called on the government to increase funding for Chabad educational institutions worldwide, and to restore the budget for Jewish education in the Diaspora, which has been reduced by nearly 80 percent in recent decades. ... Ronen Plot, director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, called on Chabad representatives to submit proposals for increased cooperation to his ministry." Image from article
Israel’s Hidden Faces: A Long Day’s Night for Us All - Alan Sabrosky, Resist Zionism: "The Israeli Government sponsored ICIC Hasbara (public diplomacy) offers a wide range of services.
The Hasbara Fellowships program extends this to campuses. 'StandWithUs' continues this, with a strong pro-settler spin." Image from article
Israeli Sports Hero To Be Inducted Into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame - Michael Kaminer, Forward: "Trenton, N.J.-born Brody was 'a University of Illinois All America in 1965' who 'joined the Maccabi-Tel Aviv team after leading his United States team to a gold medal in the 1965 Maccabiah Games,' according to JewishSports.net, an Israeli-run site bearing no apparent relation to JewishSports.com,
the Hall of Fame’s own site. ... In 1979, Brody was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honor. And last year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman appointed Brody as Israel’s 'international Goodwill Ambassador' to 'assist with Israel’s international public diplomacy efforts.' according to Lieberman’s official web site." Image from article
On expanding impetus of scientific progress to mighty joint force - People's Daily Online: "National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) ... members have ... striven to contact or engage the Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan compatriots and reinforce unity with them, impel the public diplomacy, expand overseas exchanges and create a good external environment for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." Below image from
Highlights of Jia Qinglin's Work Report of China's Top Political Advisory - english.cri.cn: "CPPCC launched the Public Diplomacy Quarterly and carried out joint investigations and studies on public diplomacy. ... CPPCC will encourage exchanges and cooperation between the National Committee's subcommittees and peer institutions in other countries; increase contact with parliaments and congresses, major think tanks, mainstream mass media, and influential figures in foreign countries; and constantly intensify the CPPCC's public diplomacy."
Chinese leaders join panel discussions of political advisors - Zhang Xiang, Xinhua: "While discussing with China Zhi Gong Dang (Party for Public Interest), and overseas Chinese union, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, encouraged them to provide better services to overseas Chinese and those who have returned to China. Jia asked them to pool the wisdom and efforts of overseas Chinese and returned overseas Chinese to make contribution to China's social and economic development and help create a favorable international environment for China through public diplomacy."
The China Syndrome - Financial Times: "Emanating from American embassies across the developing world, [telegrams] characterise Beijing variously as having fewer scruples than Washington, 'playing dirty' in commerce and ignoring human rights in its dealings with
other countries. China is aware of countries’ concerns. ... Yang Jiechi, foreign minister, wrote last month of a need for 'public diplomacy' because the world 'still has biases, misunderstandings and worries about China'." Image from article
Western sovereign debt and China: the great guessing game - François Godement, European Council on Foreign Relations: "The main point is not so much where China is parking its oversize funds, but the fact that it simply has no other solution than to invest them externally. In any case, the figures for China’s recent portfolio shifts are trivial, when compared to China’s huge and growing currency reserves.
In fact, conjectural or incomplete figures are often circulated and recycled by observers who focus mainly on China’s new public diplomacy – highlighting investment moves as aid, and keeping more substantial trends away from public scrutiny." Image from
Libyan chaos ups the importance of Alberta oilsands: British envoy - Mike Blanchfield, winnipegfreepress.com: "Chaos in Libya will raise the strategic importance of Alberta's oilsands, but that shouldn't stop energy companies from making a more environmentally friendly product, says Britain's envoy to Canada. British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock said the crisis in Libya will affect Alberta energy producers. ... Pocock will continue his government's advocacy of green technology development, greenhouse gas reductions and climate security policy — a brand of public diplomacy that has annoyed Canada's Conservative government."
Six More Malaysians To Arrive From Strife-torn Libya Saturday - Bernama: "A representative from the Foreign Ministry's Department of Information and Public Diplomacy, Khaeriah Zaehera Abd Kayyum, said the group comprised two females and three males students and a Ranhill Berhad employee."
Moldovan delegation visited NATO HQ and SHAPE - consortium.pims.org: "Moldova-NATO relations were discussed in Brussels. In the period 21-22 February 2011, a group of 11 journalists and representatives of civil society from Moldova paid
a visit to NATO Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) at the invitation of the Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) NATO." Image from
New Distribution Initiatives for African Cinema - africanews.it: "The African Film Festival of Tarifa participates at the Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco) in Burkina Faso. FCAT together with its network partnerscoordinates a seminar on the 'New Distribution Initiatives for African Cinema', which takes place on February 28 at the Hotel Azalai Indépendance in the country’s capital Ouagadougou. ... Program of the seminar: ... 10:40h Casa África. An Essential Institutional Member. The instrument of the public diplomacy bringing closer Africa and Spain. Presentation will be held by Ricardo Martínez, director of the Casa África."
'Increasing Anti-Indianism in Nepal: Myth or Reality' - Telegraphnepal.com:
"[A] seminar is being organized by the Public Diplomacy Division of Ministry of External Affairs, India and the topic is ‘Growing Anti-Indianism in Nepal: Myth or Reality’." Image from
Forum on the Theory and Practice of Public Diplomacy - USC-China Institute: "The USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School will host a workshop on public diplomacy ... The speakers will focus on public diplomacy at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, the Master of Public Diplomacy program at the USC Annenberg School, and China's public diplomacy initiatives.
NDN to Host Gov. Bill Richardson, the Colombian Ambassador, the Mexican Ambassador, & Salvadoran Ambassador - ndn.org: "Public Diplomacy and Social Media in Latin America Tuesday, March 29th, 12:00pm ... . A panel discussion
will explore the impact of social media and other new network technologies on politics, governance, media public diplomacy, and civil society in Latin American countries." Image from blog
Five Questions for Chris Dufour - Laura McGinnis, manIC: "Chris Dufour wants to be AWESOME. The outspoken blogger, owner of @Du4.llc, and frontman of what might best be described as a rock parody tribute band visited AU last week to shower our class with wisdom. I caught up with him afterwords to pick his brain about public diplomacy. [Interview follows]." Below image from
On Revolutions - Must. Be. AWESOME!!!: "Pretty interesting perspective on the Middle East protests from Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity. Guillebeau has made a name for himself as a 'travel hacker' by finding inexpensive means of visiting all sorts of places around the world. He is, in my opinion, a true citizen diplomat (public diplomacy peeps: take note)."
Conversations at American University: The Double Facepalm - Du4: Must. Be. AWESOME!!!: "I had a great time last week talking with my buddy Dr. Craig Hayden in his Public Diplomacy class at American University in DC. Craig and I are sometimes-partners-in-crime at the MountainRunner Institute (along with His AWESOMEness, Matt Armstrong, and 'Georgia Peach' Shawn Powers). We have a lot of interesting discussions about public diplomacy, strategic communication, and the nature of information and influence in today’s post-digital world."
PD Jobs - Ren's Micro Diplomacy: "Program Officer, Iraq MENA/SCA Assistant Director, Lageri Amerikoii (Camp America) Director, Outreach Communications and Advocacy Associate Communications Associate Teaching Fellows Press Associate/Officer." Below image from
Lowongan Kerja Program/Administrative Specialist, FSN-10*, FSN-22/2011 - lowongankerjaadminhr.blogspot.com: "U.S. Embassy, Jakarta has a vacancy for Program/Administrative Specialist ... in the Public Affairs Section (PAS). The incumbent will serves as principal advisor to the Country Public Affairs Officer (CPAO) and the Regional English Language Officer (RELO) and the Regional Information Officer (RIRO) on all resource management issues, with responsibility for independently planning and executing a broad spectrum of functions in support of the Public Affairs Section (PAS)."
LE III PA/AMBASSADOR, BRITISH EMBASSY TO BELGIUM - naombakazi.blogspot.com: "Main Role •PA management work: arranging appointments and official travel, diary and programme management, administrative and secretarial support for the Ambassador and the Deputy Head of Mission, and coordination work for the wider political and public diplomacy section and the wider Embassy. 80%"
Public Diplomacy: Learn a Democratic Citizenship - democratland.com
7** National&International events and my Public Diplomacy as i’m neutral politically I do support the http://womenthrive.org and the Say No to Violence against Women.org - amycommunications.wordpress.com
Obama's low-key strategy for the Middle East - David Ignatius, Washington Post: "President Obama has been so low-key in his pronouncements about events in
Egypt and Libya that it's easy to miss the extent of the shift in U.S. strategy. In supporting the wave of change sweeping the Arab world, despite the wariness of traditional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, Obama is placing a big bet that democratic governments will be more stable and secure, and thereby enhance U.S. interests in the region. My own instinct, as someone who has been visiting the Arab world for more than 30 years, is that Obama is right." Image from
It's undiplomatic: The U.S.-Pakistan spat over Raymond Davis, an American accused of killing two men in Lahore, reveals the arcane world of diplomatic immunity - Kal Raustiala, latimes.com: Many Pakistanis are furious about the killings and see the Davis affair as proof that the CIA is orchestrating plots and running rampant inside their national borders. Meanwhile, Davis remains in a Pakistani jail as the two governments struggle to find a solution. One side or the other will soon have to blink.
A no-fly zone in Libya is a war cry: Imposing a no-fly zone is an act of war, and we're already at war in Iraq and Afghanistan - Doyle McManus, latimes.com
Clinton media criticism buoys Al-Jazeera - David Bauer, The Associated Press, Washington Post: A decade ago the U.S. government attacked Al-Jazeera as a propagator of anti-American propaganda.
Now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is citing the network for fine news coverage - and tweaking the U.S. media in the process. The Arab broadcaster says it's ready to take advantage of what it considers a major boost in its acceptance in the United States. Image from article
Armenian Mass Media Empowered to Start Agitation Against US Ambassador - historyoftruth.com: "According to Aykakan zhamanak newspaper, the progovernmental mass media of Armenia are ordered to start propaganda against US ambassador Mari Jovanovic
with the attempt to accuse the ambassador of the attempt to interfere with the interior affairs of Armenia." Jovanovic image from article
Michael Hastings: Army Deploys Psychological Operations on U.S. Senators in Afghanistan - democracynow.org: Federal law prohibits the military from using propaganda and psychological tactics on U.S. citizens, but that is exactly what may have happened in Afghanistan, according to reporter Michael Hastings, who joins us to speak about his recent exposé for Rolling Stone magazine, "Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators." In the article, Hastings writes
that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, illegally employed psychological operations to manipulate visiting U.S. senators into providing more troops and funding for the war effort. “It just shows how far off the rails that entire operation has gone,” Hasting says. “The most important battlefield actually isn’t in Afghanistan, it’s in Washington.” [includes rush transcript]. Image from article
Army Propaganda Unit Ordered To Illegally Target US Senators With Psy-Ops Propaganda -techdirt.com: basically, after going against the law that forbids propaganda targeted at the US, the Army decided to paper it over by taking the soldiers specifically trained for propaganda and pretending they're just PR people.
Iraq: Work in Progress, Wishful Thought Or Propaganda Vehicle? - William Fisher, Public Record: Almost eight years after US-led forces invaded Iraq, the country’s transition to a functioning and sustainable
democracy built on rule of law is far from accomplished. And knowledgeable observers are divided about whether the country is a work in progress full of growing pains, a wishful thought – or a propaganda vehicle. Image from article
"In comparison to the significance of Al Jazeera ... Twitter and Facebook are as two ticks on the rump of a water buffalo" - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting
MORE QUOTATIONS FOR THE DAY
"public diplomacy tools (nice word for colonialism)"
--dombook on Twitter; dombook image from
"A U.S. and international effort to give every child in the world a school meal would be the best public diplomacy tool there could be."
--William Lambers, Global Hunger Examiner
"Millions of Arabs can’t tweet."
"Cable news has become cable noise."
--Former CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno
"An intellectual is somebody who thinks ideas are more important than people."
--British historian Paul Johnson
“France has Tunisia; Spain, Morocco; and Italy, Libya.”
--Emma Bonino, from the opposition Democratic Party
When Your Life Becomes a Verb - Laura M. Holson, New York Times:
LAST Monday night Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of “South Park,” regaled the audience of “Late Show with David Letterman” with a vivid description of their appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2000. They told the audience how they decided to dress in drag that night — their hairy chests scantily covered in silk and taffeta — which they fretted was a mistake even before they left home.
“Then we did some Charlie Sheen-ing and we were fine,” said Mr. Parker, to a roar of laughter. Added Mr. Stone: “We were just sheening our heads off.”
But what, exactly, did that mean? Drinking? A raucous pre-Oscars party involving cocaine and porn stars? Charlie Sheen, whose stints in and out of rehab sparked the street slang “prehab” last year and whose recent tirade against his “Two and a Half Men” bosses has America agog (though maybe not as aghast as one might expect), is back with another pop-culture idiom. “Apparently sheened is the new verb,” wrote a poster on Twitter, where Mr. Sheen now has more than 1.5 million followers.
Unlike other phrases of (false?) bravado recently associated with Mr. Sheen (“Bring it!” “Winning!” “Tiger blood!”), the terms “sheened” and “sheening” clearly connote partying, questionable decision making and public humiliation. It was mentioned this way last year on the Web site Urban Dictionary, soon after Mr. Sheen’s rampage at the Plaza in New York.
On Twitter recently, one J_A_Parker10 suggested that being “sheened” meant getting high on pain pills and sleep aids, while another poster called it “the new name for wasted.”
“I have no doubt that his name will spawn one or more meanings besides getting drunk,” said Bryan A. Garner, a language expert and the editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary.
Indeed, Mr. Garner came up with a definition of his own. “To ‘pull a Sheen’ could mean to ridiculously try to defend oneself in the public media,” he offered.
For Derek Sheen, a comedian from Seattle, sharing a last name with the troubled actor has drawbacks. Before last week, the only reference to Charlie Sheen he had heard was when a heckler asked if they were related. (They are not.)
“It makes it hard to be a Sheen right now,” Derek said. As he was about to go onstage at a comedy club last week, the M.C. shouted, “You’re about to get sheened!” The comedian was perplexed: “I had no idea what he was talking about.”
Later that night, Derek learned about the word’s emergence on “Late Show,” which he found oddly discomfiting, given that he, too, has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. “I hope he gets better,” Derek Sheen said. “We’re still at that point we can make fun of it.”
To do so, perhaps, is to avoid confronting any sense of unease about Charlie Sheen’s problems. Eric Arauz, a mental health consultant who travels the country lecturing about his experience with bipolar disorder, said that Mr. Sheen’s behavior suggests he might suffer from a psychological imbalance as well as drug addiction. (Mr. Arauz is not a doctor.) He suggested that jokes about “sheening” are a technologically distanced attempt to make comedy from personal tragedy.
“It’s rubbernecking in front of a disaster,” Mr. Arauz said. “It’s the ability for television and Twitter to allow for a buffer. People do not feel responsible for what is happening.”
That is because, he added, there “is a failure of language to describe and elucidate the trauma around what is happening to Mr. Sheen.”
The actor is not the first person to have his name appropriated as a verb. Mr. Garner said that “bork,” meaning to reject a nominee (especially for the United States Supreme Court) based on the person’s political and legal beliefs, was included in the ninth edition of Black’s Law Dictionary after the campaign against the appointment of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987.
That word did not remain long in the public lexicon. Whether this one does — along with Mr. Sheen’s career and future — is an open question.