Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 26

"Hip hop is America."

--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; image from

"When the US government loves the same rappers you love, whose interests are those rappers serving?"

--"underground" British rapper Lowkey (Kareem Denis)


Thanksgiving Abroad - Molly Sisson, Public Diplomacy and Student Exchanges: Experiences of American Fulbright Grantees in the UK and Turkey, and their counterparts in the US: "One of the questions I ask the Fulbright students is how the chose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Thanksgiving. It seems pretty innocuous, but their answers really do reveal a great deal about culture learning and mediation. Both Thanksgiving and Bonfire Night come relatively soon after the American students have arrived in the UK, so they present two early opportunities to engage in cultural mediation.

If they go to a bonfire or fireworks display, do they go with host nationals or other internationals? If they have a Thanksgiving dinner, do they invite other Americans or a mixed international group? Do they make an effort to teach others about Thanksgiving, and to learn about Guy Fawkes Day? The way they choose to celebrate these holidays can tell us quite a bit about their overall attitudes towards culture learning." Image from

Leveraging Hip Hop in US Foreign Policy - Garrison, "The State Department began using hip hop as a tool in the mid-2000s, when, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the resurgence of the Taliban, Karen Hughes, then undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, launched an initiative called Rhythm Road. The programme was modelled on the jazz diplomacy initiative of the Cold War era, except that in the 'War on Terror', hip hop would play the central role of countering 'poor perceptions' of the US. ... Much has been said about the role of hip hop in the Arab revolts. French media described  the Arab Spring as le printemps des rappeurs ['The spring of the rappers']. Time Magazine named Tunisian rapper Hamada Ben Amor (aka El General) - a rapper who was arrested by Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali - as one of the '100 Most Influential People of 2011', ranking him higher than President Barack Obama. ... But the role of music should not be exaggerated: Hip hop did not cause the Arab revolts any more than Twitter or Facebook did.

The cross-border spread of popular movements is not a new phenomenon in the Arab world - the uprisings of 1919, which engulfed Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, occurred long before the advent of the internet, social media or rap music. ... From deposed Tunisian dictator Ben Ali's mobilisation of hip hop culture against Islamism to the embattled Syrian regime's current support of 'pro-stability rappers', to the US government's growing use of hip hop in public diplomacy, counter-terrorism and democracy promotion, regimes are intervening to promote some sub-styles of hip hop, in an attempt to harness the genre towards various political objectives. ... The choice of hip hop is ironic: The very music blamed for a range of social ills at home - violence, misogyny, consumerism, academic underperformance - is being deployed abroad in the hopes of making the US safer and better-liked. ... [I]t's unclear how 'Muslim hip hop' will exert a moderating or democratising influence: Will a performance by an African-American Muslim group trigger a particular calming 'effect', pushing young Muslim men away from extremist ideas? Nor is it clear what constitutes 'Muslim hip hop': Does the fact that Busta Rhymes is a Sunni Muslim make his music 'Islamic'? ... For State Department officials, the hip hop initiatives in Muslim-majority states showcase the diversity and integration of post-civil rights America. The multi-hued hip hop acts sent overseas represent a post-racial or post-racist American dream, and exhibit the achievements of the civil rights movement, a uniquely American moment that others can learn from. But it's unclear how persuasive this racialised imagery is. Muslims do not resent the US for its lack of diversity. Where perceptions are poor, it is because of foreign policy, as well as, increasingly, domestic policies that target Muslims. Perhaps the greatest irony of the State Department's efforts to showcase the model integration of US Muslims, and to deploy the moral and symbolic capital of the civil rights movement, is that these tours - as with the jazz tours - are occurring against a backdrop of unfavourable (and racialised) media images of Quran burnings, anti-mosque rallies and anti-sharia campaigns, as one of the most alarming waves of nativism in recent US history surges northward." Image from

US Hip-Hop Diplomacy "Recovers" in Karachi and No On Stage B-Boying by American Diplomats – Domani Spero, DiploPunDit: “The hip hop group on tour in Pakistan performed in Islamabad, was detained briefly in Rawalpindi, was barred from performing in Lahore (long shadow of Raymond Davis?), then on November 24th, successfully performed at the port city of Karachi. One may be tempted to call this a 50-50 success, given that the group skipped Peshawar (for good reasons), was unable to perform in Lahore (for fuzzy reasons) but did have successful performances in the capital city of Islamabad, and the country's largest city of Karachi. But is the ability to be on stage in two out of four U.S. posts in Pakistan sufficient to gauge the success of this program in a country where anti-American protests and demonstrations have tripled since the beginning of 2011? Probably not. One might wonder at the effectiveness of a program like this since it only reaches the more or less westernized and educated parts of the country as compared to the more rural, less educated, more suspicious variety of the local population. I hope somebody back at State's Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau is looking at the performance metrics of programs like these. On a side note, I am pleased to report that none of our diplomats in Karachi -- not the Consul General or the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) or Cultural Affairs Officer (CAO) went on stage to try their luck with mcing or breakdancing even if it looks like a whole lot of fun.

Whew to you, too!" Via LB. Image from

What price Tesco? - Gary Rawnsley, Public Diplomacy and International Communications: Thoughts and comments about public diplomacy, soft power and international communications: "I have never been a fan of the cultural imperialism thesis. I find it far too simplistic, and my own observations throughout East Asia convince me that global forces will operate alongside local, and that consumers will always prefer local produce provided prices are reasonable and quality/diversity are maintained.

This is as true for television and movies as it is for food. I also disapprove of cultural imperialism's pessimistic view of local identity which basically sugggests that local identities are fragile, vulnerable and easily dominated or even supplanted by foreign cultures." Image from. See also, John Brown, "Is the U.S. High Noon Over? Reflections on the Declining Global Influence of American Popular Culture," (2004)

BBG executives close down Voice of America broadcasting services, pay themselves hefty bonuses - BBGWatcher, BBG Watch: "This report was prompted by the news of the Voice of America Croatian Service being forced off the air and the Internet on the orders of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) officials.

VOA Croatian radio and TV broadcasts and online news content have served an important information and public diplomacy function, representing U.S. views, policies, interests, and concerns while providing current news and analysis from an American perspective. As these BBG bureaucrats undermine critical programs, weaken U.S. public diplomacy media outreach abroad and eliminate American jobs, they collect large salaries and pay themselves hefty bonuses." Image from article

In new pinkwashing recruitment campaign, Israel offers free travel for propaganda services - "The story of the floundering 'Brand Israel' advertising campaign continues. An Israeli government ministry has established a propaganda website called – a Hebrew word often translated as 'propaganda'. A notice was recently published on the site asking for volunteer 'candidates eligible to conduct public diplomacy activities abroad'. The volunteers 'will not be eligible for any remuneration' apart from 'costs of travel, daily expenses and insurance'. The advert is also the latest episode in Israel’s cynical

'pinkwashing' strategy, which was powerfully criticised by American academic Sarah Schulman in the New York Times this week. The ministry’s advert says it is looking particularly for 'minority members' and 'representatives of the gay community' to argue Israel’s case abroad. While 'hasbara' literally translates as 'explanation', in this context it is accurate to translate it as 'propaganda'. The ideology behind the term is that Israel’s case is so self-evidently just and true, that the only problem they have is PR, or 'explaining' their case in the right way. Hence Israel has recently focused more on 'beautifying Israel’s image abroad' (in the words of racist Israeli professor Arnon Soffer to Ilan Pappe, according to Pappe’s memoir). ... Source: Electronic Intifada." See also. Image from

Global affairs magazine Monocle launches Denmark Survey - "At 36-pages in length, the survey covers everything from the nation’s economy, society and transport to culture, architecture, agriculture, retail and urbanism. ... Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s editor-in-chief, believes that the launch of the survey comes at a time when Denmark has never looked better. 'The nation is a pioneer of sustainable energy and a world leader in architecture and urban planning.

With a rich cultural tradition, Denmark might have suffered from being a bit timid over the past few decades, but with the budding and brilliant young generation of fashion designers, filmmakers, product designers, gallerists and musicians – the Danes are taking a global centre stage,' he says. Ambassador Klavs A. Holm, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark is thrilled about the Denmark survey. Image from

RI to hold fourth BDF despite religious freedom blemishes - Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post: "Indonesia will host the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) next month with Bangladesh as the co-chair. The BDF, scheduled for Dec. 8–9 in Nusa Dua, Bali, is intended to be a venue for government representatives to share their respective countries’ latest democratic developments. 'In the light of how democracy develops in the world today, there is a need for us, governments, to find way to respond to people’s aspirations,' Foreign Ministry director for public diplomacy Kusuma Habir told journalists on Friday."

Homecoming Dresses were choreographic - "Undoubtedly, the culture of the modern highly developed society is two opposing flows - the national and global ones that enrich each other. None of the existing and emerging fashionable artificial languages cannot replace the language of art and culture which is the language of a true public diplomacy through which Turkmenistan

speaks easily with the world community advocating for the common humanitarian space, for the dialogue that promotes peaceful development of good neighborly relations, strengthening of mutual understanding between nations and peoples and universal progress." Image from


Republicans: Are Americans Really Exceptional? - Jon Meacham, Time: In the beginning — before the beginning, really — Americans have thought of themselves as exceptional, as the new chosen people of God. Either before departing England or en route aboard the Arabella — it is unclear which; the ship arrived in 1630 — John Winthrop, a layman trained as a lawyer, wrote a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity” in which he said “we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw His present

help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world …” This sense that we are the new Israel, a chosen people, is among the most ancient and most potent of American ideas. It has informed our finest hours and some of our worst. We are exceptional not because of who we are but because of what we do and how we put the ideals of human dignity, individual freedom, and liberty under law into action. Those ideas are rooted in part in our religious traditions; it is ahistorical to deny that faith played a critical role in the development of American freedom. To be exceptional we have to do the exceptional thing and unite in purpose. Via LB. Image from article

Hollywood Actors To Visit Israel On A Trip Co-Sponsored By AIPAC - Nora Friedman: Twenty-one high-profile Hollywood actors, producers and film and television industry leaders are taking part in a delegation to Israel organized by The Creative Coalition (TCC), a New York-based arts and education non-profit, in conjunction with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is affiliated with AIPAC, the US’ most powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

In a press release dated 13 November, TCC announced that the delegates will travel “through Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian policy leaders, members of the arts, culture and business communities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The delegation, according to TCC’s press release, will focus on “arts, culture and policy." AIEF, created as a supporting “educational wing” of AIPAC, helps finance public relations campaigns about the US-Israel relationship in public and private sectors, including on college campuses, and organizes and bankrolls trips to Israel by US political figures. A recent trip by 80 US Congressmembers in August was backed and organized by AIEF/AIPAC.  Image from article

Bahraini King Drops His Propaganda Bomb - Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa finally received his long-awaited “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) from war-crimes investigator Cherif Bassiouni. After “surprising” parts of Bahrain’s opposition and many government officials for its “severity,” the report was trumpeted as a sign of the King’s accountability and willingness to reform. He just didn’t know that people were being assaulted or tortured in his kingdom, and will surely rectify the situation now that he does.

Activists send leaflets, socks to N. Korea via air - Yonhap -- A small group of South Korean activists on Saturday sent balloons carrying propaganda leaflets into North Korea, an activity labeled by the North as an attempt to topple its communist regime.

Also carried by the large balloons flown from the northern border city of Paju were 1,500 pairs of winter socks, which the group said could be exchanged for food in the impoverished North. Image from, with caption: Ave Wornette recently ventured to South Korea, where she picked up, as she calls them, “the Holy Grail of socks.” No further commentary necessary.

India's Zee Entertainment seeks to expand distribution in the United States - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting.

Image from article


(a) The Sex Addiction Epidemic - Chris Lee, Beast: "An estimated 40 million people a day in the U.S. log on to some 4.2 million pornographic websites, according to the Internet Filter Software Review."

(b) "The government took action and introduced a bill to classify pizza as a vegetable in schools.

Mark this down: November 17, 2011: The day America gave up." Image from

-–Talk show host/comic Jimmy Kimmel

(c) Documentaria: Images of America in Crisis in the 1970s - As the 1960s came to an end, the rapid development of the American postwar decades had begun to take a noticeable toll on the environment, and the public began calling for action. In November 1971, the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a massive photo documentary project, called DOCUMERICA, to record these changes. More than 100 photographers were hired not only to document specific environmental issues, but to capture images of everyday life, showing how we interacted with the environment and capturing the way parts of America looked at that moment in history. By 1974, more than 80,000 photographs had been produced. The National Archives has made 15,000 of these images available.  Via Boing Boing. Images from entry.

Images from article


Raimo said...

I am from Finland. I have read many things from internet sites only, of which TV and newspapers don't tell. Actually censorship in the mainstream media makes my country a dictatorship, ruled by the political and economic elite.

Finland is a corrupt country. Nobody can have a public post without being a member of a political party. In Finland all high-ranking officials, who earn 5000 euros a month or more, are members of political parties.

No one can criticize the elite in the mainstream media. Any one who criticizes leading politicians, will lose his or her job.

Finland as well as neighboring Sweden and Norway are dictatorship countries.

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