Saturday, March 18, 2017

Overseas Travel by USG dignitaries

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Thank you LR for your comment that led me to repost the below.

POTUS Visits and Public Diplomacy: Doing Nothing While Waiting for Nothing to Do

In response to the recent brouhaha (see my recent postings in the Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review) from the USA media about the current Secretary of State's lack of interest in "public diplomacy" -- which I had the privilege to practice for over twenty years as a U.S. dip "field guy," I hope seriously but with a sense of humor and above all irony -- allow me to repost this piece (cited above) on a presidential visit to a foreign land which I penned some years ago.

It documents, from a personal perspective, and perhaps inadequately, some of the outrageously expensive, time-consuming (but above all silly) preparation/implementation "overkill" for the visit of USG VIPs in foreign countries that PD (Public Diplomacy) US Embassy "field guys" such as I -- whose priority job, as I interpreted it, was sharing thoughts with local opinion-makers rather than "standing guard"/"facilitating" for USA MSM coverage intended mostly, from a Washington administration's perspective, to influence (well, ok, inform) the "homeland" rather than foreign audiences?

If my aged, thus embellished memory after all these years, serves me right, I remember (badly?) a pushy (nothing wrong with being pushy, so long as you're not obnoxious) USA reporter who was parachuted at an Embassy press center in Ukraine (I was privileged, let me repeat the word "privileged," to serve there as U.S. diplomat from 93-95), where phone connections were notoriously bad:

"Hey why can't do you guys at the Embassy make the phones work right (in Ukraine in the early 90s -- get real) (implication: so that we can get 'breaking news') ..."

Again, these were not his exact words some forty years ago ... But I do remember (?) his intonation/accusation.

If it's my "fake memory," I stand corrected.

Still, in the back of my ancient mind I still think I was hired by the USG to represent our country abroad, not to serve as a willing media "servant boy -- serve us NOW or else we'll expose you ..." for the USA corporate newsmakers ...

Don't get me wrong, I love the "free press" reps even at their most me-first, "fuck you" ... especially all "honest" pen-ragazze/ragazzi who look beyond getting tomorrow's "headlines" and know something in depth about what they're writing about rather than "landing" on Tuesday-it's-must-be Belgium.

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