Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day.
A very interesting, even-handed take on Dennis Rodman’s now-acknowledged basketball diplomacy efforts with North Korea. In my opinion, this is the key passage:
These are the unlikely emissaries who began arriving in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Monday for a bizarro version of basketball diplomacy with the mysterious North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un — a strange trip that has left the world’s diplomatic corps puzzled and, perhaps, a little jealous over the access the players may receive.
“This might not be the ideal way to approach it, and Dennis Rodman would never be anybody’s first choice of diplomat,” said Charles Armstrong, a professor of Korean studies at Columbia University. “But if you pardon the expression, this is the only game in town.” [New York Times]
The less covered North Korea cultural diplomacy story: two DC rappers return after shooting a music video in Pyongyang.
It was a story that could hardly have been less likely to end in glory. Two aspiring rappers, who had barely been outside their impoverished communities in Washington DC, let alone abroad, declared their intention to make a music video in North Korea. When their online fundraising campaign went viral, raising more than enough cash to buy the flights, even Pacman and Peso admitted they were anxious they might not come home in one piece. Now the duo have returned to tell their tale, unscathed, save for a minor incident involving a motorbike in Beijing. Their music video, furtively shot in and around Pyongyang, is officially released on Wednesday, coinciding with the birthday of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. [The Guardian]
Foreign Policy digs into Ambassador Michael McFaul’s use of Twitter to reach out to Russia’s citizens.
“It’s a medium that offers me great advantages as an ambassador trying to explain our policies to this giant country,” McFaul told me recently. “I can just go to my computer and talk with a scholar in Vladivostok or to an ecologist in Novosibirsk.” To some Russians, it’s been a great shock to be able to communicate directly with the U.S. State Department — an experience that seems to run counter to everything they’ve heard on Russian television about the U.S. trying to undermine the power of the Kremlin. [Foreign Policy]
Looking for evidence of soft power in real politik? Syrian schools will now offer Russian as a second language option in its primary school system.
Students can add French as a second language in the fifth grade. France controlled Syria in 1923-1943. But now Russian will be available as an alternative to French, the Syrian Minister of Education, Hazwane al-Wazz, was cited Sunday by the ministry’s website as saying. The statement did not elaborate on the reasons for the decision beyond saying that students will be responsible for building “the future of the nation.” [Ria Novosti]
Asking if social media is actually “social” is at the heart of the problem with public diplomacy 2.0.
For Van Dijck, it is social values that suffer. Despite the different features of various online platforms, most are connected by the same ideological tenets, favoring popularity over quality, interoperability over interaction, and “connectivity” over deep connections. “The ecosystem of connective media does not reflect social norms,” she writes. Rather, “interconnected platforms engineer sociality, using real-life processes of normative behavior (peer pressure) as a model for and an object of manipulation (popularity ranking).” If the ideal social media user imagined by platform operators is someone who sees nothing wrong with converting her social life into someone else’s social data, this ideal user is also someone with shockingly low standards of social interaction, at ease with the vulgarity of emoticons, character counts, and categorical tastes—not to mention the regular humiliation of having her most personal admissions and attachments sold back to her as advertising sidebars. [Public Books]
#PublicDiplomacy Shocker ==> Watchdog Agency Cut During #Psyops Scandal http://t.co/iuVUi5bNCA … #opengov #gov20 #propaganda
— Monica (@CyberlandGal) January 6, 2014
What are the soft power and governmental alliance implications of public favor toward particular countries? (Saudi Arabia is seen as more unfavorable than Russia.)
The trend among the U.S. public increasingly has been to turn away from international issues and focus on the home front. But while Americans have long been accused of lacking interest in the rest of the world, they have never lacked strong opinions about other countries. As 2013 wanes, a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 6 found that Americans have strongly favorable views of some allies and negative opinions about a range of others. Some of this is driven by U.S. partisan politics. And history suggests all such opinions are subject to change. [Pew Research Center]
The House of Lords #SoftPower Committee has published 642 pages of Oral and Written Evidence http://t.co/ORfnLQgcyt
— Keith Nichol (@KeithNicholDCMS) January 7, 2014
Voice of America English has found its “journalism-light” niche.
VOA English website has had a lot of fluff journalism in increasing quantities in recent years as a substitute for reporting and posting hard news and breaking news — all in an apparent attempt to increase online traffic and engagement through social media. Such were the orders from its own executives and strategic planners at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). But nothing seemed to work. Facebook “Likes” and Tweets were minimal even for the most tabloid-type reports. In fact, these reports got less than some of the diminishing serious political news stories VOA English reporters still tried to cover under the management that still looks with suspicion on any long report on political topics. [BBG Watch]
We’re looking for new guest contributors! If you’re knowledgeable about #placebranding #publicdiplomacy #softpower then please contact us
— Sam M (@placesbrands) January 6, 2014