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The Daily: Russia Loses the Western Media Game

The Daily: Russia Loses the Western Media Game

February 6, 2014 6:43 am by: Category: The Daily Leave a comment A+ / A-

Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day.

The vitriol for Russia as the Sochi Olympics kicks off is reaching full tilt. I think it is safe to say that Russia has lost the mediated public diplomacy game over the Olympics already. (Curious if this is just a Western media thing.)

President Vladimir Putin fell into his own trap. I am talking about the Sochi Olympics. It is only natural that he did everything to snare the prize in 2007. Any leader would attempt to do the same. A host of different countries—from Great Britain to China—were and are competing for the right to host the Olympics. It places any leader and his country in the global spotlight, which is not all that bad. The only problem is that Putin was at the height of his power in 2004-2007, when he was competing for the right to host the Olympics in Sochi. At that time, Russia was “rising from its knees,” whereas now—in 2014—Russia has started its downward slide. In the part of the world that considers its reputation important, the Russian leader is seen as an authoritarian and cynical politician. His counterparts fear him and are reluctant to deal with him. Moreover, instead of showcasing Russia and being a place where the Russian leader would relish rubbing shoulders with the world’s rich and powerful, Sochi is becoming a symbol of corruption and instability. It showcases the desire of the Kremlin-entrenched leader who seems to be losing touch with reality to fulfill his own ambitions. It is clear now that the project itself—the very idea of hosting the Games in the subtropical climate—is a creation of an overexcited mind and megalomania. [Carnegie]


Just looking at New York Times, examples of mediated public diplomacy losses here, here and here (as of Wednesday night). The Washington Post even went listicle on it.

Questions I posed last night on Twitter (no responses, sadly):




And then there is this:


Georgia was at odds if it should join the games, but in the end they decided that it was worth it for the soft power potential.

“Georgia made the decision in favor of national sport,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said while addressing the Georgian sportsmen on February 5. “Participation in the Sochi Olympics evokes a special emotion for us, as the games are held at the Georgian-Russian border, near the occupied Abkhazia,” he said. “It was quite difficult to decide on participation in the Olympics, but we took into account various factors and made ​​the decision in favor of Georgian sport, our athletes and the public interests” … Georgian political expert Gela Vasadze believes that Tbilisi uses “soft power” tactics for the normalization of relations with Moscow. “A topic of occupied territory is kept beyond the economic and humanitarian relations between Georgia and Russia. There is a thesis that sport, culture and the economy should go beyond politics and this works,” Vasadze told AzerNews. [Azer News]


The LSE Review of Books reviews Melissa Aronczyk’s new book on nation branding.

In Branding the Nation, Aronczyk examines the political, economic and cultural paths that have facilitated the legitimation of nation branding, as well as the impact that this practice has had on both the idea and purposes attributed to the nation in current times. Aronczyk argues that nation branding is at the intersection of contemporary ideas about national identity and globalisation, with the former seen as a competitive resource that can potentially be used to emphasize differentiation in a globalised world. According to the author, although nation branding contributes to perpetuate the relevance of the national form, it does so at the cost of flattening the plurality of voices constitutive of the nation. That is to say, the type of differentiation encouraged by nation branding is quite limited, given that, as Aronczyk assesses, ‘[B]randing’s work is to erase the prominence of those attributes which might compromise the legitimacy of the nation-state in a market democracy’. [LSE Review of Books]

(Listen to Melissa discuss her book here.)



A starlet pens an op-ed in Hong Kong calling for better relations with the Chinese mainland and has public opinion turn against her. (In other words, celebrity diplomacy is hard.)

Koon’s column might sound uncontroversial to the politically correct. But correctness is not the order of the day in Hong Kong, where the opinion piece went over like a lead balloon: Netizens besieged Koon’s Facebook fan page with messages of hatred and intolerance soon after the article’s publication. (Koon’s Facebook page, which has over 280,000 fans, was scrubbed of all content posted after Jan. 13, but the vitriol lives on in mirror sites, Chinese-language articles, and discussions elsewhere on Facebook.) Writing in webby English, one user, whose comment was typical, called for Koon to apologize for her column because “the Truth is, Chinese from The Red Soviet-China r intentionally invading us,” (sic) an incursion which includes “raping the civilization we built.” Hong Kongers also raged against the star for preaching tolerance for what users called mainland “locusts” who are “invading” Hong Kong and “taking its resources.” Some took special offense at Koon’s suggestion that Hong Kongers and mainlanders are “all Chinese.” [Foreign Policy]


U.S. State Department announces new basketball diplomacy initiative (cue some guy pointing to this as “real basketball diplomacy” in lieu of the Rodman debaucle).

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the NBA, is sponsoring the Global All-Star Basketball Sports Visitor Program starting this week. Eighteen youth players and six coaches from Argentina, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Turkey will be in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 5 before heading to New Orleans for a 10-day program. While in New Orleans, they will take part in activities surrounding the NBA All-Star game. This visitor program will tip off an exciting 2014 sports diplomacy lineup that will connect hoopsters around the globe with American culture and values. These sports diplomacy exchanges encourage mutual understanding and empower underrepresented audiences. [U.S. Department of State]



William E. Craft, Jr., the acting assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, talks up the U.S.’s economic diplomacy in Russia.

It’s for exactly that reason that my first meeting on a recent trip to Moscow was with the American Chamber of Commerce.  The six U.S. companies I met with told me about how much they have profited from being in the Russian market.  They told me how important it was to build relationships, and that being in the country long enough to develop those ties was vital. I’ve heard many, many similar success stories over the course of my travels, and it isn’t hard to see why businesses are branching out.  When an investment goes right, it’s a win for everybody.  Companies reap greater profits, the host country benefits from the added economic activity, and the U.S. enjoys a boost to economic growth.  It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of the profits from foreign direct investment get repatriated to the country where a company is headquartered. [DipNote]


Interesting hypothesis (not sure if I buy it though): governments discussing boring policies can garner interest by doing it on digital technologies such as social media.

According to a panel of experts at last week’s Digital Diplomacy Coalition’s event on Economic Diplomacy, social media has the power to engage and prevent eyes from glazing over—even when the topic is complex and traditionally uninteresting. The Digital Diplomacy Coalition (@digidiplomats) held a panel discussion titled “Economic Diplomacy: From Digital Engagement to Results”. The discussion focused on how governments, organizations, and diplomats are using digital technologies and social media to promote trade policy and economic diplomacy. The event, hosted by the Embassy of the Netherlands (@NLintheUSA), convened over 120 people to hear how three seasoned experts craft their country and organization’s critical messages around these important topics. [Digital Diplomacy Coalition]





photo credit: AP (taken Feb 2, 2014)

Hong Kong Melissa Aroncyzk MIST NBA policy Sao Paulo Western media William Craft
The Daily: Russia Loses the Western Media Game Reviewed by on . Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] The vitriol for Russia as the Sochi Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] The vitriol for Russia as the Sochi Rating: 0

About Michael Ardaiolo

Michael Ardaiolo is currently a student in Syracuse University's Public Diplomacy Master's Program: M.A. in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and M.S. in Public Relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. In addition, he is a recovering record slinger, a Criterion Collection addict, an NBA obsessor, and a struggling student of the Korean language.

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