Sunday, November 28, 2010
How then does PD 2.0 fit into Jospeh Nye's 3 dimensions of public diplomacy? It seems to facilitate the first-daily communications of foreign policy decisions-it provides a new space for this information to be disseminated. However, it does seem that Nye sees this as a one-way flow, not a forum for discussion, although in PD 2.0 perhaps this is what it should be. The second dimension of creating strategic themes has great implications if one of these very themes can be the US as a country that is willing to welcome and listen to international viewpoints. These themes are supposed to be reflective of US interests, and perhaps the PD 2.0 dogma of dialogue and respectful listening should be at the top of the list. The third dimension of creating long term relationships is extremely powerful, and has great potential if the new public diplomacy is indeed centered around an exchange of ideas. The virtual exchange of ideas could well lead to more meaningful and substantive exchanges of people across cultures. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs already has several programs that accomplish this, but there is room for more.
Although it may not immediately seem like it, the central tenants of public diplomacy (as laid out by Nye) don't necessarily need to change according to PD 2.0. Rather, there is potential for them to be adapted in a way that increases their reach and effectiveness. By welcoming reciprocity and the creation of more open dialogues, the US is definitely on the right track towards maintaining its relevance.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Is advertising really a form of soft power? The way a company or a product markets itself is vital to its success—even in transnational boundaries. While global products may not be owned or marketed directly by a government, do they not also reflect some of the culture from which they originate? To go back to a fashion industry example, Chanel differs from Dolce and Gabbana, which differs from Juicy Couture, in the way of life which they promote, and is at least somewhat reflective of the culture from which each originates. Thus, when advertisers send messages out to an audience, promoting the way of life that comes with these clothes, are they not also promoting a cultural message that, while not coinciding with an orchestrated government message, still out to achieve the same goal of acceptance? Cultural products are exported to be accepted in whatever market they can be, and it is through advertising, through the promotion of a way of life, that this is achieved.
As post 9/11 measure, the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison, and the invasion in Iraq, the image of America in the world has changed dramatically, especially in the Middle East. In 2003, a cultural exchange program as a public diplomacy measure took place. My cousin who was a student at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals was among the host group, and he wanted to participate in the cultural exchange program. He applied for the program and he received the invitation. When he started the process of applying and issuing the visa, the US embassy in Riyadh had very strict procedures that caused delays, denials, or not responds to some individuals. My cousin applied for the visa 7 months before the day the Saudi team should have flown to the states. I remember how disappointed and frustrated was my cousin to not hear back from the embassy. He did not go on the program along with other friends of his whom visa were rejected or had not heard from the embassy as well. Despite the fact that my cousin has studied college in the US, and has been several times prior to the 9/11 hit.
Looking back at the incidence, I think that the US efforts in public diplomacy were completely failure at that time. To receive an invitation from the American government, and to receive a visa denial from the same part seemed very illogical paradox. It must have created different confusing perceptions about America among these people. Collaborative efforts should come about different governmental sectors working together in order to attain the wanted results of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a very strong and effective tool that governments use in order to create the image of their countries the way they want. But it needs strategic implementation. Arbitrary effort would definitely leads to nowhere if not fires back.
I think that the previous American administration caused a lot of deformation in the American global image at different levels. Fighting terrorism was urgently needed at that time in the American foreign policies, but I believe the government could have achieved that in a less radical measure that could have not distorted the American image. To many individuals around the world, America has become a country that only knows the language of war. Which is very hard and radical power, when in fact the American Government was trying to maintain soft power through Public diplomacy. That’s why many around the world appraised Obama’s announcement of the closure of Guantanamo prison, the US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. These actions in a way sooth the flammable image, that can be improved with soft power influence in the long run. The US foreign policy with the new administration has been working at different levels to restore the US image around the world. I believe that different governmental sectors must work comprehensively together in order to succeed in public diplomacy and retrieve the image of the American dream.
China now has over millions online forums and 220 million bloggers, and over 3 million posts/comments are posted online daily, according to the white paper report on China’s Internet Status released by the State Council Information Office, June 2010. According to the report from the China Internet Network Information Center, China Internet population hits 384 million by January 2010.
Realizing the radical growth of the internet user population and the potentials of massive online conversations exchange, Hu administration started to use Cyber diplomacy as a propaganda tool, in 2008, to further manufactures consensus and therefore strengthened the status quo.
In the recent speech given by the Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, at the Closing Ceremony of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the “New Era” of diplomacy was specified with the re-emphasis on the Chinese characters and the power of people diplomacy, which directly answered the question why the Hu administration put so much effort in regulating online communication. Yang emphasized the four key elements of the “Chinese characterized diplomacy” in the 21st century, which are “Hosting Galas”, “Combat Crises”, ‘Foster Development’ and “Establish National Image”. This statement echoed with the argument about the “three pronged cyber strategy of China’s cyber strategy, which are “pacifying the populace, managing the negative influences of the Internet and yoking the power of networking while maintaining CPC authority” (Hachigian 2001)
“Ichat” with Chairman Hu:
"Ichat” with President Hu is no longer a news, and there is even a online fans club of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called “Shi Jin Ba Bao Fan” (which is originally the name of a popular Chinese dessert).
Take a look at the top news in Xinhua News Agency's publications, you can easily find headlines such as-- "President Hu Ichat with netizens," " Premier Wen Ichat with netizens," "President Hu's New Year Speech now available online", "President Hu Ichat with kids on the first day back to school", "President Hu joining People's Daily's online discussion board"
Given the high levels of cross-border connectivity in cyber-world, new approaches for cyber-security must include the international dimension. Thus, instead of exclusively imagining cyber-defence or cyber-war, Chinese government has realized that it is also important to begin to construct cyber-diplomacy.
The Practice of the Fifty Cents Party (Wu Mao Dang):
The massive online comments, blogs and posts exchange among the citizens has caught up the attention of the Hu administration. "Wu Mao Dang" which literally means "Fifty Cents Party" then came into the online public sphere. “Wu Mao Dang” is a meme mocking that the fact that the Hu administration hires netizens to comment on most of the internet users’ posts/blogs/videos with only positive messages about the government, in the hope of building positive image of the Hu administration. Each comment earns the poster 50 cents compensation.
For better and for worse, the Wu Mao Dang is always there. During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and for the crises situation with the Tibet Riots, the mis-fire accident related to one of the local government officials’ embezzlement in Shanghai this month all have the “Wu Mao Dang”s contribution to the online discussion board/forums and blogs to write about only the positive aspects of the situation. The way the 50 Cent Party has made genuine debate online about China virtually impossible. They used the propaganda tactics, such as shifting focuses, using narratives to try to always win the debate. For example, they will say "You can't talk, you Americans had slavery" and trying to shift the focus of the debate away from the issue at hand and questioning anyone's right to even discuss China outside of China. What's worse, the wide presence of the Wu Mao Dang has made the Chinese netizens lose their faith on the internet discussion and becoming afraid of any potential government retaliation, and think any pro-government comment is paid for by the Communist Party, thus dismissing what could in fact be genuine comments that deserve a closer look.
Chinese internet users even made up an image to mock on the Wu Mao Dang:
The symbol of “Wu Mao Dang” : It’s a Chinese 50 cents bill with the “Grass-Mud Horses” which is a internet meme with the connotation of “Fuck you”
Friday, November 12, 2010
To my knowledge, China has been practicing this rule by manipulating its international news reporting. Firstly we can look at the propaganda infrastructure of China.
1. From the news agencies structure:
• the state-own China Radio International, which broadcast in 56 languages to the world via shortwave, internet and satellite.
• The state-own China Central Television,(CCTV) which “has a network of 19 channels broadcasting different programmes and is accessible to more than one billion viewers” and “is one of the official mouthpieces of the Chinese government, and reports directly to high-level officials in the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Central Propaganda Department.” “The organization has relationships with regional television stations run by local governments, which must reserve up to two channels for the national broadcaster. The network's principal directors and other officers are appointed by the State.” CCTV also broadcast to overseas via CCTV-Spanish, CCTV-French, CCTV-Arabic, CCTV-English/News and CCTV-Russian.
• The Xinhua News Agency is “the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the biggest center for collecting information and press conferences in the PRC. It is the largest news agency in the PRC, ahead of the China News Service. Xinhua is subordinate to the PRC State Council and reports to the Communist Party of China's Publicity and Public Information Departments.” The agency has the largest overseas branches among all the Chinese news organizations. It has more than one hundred affiliates and bureaus across the five continents and there are 4 regional headquarters in Cairo, Hong Kong and Macau, Paris, and New York City. It recently has launched its 24/7 English news channel featured in Time Square, NYC, broadcasted via satellite.
2. From the bureaus –how it function?
• The "State Administration of Radio Film and Television" censors broadcasting programs and movies,
• while "General Administration of Press and Public" ought to censor all the print works.
• The most famous will be the "The Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China" The department oversees the censorship bureaus, giving commands and general disciplines to them. Also, the China's official state media outlets, Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, China Central Television, People's Daily, China People's Radio have to follow the propaganda directions and censorship rules passing down from this department.”
3. From the media contents and media strategy:
• Mandatory subscription: Most of the news broadcasted in Chinese municipal TV station are mandatorily subscribed from the China Central Television. Most of the print news appeared on the domestic websites, news papers and magazines are cited or purchased from Xinhua News Agency. All the municipal radio stations are required to broadcast the China People’s Radio programs for at least two hours per day.
• The paradigm consistency: the news contents are mainly positive information about domestic issues, and positive images about the officials and political leaders. CCTV and Xinhua’s reportage follow certain template that has been dominated the news production and news writing for decades. People in China often mock on these templates saying that even the illiterate will know how to write a Xinhua paradigm or CCTV paradigm news as long as he/she is exposed to the news content long enough.
• Content consistency: Scrutiny all the content publicized in China, you will find out that the framing and tone in the news stories are ridiculously similar.
• Censorship: Not only the traditional publications in China are subject to censorship, Chinese government has also kicked out Google, Youtube, My Space and Facebook and many other foreign online media in fear of them spreading “unhealthy” information.
4. Public Diplomacy via hosting “Beijing Olympic Games” and the “Shanghai World Expo”
But, the Middle Eastern dynamic does demand a different kind of international news than the US reality. A lot of our focus is on domestic political division, and that is what much of our news revolves around-spinning both international and domestic events around a political framework that is relatable and personal to both sides of the political spectrum. The Middle East has a much more diverse and fragmented set of political entities to dance around-which makes its efforts even more impressive. But, it also makes me wonder how the same, very admirable, guidelines that Al Jazeera operates along, could ever be applied into our international news media. Maybe Western news media doesn't feel the same kind of challenge to produce credible and balanced news because it operates under the safety of the American umbrella and therefore the need to balance a variety of viewpoints is not as urgent.
Hopefully, the same demand for credibility finds its way into US news outlets that tackle international news. The fact that viewers gravitate toward what they find relatable, and that news is almost always reported through various cultural and political filters-is one that doesn't eliminate the possibility for good journalism. Done reasonably, the result will attract reasonable people who will interpret news with a reasonable perspective. To have two competing viewpoints presented on one mainstream network has the potential to set a new standard for what is a productive discussion, and ultimately gives the viewer agency to participate in the discussion, rather than passively absorbing it.
Hafez argues that media follows rather than leads. In many cases, this is true. Media, particularly the news industry, tailor their content to the interests of their immediate consumers. Because media is a profit-driven industry, it makes sense for organizations to make this effort. Media need content to make up their programs for distribution, and will take both what they find and what is provided for them. It’s when they fail to do the former that the audience can be misled, as was the case with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Policy-makers drove this agenda, playing on personal ties to patriotism and fear, and the media followed along—and, just a few years later, several news outlets apologized for their scant reporting, knowing that it contributed to the public’s opinion of the war.
Several of our readings this week argued that there needs to be certain conditions, a perfect storm of sorts, for media to drive foreign policy. For instance, there must be a vacuum among policymakers, a disagreement about what the right decision is, for the media to step into. And the media need a conscious, wide-scale effort in one direction for the public to pick up and take on virally. Given the multitude of communication technologies available, it’s not hard for a story to go viral anymore.
But do the media drive policy? It would be naïve to say that the media hold no sway over public opinion, or policy-making agendas. I would argue that media is the most powerful industry that one doesn’t need a license to practice. In fact, it is the notable exception. Doctors and lawyers must go through an arduous education and swear oaths in order to be seen as authorities. Politicians need to be voted into office in order to make anything happen.
Journalists today just need a computer and a coffee shop with decent Wi-Fi to reach an audience of millions. Of course, they must gain the trust of their followers, but because someone identifies themselves as a “journalist,” the public has an almost implicit trust that they’re out for the public good. (I’m not suggesting that journalists and media professionals require licenses to report the news or distribute their content—on the contrary; the fact that the media is open to everyone is one of its greatest attributes. And there are legal processes to hold media accountable—it’s called libel. And the self-regulation by members within the media is also notable.)
Given the reach of media, in both technology and the people who can use it, media play an important role in not only reporting policy but sometimes dictating it. As we discussed in class, media fit more into a system of ecology rather than absolutes, always balancing between two extremes and ending at equilibrium.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
News reporting is a craft that requires deep understanding in order to be sensible and relevant to the target audience. With satellites and international news networks, news reporting has been conducted through various sources and been addressed through different lenses. One may argues that international news reporting sometimes addresses news from a prospective that belongs to the origin of the news resource, which does not necessary tackle the news objectively. For example, prior to the US attack in Iraq in 2003, the majority of Arab news sources were excluding the potential war on Iraq; whereas international news sources were expecting and encouraging it to happen. As an Arab viewer I felt that the American/Western media was promoting war as if it portrays war in Hollywood. Although Saddam was not a popular dictator, and was known with all his faults, the US occupation in Iraq was never justified. Not forgetting the recent US attack in Afghanistan as a response to 9/11. In addition to the fact that Bin Ladin has not been found, all make me feel how dramatic is politics in media and news reporting.
To an individual watching local news being addressed by international reporters, one can feel that these reporters echo what complement their home communities, and not actually presenting the reality as a local sees it. I remember when we were following the Israeli attacks on HizboAllah, we were extensively watching Almanar that reported the HizboAllah’s side of the battle news. Some people thought that Almanar was exaggerating with the performance of commanders of HizboAllah. Knowing the military competence of Israel backed by western support, to many it seemed like a failing equation. On the other hand, other news sources including international ones were reporting the Israeli’s news feeds that claimed that Israel won the war and defeated HizboAllah. Eventually, Almanar gained tremendous credibility among viewers and became the source of news that reflected the reality of the war .The continuous Israeli fake claims proved that Almanar was the source of battle news during the 2006 war. Ironically, watching both news sources at the same time reporting the same war seemed like they were reporting two different wars. And to many of news watchers, the 2006 war was based on media manipulation. And at the end, everything was revealed and audiences were able to identify the outlet that was reporting the truth.
Aljazeerah is one of the strongest news outlets in Middle East, yet it is very controversial. It is true that it is seen as an independent entity, yet it is still a Qatari corporation that favors the government. I remember in early 2000 when the Qatari government was naturalizing the relations with Israel, Aljazeerah played role in soothing the boiling situation in the region. And because the Qatari-Saudi relationship was not very stable at that time, Aljazeera was accused to address topics that offended the Saudi Government. In fact, Aljazeerah is a pioneer in addressing hot political and social topics in an open context. Then with the openness of Satellite and networks privatization in the region, many TV outlets were established to only address hot topics such as, Almustakilah, that is owned by Dr. Mohammed Alhashimy. It is not a commercial channel. It only hosts and broadcasts live debates and discussions of guests who argue over controversial political, religious and social issues in the Middle East. It is sometimes accused to be bias to the Dr. Alhashimy’s opinion. He usually moderates the held discussions. And I personally believe if such topics are discussed in international outlets they would have not been as deep and rich as they are when discussed among the concerned people and delivered to the involved audience. Yes it I true that International news reporting increase the international public sphere, but still some issues are just rooted in some communities that are difficult to be comprehensively tackled by others.
Friday, November 5, 2010
The advancement of information communication technologies has helped empowering individuals. Ordinary people have been able to become media producers with their personal capabilities. In addition, individuals who advocate for a certain cause or a social change can work on becoming leaders to mobilize more people not just within their communities but on the broader arena. In the past, social movements and public demonstrations took a lot of effort and time to be organized and to actually take place. For example, a public awareness campaign for breast cancer took place in Jeddah to form the largest female human pink ribbon in the support for breast cancer diagnosis and cure. The communication of the campaign took place on Facebook, Twitter and online forums. It succeeded to mobilize over 4000 females to form the ribbon and to break Guinness world record.
On the other hand, if we look back at the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran in 1970s, we find that it started as a political campaign where multi-stake holders had one goal of overthrowing the Shah and his western alliance. However, it has developed to become social movement that aims to educate and empower the middle class. This movement enabled the reach of wider public segment of working class that is the majority in the Iranian society. The social movement worked over two decades to actually be productive, and succeed on the political level. In fact, the Islamic revolution not only that it changed the political system in Iran but it also triggered the Islamic revival in other Islamic countries especially in Middle East. For example, the Saudi government revitalized the Salafi Islamic current to be a counterpart to the Shii current in Iran. On the other hand, Muslims brothers in Egypt empowered the Shafie school of thought. This Islamic awakening that resulted from the Iranian revolution lead Muslims to return to Islamic lessons and realize the religious gap that was caused by colonization by Western countries. In fact, the number of Muslim females who wear Hejab in Arab countries has increased tremendously during the 80s and 90s of the past century. I wonder if the Iranian revolution existed when advanced communication technologies were available how different it would have had result.
Another example that I find very interesting is how some Islamic preachers become very popular in different Islamic countries. For example, Amro Khalid, an Egyptian preacher, has followers from all over the world. He started in small sessions at schools and universities in Egypt then he became a Television figure broadcast in Middle Eastern outlets. He has become very influential not just to Arabs but also to foreigners, his lectures are translated into different languages. And he communicates through various channels that enable him to reach his youth target audience. He uses new technologies such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Yahoogroups that enable him to have two-way communication with his audience. He is really active and responsive, I follow him on twitter and I personally like his posts. Amro Khalid as a public figure is considered a phenomenon that led to raise more Islamic preachers who follow his path. I believe with his abundance fans around the world, Amro Khalid is able to successfully mobilize his international audience to advocate for an Islamic cause.
One issue I felt wasn’t addressed entirely in our readings this week was the fact that although the “new media” technology gives the audience tremendous power, those who are using it to organize are subject to the limits of the technological distributor. For example, Twitter is a great social mobilizing force, so long as it remains neutral. And in the interest of keeping their business growing, one would imagine they wouldn’t pick sides on any issue—unless one was more profitable. Hanson examines the ways in which communication and communication technologies enable or restrain actors within the global network, but it seems pretty obvious that those companies wielding the power of access are the ones who enable or restrain actors, overall.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
"After spending three decades doing everything in [its] power to weaken, inhibit and delay environmental legislation," Garfield said, "for General Motors to take out ads congratulating the eco-movement is like John Wayne Gacy celebrating the International Year of the Child."
It's a funny quote, and dissects perfectly the hypocrisy around many of the marketing campaigns to try and define their image as one that is concerned with the same contemporary issues as their socially-conscious consumer. It seems like more and more companies are acting preemptively rather than reactively to try and anticipate potential issues surrounding their products. This helps define their image and provides a foundation for damage control were issues ever to come to light. Bennett gives a few examples-of the Starbucks effort, and the reaction of Coke to the polar bear issue. Companies now make an effort to showcase their best practices to insulate themselves from criticism and ally with a variety of causes. Does Coca Cola still use polar bears in their ads? Nissan does. But, in their ads the polar bear is hugging the driver of the hybrid vehicle, somehow associating Nissan with the preservation of polar bears, which seems a stretch to me. The quote above still can be applied to GM-thinking of the new Chevy Aveo ads..
Bennett also makes the point that due to the ability for campaigns to go viral, ones that both smear and promote the practices of corporations, companies need to be even more invested in the way they portray themselves. The OCA Global Week of Action Against Starbucks, or the online campaigns against BP are examples of how quickly bad press spreads across personal networks. The Nike meme example also shows how easily associations can be made between brands and social issues-imagine the lost capital resulting from such campaigns, and the equally large amount of capital being invested by companies to try and anticipate and preempt the damage that could be done over via internet meme. Overall, demanding more accountability from corporations must be seen as a positive result of the interaction between the online public and its social agenda.