Posts Tagged ‘Facebook Diplomacy’

Facebook Diplomacy (cont.)

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

When I wrote about this idea a few weeks ago, I realized the term had been used before – by Evgeny Morozov in a Newsweek article. But interestingly, in his article, he never actually mentioned Facebook – focusing mainly on blogs – and the power of the internet in general to organize. What Morozov is writing about is not so much diplomacy – as propaganda – and so his thesis ends up being that the internet enables dictators to spread propaganda more effectively:

That so many governments manipulate the Internet to their advantage—all the while still practicing old-fashioned tactics like throwing bloggers in jail—suggests that those who hoped to use cyberspace to promote democracy and American ideals on the cheap may be in for a tough fight. If anything, the Internet may make their jobs harder.

Bruce Etling at Harvard’s Internet and Democracy blog echoes Morozov’s conclusion – with a slight twist:

This mobilization of ordinary citizens to push government propaganda may be the most successful tactic for governments on the Internet, instead of public relations campaigns like the Bush administration’s failed efforts to ‘rebrand’ the US in the Middle East, or the Kremin hiring of a web-savvy PR firm to promote its agenda.

These two pieces were seemingly written as a counterpoint to the earlier remarks by Undersecretary of State James Glassman about the power of Web 2.0 (including Facebook) to mobilize dissident groups.

What I propose is something a bit different than either Morozov’s or Glassman’s ideas – what I propose is something more akin to a revolution in foreign affairs – as many, many individuals interact with people in foreign countries – developing their own ideas, their own contacts – both being influenced and influencing. I think this is already happening – and will inevitably accelerate – but that the principles on which it happens can be affected – which is why I proposed certain guidelines, and to understand this as a duty of global citizenship.

Facebook Diplomacy

Monday, May 18th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Warning: This is going to sound a bit corny – but that should be considered part of it’s charm.

It is the responsibility of every citizen of the world to reach out to those others in the world who they do not understand. For example, it is their responsibility to reach out to people on the side of a conflict they do not understand. It is a responsibility to inform one’s self and to express one’s self in these situations.

This is especially true for Americans – as our government’s policies affect so much of the world – yet it often seems Americans know so little about what people around the world think.

It is the responsibility of everyone who thinks that the mainstream media is not conveying the truth about a situation to reach out themselves to try to figure out some portion of the truth they seek. 

This was always one’s responsibility – but in a previous age, it was difficult and time-consuming – often impossible. Today – this can be done so easily there is no excuse.

It is unlikely that any individual reaching out in this way will make a difference – but the collective impact would revolutionize politics and foreign policy. The cumulative effect would be to remove foreign policy from the elites – who travel the world and make such contacts as can be generally approximated now via the web. There is a definite place for such people – but it is never healthy when first-hand knowledge is so concentrated. Which is why we must enter an age of Facebook Diplomacy to create a better world. This type of outreach seems to be a logical outgrowth of the internet – and perhaps of the Obama campaign’s use of the internet to shape the political landscape.

I propose a few principles to guide this Facebook Diplomacy:

1. Be humble. Listen. Be curious. (It’s amazing how grateful people are to be heard.)

2. Always look to the other side – and try to understand without demonizing.

3. Honestly represent your views – being careful not to give the impression you agree when you do not.

4. Do not expect anyone to speak on behalf of their nation.

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