Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Diplomatic Blogging

Last week it was announced that the State Department’s new Digital Outreach Team has entered the blogosphere to counter misperceptions about U.S. foreign policy in the Arab world, with plans to expand into Persian and Urdu blogs as well.

According to an article that appeared in Reuters today:

The Digital Outreach Team's job is to spring into action when they see bloggers on Arabic-language sites maligning the U.S. and casting aspersions on U.S. policies.

Duncan MacInnis, the man in charge of the team, described it as "an initiative to counter ideological support for terrorism."

Government bloggers "speak the language and idiom of the region, know the cultural reference points and are often able to converse informally and frankly rather than adopt the usually more formal persona of a U.S. government spokesman," he said.

"This is a major departure from our previous ways of conducting public diplomacy. It requires both creativity and a new set of skills."

A Washington Post article from earlier this week touched on the anonymity issue:

Even though the State Department employees were not going into hard-core terrorist sites, the worry, MacInnes said, was that after identifying themselves and using their own names, "we would be, in the parlance of the Internet, 'flamed' when we come on" -- meaning their entries would be subjected to intense attacks.

They were not, and there were such posts as, "We don't like your policies but we're sure glad you're here talking to us about it," MacInnes said. As a result, State is expanding the team to six speakers of Arabic, two of Persian and one of Urdu.
As well as moderating:
“Because blogging tends to be a very informal, chatty way of working," MacInnes said, "it is actually very dangerous to blog." So State has a senior experienced officer, who served in Iraq, acting as supervisor and discussing each posting before it goes up.
But it doesn’t talk about how the Digital Outreach Team ensures that others know who their true members are. Someone posing as Condoleezza Rice for a TV or newspaper interview would easily be found out- it may not be that easy on the blogosphere.

This counterterrrorism tactic further illustrates how powerful blogs have become and brings up issues of blogging ethics with potentially high stakes.


Oz10 M. said...

I am of a global, ethical mind, so I enjoyed reading your recent blog posting about reaching out to the Arab world. To be charitable to the US, even though some may disagree with US foreign policies, it is quite admirable that they have taken on this new venture.

Do we want an ethical world, or a political world?

-- Alienphilosophy

Mikael Savoie said...

i think seme very good points are made in these posts. Keep it up.

Gloves said...

I think its quite hilarious how the advisors think we can just bullshit out public reputation with various methods like blogs and such. Did they ever consider that they might just hate us because we exploit countries around the globe?

Anonymous said...

Alien -
We have a political world. Stop living a lie and get with the picture. Politics & money determine everything.

Trevor said...

I guess you could ask the question; What's Worse: Misinformation or Propaganda?

And to Oz10 M and Mr. Anonymous, it is what we make of it. The word "Political" doesn't have to be the antithesis of "Ethical". Politics is what has allowed the great strides humanity has made.

Oz10 M. said...

Thank you Anonymous for your clarification request:

I asked the reader whether you want an ethical world or a political world. I thought it needless to say; it is a given that countries are driven by politics and money, so your comment is stating the obvious, albeit with a little attitude.

I am not talking about changing from politics & money to strict ethical living practices for all.

I am asking you, in the context of a politically and economically driven world (given), would you rather be indifferent and apathetic from the sidelines, or will you be able to say, "I tried to make a person better"?

I know this might be an Alienphilosophy to some, that is why my name is such.

-- Alienphilosophy

Barry said...

I think it's great to the the United States reaching out in discussion with peoples of the Middle East. However, conversation is an interesting phenomena in which both sides to the discussion, if honestly involved, stand to be changed by the other.
It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of the engagement.

Anonymous said...

Diplomatic Blogging. It sounds so political !

JR said...

I think I would rather live in an ethical world. Although, some might think what the State Dept. is doing is a waste of time and money, I feel that if it helps, even a little bit, to stop some terrorist, it would be worth it.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

I sincerely believe that 'diplomatic' blogging can now be in the forefront of any diplomatic public relations by virtue of the blog's interactive feature (whereby 'comments' are allowed) allowing two-way communicaiton, providing room for a dialogue (albeit still subject to 'moderation' in most cases) instead of monologue normally associated with pure propaganda.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng
Sat. 24th Nov. 2007.

Trevor said...

To Alienphilosphy:

Again, I think you're equating Political with "Evil". Politics can be the vehicle for ethics.

Take the civil rights movement, the politics changed long before the end of racism (still waiting on that).

The fact is it's impossible to expect 300 million people to live togeather without politics forming to manage the diverse populous.

Oz10 M. said...

Good point Trevor! Politics is the vehicle for good as well.

I come from an educational/social background (in Canada) of seeing that 'vehicle' from a slightly critical point of view.

I like to think that my perspective is balanced, but I usually end up glaring at the hidden agenda behind a political campaign or action.

Avoiding my natural focus on the underhandedness of the United States' campaign to reach out to the Arab World, I settle on the idea that they are at least trying to seek common ground.