Posted by: evanmcarlson | September 11, 2012

Welcome and an initial case study

Welcome to The Lasting Impact. We, a group of graduate students at the American University in Washington, DC will use this forum over the coming weeks and months to delve into the increasingly important world of public diplomacy in the study and practice of international relations.

Today, in a world where global inter-connectivity is breaking down the old paradigms in diplomacy where the elites of nations (political, economic and academic leaders) were the target audience for public diplomacy and allowing millions of new people to voice their concerns and influence international policy, the image that nations project to the world and how they interact with this new audience is more vital to successful foreign policy than ever before.

An interesting and entertaining case to begin with is the Galactic Empire of Star Wars. There are few regimes in history that have faced the same diplomatic challenges as they have. They rule the galaxy with an iron fist led by a dictator with an armor-clad militant right-hand-man, and are responsible for mass genocide and the destruction of an entire planet. Yet, they too engage what is a surprisingly successful program of public diplomacy. As they exist in a galaxy far, far away, bridging Murrow’s “last three feet” is an impossibility, so instead they have made new media a priority.


In terms of state sponsored, diplomatic twitter feeds, only the US State Department has more followers, yet in terms of klout score (a measurement of the impact and influence of an individual on social media) @deathstarpr scores a 78, while @StateDept scores only marginally better with 80. Given the aforementioned history of the Galactic Empire, this has to be considered an incredible diplomatic success.

So how have they been able to achieve this? Well, firstly they have followed what many practitioners of public diplomacy consider to be the golden rule: they tell the truth. At least, from a certain point of view. Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view, and so while they acknowledge their “misdeeds,” they work hard to provide their own context and perspective.

For example, one recent tweet read: “Pretty terrible that Luke, Leia and Han spent three films trying to kill a widower quadriplegic asthma-suffering war veteran.”

Or another: “U.S. debt hit $16 Trillion but there’s a solution: BUILD A DEATH STAR. Create jobs + point it at people and make them give you money!”

At a time when veterans are among the most respected members of the American community and the US debt and economy is a major area of political debate, these two tweets clearly show carefully considered and crafted attempts to influence the US audience.

Beyond that, the Empire seems to achieve what most governments can’t: they’ve managed to grasp the elusive “cool” factor. Most states are hamstrung in their ability to reach younger audiences by a deep concern for the content of their message. While this appears to be changing (albeit slowly), there remains significant red tape in terms of approval processes and they cannot achieve the casual tone that allows @deathstarpr to connect so well with the coveted 18-39 demographic.

This is illustrated here in the tweet, “Come to the Dark Side for the red lightsabers and power to shoot lightning from your hands, stay for the delicious cookies.”

With the focus of public diplomacy increasingly shifting to this younger audience, the Galactic Empire seems to have gotten the jump on the United States in terms of social media and they could yet prove to be a powerful force in international affairs in the 21st Century.

Posted by: davidrcollier | August 7, 2009

Class is Over – Grades Submitted

Your final grades have been submitted and you should be able to view them on the student link.

I just wanted to thank you all again for making this an enjoyable summer semester. I hope, in turn, you were able to get something out of the class and will now look at the relationship between the media and politics through a slightly different lens.

Feel free to keep in touch and to continue using this blog. There are so many interesting stories around right now, and lots more to come. For instance, the latest on the GE-NewsCorp ‘deal‘. For those of us who have it linked to our RSS reader, we can easily tell if there are new posts.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Posted by: kzahka | August 6, 2009

Choice of Imagery–Rolling Stone Edition

Despite the President’s approval rating slowly dropping, this image is to be portrayed on the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone magazine:

The artist behind the image is Shepard Fairey, the same creator of the “Hope” image.

As it turns out, someone HAS produced a fake Kenyan Birth Certificate for President Obama. See it here.

Posted by: edgarvasiliu | August 6, 2009

Captured journalists return home safely

The journalists are freed from North Korea after former President Bill Clinton visits Pyongyang to negotiate with the Kim Jong Il.

I am assuming the negotiation was probably more intense than this picture shows

Posted by: christinelsmith | August 6, 2009

“What Consumers Tell Us About Paying for News Online”

An interesting article on the reasons why people would pay for news and the reasons why people would not pay for news. This article was really relevant to what we’ve been discussing in class and I found all of the points to be convincing and true for both sides. The results of the study are included in the article. If you’re interested take a look:

Posted by: edgarvasiliu | August 6, 2009

Criticism for not criticizing

Newsweek criticizes Obama for not standing up to African despots during his Africa trip.  Obviously, Obama has his own strategy such as intentionally visiting Ghana which is an example of good governance and democracy in Africa nonetheless this is an example of the media being a watchdog on the Obama Administration.

Posted by: christinelsmith | August 6, 2009

Charging for Content

“Quality journalism is not cheap”

Rupert Murdoch announced that all of his news websites, including the New York Post and the Times of London, will charge for content by the summer of 2010.

Posted by: edgarvasiliu | August 6, 2009

Optimism in a time of Pessimism

I am not sure but could this article be an example of Social Order according to Herbert Gans:

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama

Despite a 10+% unemployment rate there is optimism because ThyssenKrupp is building a large steel plant that will bring 2,700 jobs to the region next year. Boeing, also expanding in the area.

In addition Forbes cites Mobile (and Huntsville) in its list of the ten cities best placed for recovery. There’s hope and progress in the face of economic woes.

Posted by: edgarvasiliu | August 6, 2009

California To Legalize/Tax Marijuana?

This might be a easier way to get a few more tax dollars. But currently, unrealistic in the US.

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