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Why soft power is important

For Pangaea it was incremental subsurface tectonics that broke it apart .. it would take some 200 Million years for us to notice the cyclical pattern; political science has established a system in which the ‘ground level’ unseen forces of nations pull together towards unity. This it the essence of soft powers, to promote unity, and allow culture and with the financial and social need for stability on a broader scale due to increasing connectivity, this micro-political level of doing things is much less intrusive and alongside hard power can reinforce or change ideals as entrenches as culture and tradition.


Professor Nye (who coined the term) identified a country’s soft power as originating from not only its culture and its political values, but also its foreign policy. A country may derive soft power by impressing publics overseas through its foreign policy when it is seen to be legitimate and to possess moral authority.


Soft power then, tied in to a nation’s public image, and not something that is easy to develop. According to Monocle; Europe tends to consistently use soft power the most efficiently and although America is 3rd on their 2013 report it suffers from the reaction to much of its hard power policies being viewed negatively in some parts of the world – most notably wars such as Vietnam and the ‘War on Terror’.


The duality between soft and hard power is a tentative balance that needs to interrelate for objectives and can no longer be one or lop-sided, like in the days of old with the British Empire ideologically force-feeding the world with its hard power. The distinction between different types of them is one of degree, both in the nature of the behaviour and in the tangibility of the resources. Command power—the ability to change what others do—can rest on coercion or inducement. Co-optive power—the ability to shape what others want—can rest on the attractiveness of one’s culture and values or the ability to manipulate the agenda of political choices in a manner that makes others fail to express some preferences because they seem to be too unrealistic.

Soft power on the other hand extends through various different vehicles, from sportspeople to celebrities, simply by affiliation lending their credibility and popularity to causes that a nation is involved in. For example Vitali Klitschko using his influence to try and coerce peaceful revolution in the Ukraine.

Soft power targets are often shared within the powerful nations and therefore spread outwards; this progressive way of tackling global and national problems can give hope to one day eliminate the use of force.


Is It Essential To Be A Celebrity In Politics Today

Tom Cruise, Nigella Lawson and David Cameron…


One could be forgiven for wrongly trying to spot an odd one out, however as our relationship with media changing the way we view politicians; their social standing has now completely overlapped that of the celebrity.

Some would argue that politics is moving into an era in which personalities and media perception of candidates is as important as the actual policies for which they stand. On one hand, already established faces such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, during his run for Californian governor had an obvious edge over competitors such as Darrell Issa for example, who seemed a more qualified candidate, yet dropped out when Schwarzenegger’s name was added to the race. And on the other end of popularity, labour leader Ed Miliband springs to mind, as he doesn’t seem a viable candidate for a party trying to compete against other charismatic candidates.





The need for a politician to conform to new social constructs of being accessible seems to be global as Indian’s wanting to break out of the cycle of poverty, and reinvent are taking the charismatic Modi, who used a ‘selfie’ to help promote voting in the largest democratic event in the world.


Mr. Obama has a lot of Hollywood behind him this election year. Actor George Clooney flexed his star power in May with a Los Angeles-based Obama fundraiser that included such guests as Tobey Maguire and Barbra Streisand. The event netted an estimated $15 million. Mr. Obama calls Clooney “a good friend”.




The level of importance appropriated to transparency is massive and it seems that privacy is a privilege that those that wish to work in the public sector give up. Under more scrutiny, every infraction becomes newsworthy as the press becomes increasingly instrumental in shaping public image, Jacqui Smith Andrew Mitchell being recent examples of ‘press crucifixion’.


The issue of participation, especially from the youth is something that has been a niggling problem of liberal democracy, the relatively laissez fair attitude of our political system has over time dissolved into complete apathy for many young people. Although lack of direct representations and a clash of interests is cited as the main reason for this, generally celebrities are more easily relatable and well liked and their involvement in political matters can be seen as helping bridge this gulf.



Music as a tool for diplomacy: from Jazz to Hip-Hop

From the mid 1950’s to the mid 1960’s the United States Government promoted Jazz tours by famous musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Benny Godman in order to fight communist ideas, at the same time the try to avoid social conflict relating both international conflicts, including the Cuban missile crisis or the war of Vietnam, and domestic issues like racism and class inequalities.[1]

Music Diplomacy 1

The success of the so-called, Jazz Diplomacy, was key when deciding to use a similar method for the war against terror, and Hip Hop Diplomacy was then born. The Hip-Hop Diplomacy was put into place in 2005, soon after the riots in France, the US government was concerned that Europe was unable to integrate minorities and that may pose a security risk. To respond to that new risk the State Department sent rappers, dancers and DJs not only to Europe but also to some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.[2]

The first of these cultural envoys was Toni Blackman, who does not only promote a set of values, bringing people together being at the core, wherever she goes, more than twenty-eight countries now, but also globally through a personal blog in which she shares her experience on being a ‘Lyrical Ambassador’.[3]

(Video: TED talk by Toni Blackman)


On what a Hip-Hop or Lyrical Ambassador does, it includes lectures, workshops and performances, often in collaboration with local artists, to promote the what the sending country has to offer, in this case, the US promotes freedom and the importance of creating cultural bridges. [4]

(Video Toni Blackman in DRC)


The origins of the hip-hop diplomacy are in hip-hop itself. During the decade of the 1990’s some artist used their lyrics to promote Muslim extremism, resulting in many young people in the West converting and moving to Middle East Countries. The fact that the Sate Department decided to control hip-hop with hip-hop is, at least ironic, however it has proven quite effective; in the words of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Hip Hop is America.

Hip-hop has traditionally been linked with social or political protest, the latest example was the Arab Spring, named by the French media “le printemps des rapeurs” – the Spring of the rappers – and it is true that it played a fundamental role in both Tunisia and Syria. The counter argument provided by Al-Jazeera uses countries such as Morocco or Algeria as examples of nations where hip-hop is extremely popular and yet there have no been revolutions.

Some academics argue that rap has spread by itself, and US efforts are more oriented towards control than towards promotion, in any case statistics show how US approval rates grow in areas targeted by hip-hop diplomacy.

In Europe the responses have varied, some forms of hip-hop are highly criticised by government officials and academics that consider them to promote violent and conflict. Some administrations, mainly in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands, have decided to ‘combat fire with fire’ and are now funding national rappers who promote a moderate view of Islam. [5]

Music Diplomacy 2

To conclude, music diplomacy evolves with time in music style as well as in targets, nevertheless it does not lose its effectiveness. The question is what is so special about music that has such a positive effect, considering there are very few elements of diplomacy that work as good nowadays as they did in the 1950s. According to Farah Pandith, former special representative of the US government to Muslim communities, music is a lingua franca, in particular for young people; as opposed to other forms of art like literature or pictorial art that are intended for an older population, music is consumed massively by teenagers and young people around the world, explaining why Music Diplomacy keeps providing excellent results,











BuzzFeed, A New Platform For Government Public Diplomacy and Propaganda.


Social media is a platform for government public diplomacy, global communication, in turn propaganda.

In 2013, The Israeli embassy has broadened its strong public diplomacy efforts to include Twitter, Instagram and its American embassy (@IsraelinUSA) posted an article BuzzFeed, famous for viral and entertainment news. The Israeli embassy’s first Buzzfeed article focused on an intense subject, “Threats Facing Israel, Explained In One (Sort of Terrifying) Map,” which explained the alarming perils surrounding Israel. Which contrasts with Buzzfeed’s norm of light and entertainment based material found in the website’s community section, for example, “15 Ways That Cats Are Trying To Take Over Our Lives.”

The article and image tries to give an explanation of why Israel’s territory is under imminent threat by terrorist groups and neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. At face value, it suggests that the security threat is so intense that Israel’s Arab neighbors and Iran are the verge of sending nuclear bombs to Israel.

Image (BuzzFeed Screenshot of article)

The PR operatives who made the article anticipate negative critiques as the map hazes the line between actual risks and fictitious apocalyptic scenarios, uses of the phrase “sort of terrifying” and “Some may say the map is alarmist, but it is our geopolitical reality.”(BuzzFeed, The Atlantic)


 The threat map posted on BuzzFeed by the Embassy of Israel. 

 The Israeli embassy was inspired by BuzzFeed’s tremendous popularity and an intention to attain maximum exposure, similar to other users. “We want to be where the people are, Buzzfeed, as a website, offers a platform friendly to virality, and we wanted to see where it could take us. So, we opened a community page and created a post. If the public goes to a new platform, or a new website, we will explore opportunities to engage with them there.” (Noam Katz, the Embassy of Israel’s public diplomacy minister, in an emailed statement to the Atlantic.) The Israeli embassy saw BuzzFeed as the best chance and platform for maximum exposure of “Israel’s perspective” of the Syrian crisis, into the public sphere in August 2013.  “We hope people see our goal for the post: It’s because of these threats, Israel is ever more committed to maintaining our existing peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, and reaching an historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.” (Noam Katz) The BuzzFeed hosted and government issued propaganda attained more than 3,000 Facebook likes, over 400 Twitter shares and viewed over 23,000 times on BuzzFeed. The results would not have been as dramatic if the same post was just on the embassy’s own website.

Israel intends to continue to creating content on the platform, and suggested that it may attempt to be frivolous. “Looking at the virality and success of the current post, we’ll be back, who knows, maybe with lists, cats or something related to Miley.” (Noam Katz) The British embassy also started writing on BuzzFeed in August 2013, pushing cultural diplomacy in terms of British pop-culture, such as “11 Stats That Prove British Music Rules,” which seems “less at-odds with the objective reporting of BuzzFeed’s formidable foreign-news team, led by Miriam Elder, a former correspondent for The Guardian in Moscow.” (Ryan Jacobs)

The site has been questioned due to hosting of posts made by everyday users under the same banner of advocacy content, as users are joining the “community” section at a fast pace.  One week prior to Israel’s post on the site, BuzzFeed was criticised for “leading anti-abortion group, PersonhoodUSA, penned a listicle that claimed to itemize all the “offensive, appalling, and illegal things” Planned Parenthood has done.” (The Atlantic) User-generated items are not explicitly categorised as sponsored marketing content, which is a widespread online publishing practice. Any post within the community section has a small disclaimer underneath saying that “This post was written by a member of the BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations.” (Ryan Jacobs) Which is misleading as it gives the impression that posts are staff written rather than propaganda by government publicists. Some readers were puzzled, “Since when does Buzzfeed act as a propaganda outlet for Israel?” (Ryan Jacobs) Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed failed to directly respond to questions about whether government-created content was inappropriate front page of the site promotion, or whether posts should be categorised distinguishing between government and users posts in the future. However, he was confident in the readers’ capability to distinguish between government and the staff-created content. “Our community has been growing at a crazy rate for the last couple of months, and we are always working to make it both technically better and easier to use, to consume and to share, and we are really excited about the new, growing platform. But we also trust our readers and increasingly sophisticated consumers generally to understand the different kinds of content on the web.” (Ben Smith) Richard W. Murphy argues the map by the Israeli government on BuzzFeed is an exaggeration, by standards of political PR, of threats from neighbouring Middle Eastern countries and Iran. “Government publicists often make comments about the threats in their neighbourhood, though I don’t recall so sweeping and cartoonish a presentation in official versions of the dangers as depicted in the map. . . but I think most readers will view the map/article as reflecting reality and not worry whether the author is a journalist or a government publicist.”(Richard W. Murphy) Meanwhile there aren’t any checks in place to stop the British Embassy from posting “a list of 12 good reasons why government secrecy is important.”(Ryan Jacobs)



1. Isreali Embassy, Threats Facing Israel, Explained in (Sort of Terrifying) Map. 28/08/2013

1:Jacobs, Ryan, Israel and Buzzfeed, When government goes viral. 10/09/2013


The 4TH Estate In Practice


I believe it was John Dalberg-Acton that coined the almost cliché phrase outlining the risks of concentrating power, but alas some 100 years later, and the same institutions (which he was a part of) are more monopolistic than ever. So then, as thinking, pragmatic, socially aware individuals; our ideal world would have an entrenched, and efficiently regulated 4th estate. Separate from the other three powers.


The fourth estate manifests itself today as print media, news broadcasting and more and more increasingly; online journalism. The BBC for example, an older outlet comes under criticism from a variety of angles, as although impartiality is an idealistic cornerstone, this has come into question several times. The subsidies from the government (the BBC is part funded by government taxation) therefore it’s not in its own interest to be overtly critical of a specific government; its stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict being major points arguably detracting from its independent and fair image. The relevance of print media once the hub of journalism has also declined in recent times due to a global economic downturn and an emergence of things such as rolling news networks and mobile media.  A guardian article stating; the Times had lost $74m on the quarter and 40% of its advertising revenue to Craigslist. The BBC isn’t alone in its spotty reputation within the public, (News of the World, CNN etc) the lofty ideals of an intrinsically benevolent democracy advocate when all businesses are in their core, money interested.


‘Citizens need to be assured that their media provide them with a non-partisan, comprehensive and partisan, comprehensive and balanced view over which they are expected to form views and pass judgement’.




Online sources and whistleblowers have become the new Holy Grail for information and state assessment. Although they are hardly ever strictly impartial, their lack of ties to the executive allow them the freedom to completely critique policies, but at the same time seclude them for much of the relevant technical information to give a balanced review.


Twitter seems to have the dual function of being a social media network and the fastest acting news source, leading the market as it allows users to dictate their own news, and its basic self-verifying method; stories become more popular the more they’re spoken about consistently. Online, the fourth estate seems to be going through a transitional period but is still at its most apparent. China, a nation whose culture is relatively mysterious and has a ‘Firewall’ preventing cross communication seems transparent when images of natural disasters are spilling onto western timelines before their own news networks report it. The age of citizen journalists seems to be upon us

Media Youth And Danger

Media, Youth and Danger



Minus the outliers among us..

from the airheaded – sunny side up – every glass is always full; to the conspiracy theorists that no longer ‘like’ Facebook posts without armour clad IP address protection and blame the ruling lizard classes for the presence of fluoride in our water. If you, like I – find yourself resting comfortably between those poles then media, and more specifically – the internet is like everything else in a postmodern world; ambiguous in nature.


Over the last 20 years as a proliferation of media in our day to day life has become unavoidable, the way in which we engage with outlets has also had a transformation, diversifying from once set roles of being informative and entertaining to a more interactive, social, cross format and multi-functional. Young people are becoming more technologically fluent, universally it seems, educational organisations have introducing it into curriculum earlier and more extensively, thus allowing increasingly lower ages access to the widely unregulated networks.



The premature introduction and overuse of technology is damaging young children whose brains are not yet fully formed, according to Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist and author.


As a result, the “nappy curriculum” – the statutory rules introduced in 2008 which dictate that toddlers should be introduced to computers as early as 22 months of age – is “subverting the development of children’s cognitive skills”. – Julie Henry writing in her 2010 article for the Telegraph. Her sentiments however, are echoed albeit with more muted voices, by many in the teaching profession along with concerned parents.



It’s this division of attention that makes us universally vulnerable to a myriad of different agendas online. Crimes such as fraud, child abuse, identity theft and drug trafficking and even bullying have even become prevalent, and arguably more dangerous online.


The use of propaganda has been a long standing institution within media, even historically – Joseph Goeballs being the ideological father of many-a-coercive fox news report or anti-immigration Sun Headline. The sadist in me feels Murdoch has a penchant for irony. Propaganda, for example in the most subversive manner, played out in early march 2012. With the ongoing events of the Arab spring reshaping how many in the Middle East see media’s power to shape social change, the west has remained largely unchanged. The ‘Stop Kony’ campaign in which a company ‘Invisible Children exposed social media for what it potentially can be, an agent of western political action.



With its slick Hollywood production values, the film has been an almost instant viral success, dominating Twitter worldwide and having one of the fastest ever take-offs on You Tube. The hashtag #stopkony has had hundreds of thousands of tweets, and millions of people now know something about Uganda and what is happening to children there. Support for the campaign to end the conflict in the country this year is spreading. The campaign was unique in its shameless self advertising and direct social media focus. The 30 min YouTube video branded itself as a reaction to the modern lack of belonging.


Many feel uncomfortable leaving home without a mobile, as these now do the task of a internet access, memo pad, pager, email assistant, gprs and diary in one. So what does this mean for the future, and is there any way to protect our most precious asset, from what it becoming our second most precious.






Multiculturalism In 2013

Multiculturalism In 2013

A multicultural society is a logical and beneficial form of state when looking at the ideal pluralist western model. It boasts benefits in diversity, culture and language. As the planet moves towards a more globalized and interactive society, advances in travel, media and technology have made populations less monoethnic and less state-centric.


The issue of immigration is a tentative one, as in recent years, the UK has allowed a before unprecedented amount of European citizens in, due to very relaxed policies. This and the commitment it has, as part of the European Union, to grant access to hundreds of thousands of workers from other EU states, have changed the makeup of the nation. There were 108.2 million journeys to the UK, in 2012 a 2% increase.

Some would argue that the recent upsurge in popularity of parties like the BNP and UKIP are a counter-reaction of this. Attacks on multiculturalism also come from highlighting the differences of specific groups in our society and attributing them with negative connotations. Most notably the attitudes towards Islam are an ever-fluid feature of our society. Notably more negative post-9/11 and 7/7. After which attacks on mosques and hate crimes against Muslims rose astronomically. I would argue that there should be better cross-religious education, from a young age to help the younger generation avert the current culture of fear towards Islam, perpetuated to a large degree by tabloid media. ‘As Judge orders woman to uncover her face, the Sun demands vital reforms’ – (The Sun Sept 2013). Multiculturalism then, in my opinion is more about tolerance and common culture, and mutual understanding than simple figures.

Another attack on multiculturalism would be the lack of social mobility for minorities. Statistically, although they make up a significant part of the population, many stay at the bottom of the socio-economic table. Is multiculturalism only for the working class? Representation, is also an issue many struggle with looking at the House of Commons as a sort of sample of this, we can see that it isn’t a mirror of the diverse society we have. Overly Oxbridge, Etonian, and generally white, upper middle class is the demography of our representatives. The upper echelon of society still very much shows the historic and conservative roots of the UK. This in itself brings about social unrest in the working classes, and supports cynical, Marxist views of the bourgeoisie being the base to which other aspect in society are supported, as multiculturalism widely doesn’t seem to affect them.