Archive for December 1st, 2011

12/01/2011

You shouldn’t be a public diplomat!

In contrast with traditional diplomacy, the overtures of public diplomacy are aimed at the citizens of a country rather than it’s government.   This is a short and narrow definition in of public diplomacy, but in actuality, public diplomacy is practiced in ways one normally wouldn’t expect.  That’s why our wide-ranging discussion about public diplomacy was so interesting this week – I think we collectively had a challenge in deciding who and who wasn’t a public diplomat.

In the presentation my group gave last week, we posited that international exchange programs like the Peace Corp and Fullbright constitute public diplomacy.   Some might disagree.  On the on hand, participants in these programs are in contact with foreigners and their presence abroad is funded by the U.S. Government.  On the other hand, these participants are not government officials, so does that disqualify them from being public diplomats?  I kind of felt like a public diplomat when I studied abroad in London many years ago – it was not too long after President Bush started the Iraq War so we were advised to be sensitive and avoid getting caught displaying any “Ugly American”-type behaviors.

In the Joseph Nye piece on public diplomacy, “the development of lasting relationships with key individuals,” is the third dimension of public diplomacy.  It is also the part of public diplomacy I am most familiar with given my current job.  I work at Meridian International Center (www.meridian.org) in  the Professional Exchanges Division, and the professional exchanges in question are funded by the State Department.  In fact, most of what Meridian does is underwritten by the State Department, including my paycheck, so  it’s important that the US doesn’t give up on public diplomacy any time soon.  Here’s a litte video:

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, hahaha!  I just wanted to share an examples of some of the organzations in DC currently engaged in public diplomacy.  I also wanted to share a little info on Meridian because it’s a slight twist on how we normally think about public.  Meridian is an example of how a public-private partnership.

12/01/2011

Jersey Shore, reflecting Public Diplomacy?

I could not believe my eyes (not ears) when Professor Hayden mentioned that Jersey Shore could be considered as a form of Public Diplomacy. Whether he was joking or not, I decided to investigate to see how much impact Jersey Shore has around the world.

According to Entertainment Weekly (http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/01/07/jersey-shore-ratings-record/), as of Jan 9, 2011, 8.4 million of viewers watch Jersey Shore. The ratings had increased by 63 percent from Season 2 to Season 4. This show started in December 2009, and it still continues today. Jersey Shore is a TV reality show with 8 roommates, all Italian to be specific, and the show consists a variety of dilemmas, problems, situations (not Mike the Situation, although he does cause some situations), and of course, the mother of it all- drama. Apparently, in my opinion, people like drama. People would choose to see Snooki punch a guy’s face rather than watching story about a lost dog that has finally been found. People would want to see Mike, the Situation, bash his head into a concrete wall in Italy, rather than reading a story about how a local bar in Frederick, Maryland made so much profit from college students that came home for Thanksgiving break within 4 hours.There it is, DRAMA, and Jersey has it.

Perhaps, if the show remained in the United States, I probably would not have considered Jersey Shore as a view of Public Diplomacy. But, because MTV expanded its’ network to Italy, Jersey Shore’s season 4 was filmed in Italy (which, in my opinion, was a horrible idea). After reading this article on the Wall Street Journal, Meichtry states”One of the town’s chic eateries has posted a “No Grazie, Jersey Shore” sign outside its door, instructing cast members to stay away. The cultural superintendent has barred the entire cast from being filmed in the city’s hallowed museums.” This shows me that people in Florence, Italy did not even want Jersey Shore to come in the first place. What does that reflect about America in a way? Of course, MTV is not going to stop just because some people do not want them to come. MTV, possibly having the American’s usual arrogant attitude, went ahead and did their filming of Jersey Shore regardless of how the locals felt. To me, that is offensive. And unfortunately, it does serve as a form of Public Diplomacy in a way. We send ambassadors overseas to represent us. Obviously, the cast of Jersey Shore was our ambassador for quite a while, and probably by now, the Italians probably think that Americans are filled with lunatics who love alcohol and sex and DRAMA. What’s more is that the people in Florence, Italy did not want Jersey Shore coming over to “re-define” the Italian way of life: “The clash of cultures is rooted in opposing views of what it means to be “Italian.” (2011). Yikes…

More information about Jersey Shore and Italy can be found through this link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576353810943734854.html

I recall my friends in London and Ireland posting their Facebook statuses: “Jersey Shore is coming to visit? Oh no!” Well of course, I could not agree more. I could sit back and laugh at them, but then I realize Jersey Shore is representing us. I might as well post up on my status saying “OH NO!” as well! I could go on with the negative perspectives on Jersey Shore and how they can reflect Public Diplomacy in so many wrong ways, but I am trying to find a few positive ways of how they are representing us… the problem is that I can’t. Can you?

Well, as the Italians in Italy might say, Gli americani sono pazzi 🙂 (Americans are crazy people).