I know — the very idea of pairing the words “blogging” and “diplomacy” in the same sentence would, on far too many occasions, seem quite absurd, oxymoronic, even. Some bloggers simply wouldn’t know diplomacy if it crept up behind them and, choosing its words very carefully and measuring their far-reaching consequences beforehand, went “BOO!”
I was therefore especially sceptical when I read today on the US Department of State’s official blog that the US is engaging in “blogging diplomacy”. Apparently, the general idea seems to be that a number of multilingual trained monkeys otherwise known as the US Digital Outreach Team log on to blogs in unfriendly countries and push back against alleged misinformation regarding the United States.
A good thing, I (possibly) hear you say? Well, in some respects, I suppose it may be. I do firmly believe that the Internet is at the forefront of empowering people by providing access to facts that they might otherwise be denied. The problem, for me, lies in the fact that these people — the US Digital Outreach Team — identify themselves when posting on other people’s blogs as working for the United States Government, something I suppose they naturally have to do. But what self-respecting Iranian political blogger is really going to accept any assertions that they might make as having any kind of validity or authority? Making a point, correcting inaccurate information is all well and good, but this seems to me to have little, if anything, to do with “diplomacy”.
From where I’m sitting, it more closely resembles blogging propaganda. And if it looks like that to me, well, I’m sure those with a rather more radical outlook won’t be as easily swayed as James K. Glassman, Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, might hope.