Monday, January 31, 2011

If dear Mr. Twain were in Cairo today...

Sometimes after too many hours of skimming various news media, and looking at unfolding events from too many conflicting perspectives, one needs to simply take a step back and view things from about one hundred years away, and from the height of a genius. If you are finding yourself torn about the current public uprising in Egypt, allow me to humbly offer you a few words of Mark Twain, quoted in defense of Russian revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky in 1906 in the New York Tribune:

I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolute.

Now this was said before the age of modern social media networking, mind you, so everything is different now.*


*Isn't it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Public Diplomacy

This blog is dedicated to the sole purpose of fulfilling a requirement for my course in Public Diplomacy*, at American University in Washington, D.C. I will do my very best to somehow incorporate discussion of railroads, travel, and delicious epicurean delights into this blog as well, but for more in depth exploration of those topics, please refer to Provincial Supertramp.

As I draw all of my opinions on humanity from that great genius, Mark Twain, I will be quoting and referring to him often.

For instance, Twain once referred to"....the principle of give and take--give one and take ten--the principle of diplomacy."

This, in his concise, sarcastic, and infinitely insightful way, illustrates an important aspect of diplomacy, propaganda, and public relations in general. I think that we can agree that all of these pursuits have the inherent goal of one group exerting a certain amount of effort in hopes of gaining a disproportionate or more valuable response from another.

Something to keep in mind as we chat about international relations and the ways that different bodies attempt to sway public opinions and win hearts and minds...


*My current working definition of public diplomacy is communication between a government and a group of people, operating on the assumption that public opinion matters. Twain himself is a bit conflicted about the status of public opinion and has been quoted saying at one time,
"That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse."

And, more famously,
"The public is the only critic whose judgment is worth anything at all."