Social? ?media? is the main platform for social and political ?grassroot ?movements today. If seen through the lense of accomplishments, this? ?statement? ?is? ?indeed? ?true?, especially in the realm ??of? ?politics? ?since? ?the ?rise of social media? ?in? ?the? ?mid-2000s.? ?In? ?fact,? multiple reports show how ?there? ?has? ?been? ?an? ?increase? ?in popular? ?uprisings? ?and? ?revolutions? ?by? ?activists? ?that? have ?used? ?social? ?media? ?as? ?a? ?platform? ?to share and gather? ?information.? ?Social? ?media ?has made? ?the? ?process? ?of? ?gathering? ?and? ?sharing information? ?cheaper,? ?faster,? ?and? ?very? ?accessible.? ?Thus,? increasing ?communication? of ?the entire? ?globe? ?in? ?a? ?couple? ?of? ?seconds? ?through? ?Facebook and ?Twitter – the two most used social media platforms worldwide.? In this paper, I argue that social media has indeed changed the conduct of public policy of the United States.
?In? ?fact,? today ?a platform such as Twitter,? ?with? ?more? ?than? ?240? ?million? ?monthly? ?active? ?users? ?worldwide,? ?has? ?fundamentally? ?changed the? ?making? ?process? ?of? ?foreign? ?policy.? ?All? ?that? ?is? ?needed? ?is? ?one click, which allows? ?people to ?share? ?unfiltered? ?information? to and from ?anywhere? ?in the world.? ?With? ?more? ?than? fifty ?head? ?of? ?states engaged? ?on? ?Twitter,? ?it? ?is? ?almost? ?impossible? ?to? ?be? ?a? ?world leader? ?without? ?followers? ?and? ?a? ?digital presence.
? To further illustrate, ?Hillary? ?Clinton? ?during? ?her? ?tenure? ?as? ?Secretary? ?of? ?State? ?stated:? ?”Just? ?as? ?the internet? ?has? ?changed? ?virtually? ?every? ?aspect? ?of? ?how? ?people? ?worldwide,? ?live,? ?learn,? ?consume? ?and communicate,? ?connection? ?technologies? ?are? ?changing? ?the? ?strategic? ?context? ?for? ?diplomacy? ?in? ?the 21st? ?century” (U.S Department of State, Modernizing Diplomacy). However, while social media makes the policy-making a real-time exercise it also can damage relationships between nation-states which can virtually lead to war. Although social media has allowed mass mobilization and instant sharing of information, it also has a negative aspect like helping dictators around the world historically.
Moreover, Anita Ghodes, a political scientist, noted that governments are capable of manipulating social media and that government surveillance has made the internet anonymity something of the past such as the NSA wiretapping program. Second, the extremely common use of social media has made the experience of participating in popular movements actively far less common. Activists and social media users can now pay attention and tweet about an issue but would rarely engage completely in the struggle, especially in day to day life. Furthermore, engaging in social media discussions gives users the impression that they are taking part in the fight and that they are taking action. But it is more important to highlight how social media makes it extremely easy to spread false information faster-for example, the supposed Russian involvement in the recent efforts to influence the U.S elections.
In this research paper, I will first focus on the impact social media has on the diplomatic process. Then, I will analyze the optimistic literature of the predicted consequences of social media on public policy to then compare with the reality of public policy and foreign policy in the United States. Moreover, I will specifically focus on comparing the Obama administration to the current Trump administration’s foreign policy decisions.. The Impact of the Media on the Process of Diplomacy Public diplomacy heavily relies on communication that is considered to be, and has been for decades, the main pillar of diplomacy. Historically, any advance in the communication process within public diplomacy has proven to be critical, which influences the public policy process. In Under the Wire, author Richard Nickels examined the impact of the Telegraph on diplomacy and highlighted that the faster the events were reported, the more power the public had; thus, pressuring politicians during political crises and impacting their decision-making.
Former French-Ambassador to the United States, Jules Cambon, also stated in 1905, that faster communications, the press, and the democratic indiscretion, had overthrown the “old diplomacy” and the same notion was repeated by the U.S diplomat Brzezinski in the 1990s when he stated that if foreign embassies did not exist that they “would surely not have to be invented.” Currently, new communication methods such as Twitter or / and Facebook, are considered by many to be the main drivers for revolutionary changes in all societies around the world because of the speed at which information is spread and travels the globe. Political scientist, Richard Grant (2005), talked about the “democratization of diplomacy” and discussed the increase that the implication of non-state actors has brought in the public policy domain by the Internet. Within Political Communication literature, there has been a growing realization that the media have an impact on the practice of diplomacy.
This has largely led to theoretical discussions including modelling and categorizations of the different ways in which the media can affect diplomatic activity, either supporting or preventing negotiation. Gilboa (2001), among the most elaborate analyses, distinguishes for instance three models of uses and effects’ about the way the media are used as a tool of foreign policy and international negotiation: public diplomacy, “where state and nonstate actors use the media to influence public opinion abroad”; media diplomacy, “where officials use the media to communicate with actors and promote conflict resolution”; media- broker diplomacy, “where journalists serve as temporary mediators in international negotiations. But the problem with this literature in its inability to explain contingent change: how technology affects diplomatic practices of specific countries in specific political, social, and media environments.
In fact, the literature that attempts to define the conditions of validity of a working hypothesis, for example establishing in which circumstances the CNN effect materializes (or doesn’t), end up in general statements about the relationship between governments, publics and media. Moreover, thetheoretical and empirical studies in this literature rarely address the impact that communication technologies has on the practice of the everyday diplomacy and politics. It is still extremely important to acknowledge that the media in public diplomacy has been extremely useful.
In fact, it appears that multiple, if not, many governments have engaged in this sort of “war of public diplomacy” through the media in order to participate in the process of making their countries more attractive and making them appear extremely friendly to foreigners. While also setting the stage for others to understand their positions in the international arena. Therefore, the success or failure of public diplomacy through media, however, can only be judged by its intended audience. And in the past years, there has been an increase of carelessness and negligence in the media that has lead a serious damage to the public diplomacy efforts of major powers. The Power of the Media in American Foreign policyAmerican foreign policy determines how the U.S. conducts relations with other countries.
And its main objective is to ensure America’s security and the power to protect and project American national interests around the world. National interest shapes how foreign policy is conducted and covers a variety of concerns whether it’s related to the economy or the military.The progress of technology in communication allowed the media to reach every part of the world within a couple of seconds. Therefore, the media, has an important role in international relations, making it the main tool that most policymakers depend on for news coverage. Thus, on one hand, this phenomenon provides a positive effect, in introducing democratic and humanitarian aspects in the policy-making process. And on the other hand, this phenomenon can also causes a bigger burden to policymakers. In fact, under the time pressure required by fmedia live coverage for example, journalists sometimes may take risks by reporting what they see without analyzing furthermore the situation and therefore, politicians may respond quickly without taking into consideration the entire situation. Global media is still however an extremely important tool that most government rely on in conducting public diplomacy efforts.
And as the influence of the media continues to grow, policy-makers tend to utilize it for their own benefit, publicizing their policies and positions on certain issues. For example, during President Barack Obama presidency he conducted an interview with Al-Arabiya Television, one of the most influential Arabic broadcasters, during the first week of his first term in order to directly appeal to Arabic and Islamic people. Unfortunately, it appears that the media tends to accommodate politicians’ wishes to attract viewers if it has news value. Optimistic literature on what Social Media / Twitter will do for politics & Diplomacy Twitter is, indeed, completely changing American diplomacy as previously known. It is creating an entirely new type of public diplomacy by the United States. Therefore, changing the way that the public is informed by the government and shifting from the previous decades of the commonly known public policy making. The term “Twiplomacy” has, indeed, been commonly used to describe this new kind of foreign policy and has become commonly known and prevalent in different governments to describe this new phenomenon of Twitter’s fast growing influence on leaders’ use of this social media platform to communicate with their citizens, other nations, and the public.
This new shift in public diplomacy is also referred to as “E-diplomacy.” However, many expert in the field of political science believe that this fast growing influence of social media will not affect the “traditional” public policy that the public has previously been used to and has known. In fact, they believe that it will merely make foreign policy more accessible and closer to the public. In a recent lecture titled “Is Twiplomacy changing the face of modern diplomacy?” at the Italian Embassy, in Washington D.C.
, multiple experts in foreign policy agreed that “E-Diplomacy” is, indeed, changing the way governments interact with the general public. However, only in a way that makes the foreign policy-making process closer and more accessible to the public through different social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and even LinkedIn. Thus, not fundamentally changing the public policy of the United States.Additionally, Richard Grant, a diplomat from New Zealand, addressed in his paper the ways in which social media has been reconfiguring diplomacy. In his paper, Grant argues that social media and the rise of the use of the internet in public policy is changing who takes part in diplomacy-making by creating some transparency. For example, the leaks like the ones by Edward Snowden puts diplomacy in the public eye.
Moreover, he states that this shift in public policy is creating new sources of information for diplomacy through videos of events of international significance. Grant also states that it’s speeding up diplomatic processes in response to the immediacy of news about events in the online world that require more rapid responses in order to be more effective. Finally, he states in his paper that social media use for public reasons erases borders by enabling diplomats to communicate locally or globally from anywhere at any time. Thus, in his paper, Grant argues that these transformations in public policy-making does not change or diminish the need for diplomats to serve as intermediaries. Moreover, Grant argues that the Internet only changes public policy in the way that it makes it more possible for those same diplomats to be where they need to be to facilitate face-to-face interpersonal communication, making the geography of diplomacy more, rather than less, important. Hence, not changing the conduct of public policy by the United States.The difference between the optimistic speculations & The Reality on the effects of social media Today, it is surprising that there is a lack of literature on the dangers social media poses on the foreign policy relationships of the United States.
However, with the current literature on the negative effects of social media on public policy and the current political environment, it is clear that it could be and is extremely dangerous to the safety of the Americans but as well as to the safety of our entire humanity. Today, President Trump keeps tweeting from his personal Twitter account because he believes it allows him to speak directly to the American people outside of the filter of the mainstream media (news channels, press releases, etc.). However, as can be seen through the recent geopolitical tensions with China and Russia as well as other nations, Trump’s’ tweets also endangers American foreign policy. President Obama changed the way social media is used by political leaders.
Indeed, Obama and his administration demonstrated the power that social media and technology had. Obama’s administration proved that social media and especially Twitter was not just a “tool in the arsenal, but a transformative force,” according to Jascha Franklin-Hodge of Blue State Digital. “The campaign understood the power of the Internet to get people engaged in the process on a scale never done before.” Steve Grove from YouTube summarized: “There’s a tendency to think of new media as a secret sauce that suddenly unlocks this viral potential and there’s truth to that.
But… they had a very talented candidate who was a great communicator and a campaign that matched and mirrored very well with the Internet: openness, inclusiveness, self-organizing, grassroots. If they hadn’t had that philosophy, they wouldn’t have gone anywhere.”Example of Social Media Use between two different Administrations: Iran The influence of social media on diplomacy between nation states is visibly clear-cut, especially when the case of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran is considered. While the Obama Administration attempted to improve relations with Iran through the use of social media, the Trump Administration, specifically the President himself, continues to foment and exacerbate tensions with Iran.
President Trump’s aggressive rhetoric towards Iran on Twitter is alarming. During his first six months in office, President Trump and his administration have undermined the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—a historic landmark agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran. Being that the JCPOA exists as the only channel of communication between the two states, if Donald Trump decides to withdraw from the nuclear deal, the United States will lose leverage to influence Iran’s missile program, which can lead major conflict. Evidently, President Trump’s battle of aggression towards Iran on social media greatly influences diplomacy between the two states. More recently, after the ISIS attack in Tehran, President Trump tweeted, “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote”.
This tweet exacerbated tensions between the United States and Iran. President Trump’s opportunistic tweet was in no way, shape or form, a diplomatic one. In times of crises, most heads of states offer their condolences to states who are grieving, however, this is not the type of diplomacy Trump wants to entertain, especially on social media.The media is not the best place for public diplomacy. In fact, without enough and the necessary reliability of the media, it is hard to expect effective results. Efforts should be made to find ways to improve the media’s credibility.
Hence, I believe that one of the solutions to enhance the media’s reliability will be to first be open to the audience feedback while combining cultural exchange programs and people-to-people visiting programs as well as scholarship exchange programs. Moreover, the limited effect of global media should be considered too. Since many parts of the world lack access to global media, diplomats need to engage the local media. And they therefore need to be comfortable with the local language as well as have a deep knowledge of local politics.