Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014b

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The Americanisation of British Politics

The Americanisation of British culture, music, food and everything else has long been present and ever more far reaching not only in Britain, but also parts of central Europe and the Middle East in particular.  It is only until recently that we are starting to see real change in our politics and in the way our elections are constructed and conducted. For example increased social media participation, televised election debates where image appears to be of late, a defining factor in ones opinion of who should head the government and of course, eloquent question dodging that appears to be a natural talent for politicians these days. We are also seeing change in the way politicians are branding themselves and also in how elections are won. Since Tony Blair’s election win, when he first employed American campaign specialists, we have seen an ever increasing move towards an American style of election campaign.  Ask yourself this question, if Obama did not have access to the social and other media outlets would he have won in 2012? Remove his image and message of hope that many Americans “compared… the 1960 campaign of America’s beloved slain president, John F. Kennedy” (Okoli, 2014) and it becomes clear that they played the defining role in who won the election instead of differences in policy. The astronomical amount of funding spent for online adverts and social media also was a major factor, which far surpasses anything we have seen in Britain to date. As a Huffington post writer explains “Obama’s victories were just as much attributable to the candidate himself and the way he connected with voters.” (Okoli, 2014)


The Americanisation of British politics can also be identified, as mentioned earlier, with the introduction of American campaign managers and advisers. The “Conservatives have hired Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, to advise them ahead of the 2015 general election.” (Post, 2013) Introducing American social media strategies and slick media productions. Moreover, Obama’s latest victory was achieved with a price tag of just “$2 billion ….including congressional races, topped $7 billion” (JF, 2014) is this model we really want to, or can afford to replicate?

Another trend being introduced is mayoral primaries, where “Londoners will be able to vote in American presidential-style primaries to choose Labour’s next candidate for mayor” (News, 2013) and most noticeable, our televised debates, which are considered the bread and butter of American politics. One member of the public explains to a BBC reporter on the topic of the televised debates, to “stop trying to convince us of anything other than your genuine integrity and selfless wish to bring this country up off its knees. The hiring of these presentation experts to gain one over the opponents reeks of more spin to come.” (Wheeler, 2010) He’s right, we are following the lead of the American machine when our own system of government is completely different.

The Celebrity and media that puts figures like David Cameron and Ed Miliband under the spotlight and ultimately leads to the blame game has of recently been a factor in why so many are turned off by politics and can be attributed to low voter turnout. If you’re a fan of question time or have even seen five minutes of it, you’ll know personal attacks and petty comments are the foundation for the programme 90% of the time. It’s the move towards the individual being the centre of attraction rather than their party.  Do we want to see presidential candidates or a cabinet government? When MP’s are more interested with popular culture and the latest trends in attempts to boost their ratings, what chance is there for the country? One last example that sums up this change towards the American way is with Gordon Brown. “Who found time to appear on television to discuss the progress of X Factor, but was unavailable for comment in the days that followed the release of the Lockerbie bomber?” (Rifkind)


(2014, Feburary 9th ). Why American elections cost so much. Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from The Economist :

News, I. (2013, July 8th). Mayoral selection change. Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from ITV News:

Okoli, I. E. (2014, September 27). The Americanisation of British Politics. Retrieved from Huffingtonpost :

Post, H. (2013, February 8th). Jim Messina, Obama Campaign Manager, Hired By David Cameron For 2015. Retrieved April 3rd , 2015, from Huffington Post :

Rifkind, S. M. (n.d.). Does the media focus too much on personality? Retrieved April 05th , 2015, from Total Politics :

Wheeler, B. (2010, April 14th). How are the leaders preparing for the election debates? Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from BBC News :


Gastrodiplomacy: Food for thought

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard

Food throughout history has been a key ingredient in shaping the world in which we see today, from the creation of trade routes that would supply states across Europe to proving to be a source of power and great wealth. So when we ask the question ‘how important is food in a diplomatic sense’, we must first understand that food has had a fundamental role in laying the footings for modern trading between nations and being a driver for the cultural spread of customs and traditions we see today. Pham explains “these pathways encouraged discovery, weaving the cultural fabric of contemporary societies, tempering countless palates and ultimately making way for the globalization of taste and food culture.” (Pham, 2013) Ultimately, foods role in global economics and politics is vast and fundamental, but adapting it to serve as a diplomatic tool in today’s age is something new we are witnessing. As Pham puts it: “how food facilities international communication… (and) what roles does food have in the conduct of diplomacy?” (Pham, 2013)

A man who can dominate a London dinner table can dominate the world” – (Wilde, 1908)

I think it’s also important to make clear that food diplomacy or gastrodiplomacy as it is known serves two roles in public diplomacy, or at least has emerged as so doing. Culinary diplomacy or gastrodiplomacy appear to be frequently used terms, one strand is the use of food to aid in diplomatic talks, or as Sam Chapple-Sokol explains “the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation.” (Chapple-Sokol, 2014) Then there is gastrodiplomacy in reference to nation branding, which Pham sums up best as “(gastrodiplomacy is) the practice of exporting a country’s culinary heritage in an effort to raise national brand awareness, encourage economic investment through tourism and trade and engage on a cultural and personal level.” (Pham, 2013) I think that while Chapple-Sokol’s interpretation of gastrodiplomacy is interesting, states have taken up Pham’s definition of using it to build their nation brand and to reward participants in economic gains and increased foreign trade more effectively since its birth in the public diplomacy world.

(Gastrodiplomacy) is the act of winning hearts and minds through stomachs” – (Rockower, 2010)

Sam Chapple-Sokol has developed gastrodiplomacy to now be considered as a conflict resolution tool, via track three diplomacy, or people to people. He puts forward Gordon Allport’s theory, who is an American psychologist among the first to focus his work on the personality, that when “barriers to effective communication … are removed the result is the reduction of fallacious stereotypes, and the substitution of a realistic view for one of fear and autistic hostility.” (Allport, 1954) Chapple-Sokol explains that food can remove such barrier as “sharing food … brings people into contact in an intimate and pleasurable setting, encouraging people to seek mutual understanding and appreciation.” (Chapple-Sokol, 2014) While it isn’t a means of resolution in my opinion, it is a tool for dialog, and often that is the first step towards a resolution. Although as El-Haddad tweeted, who is an author and public speaker from Gaza City, “breaking bread can never foster coexistence if inequities go unaddressed.” (Chapple-Sokol, 2014) Chapple-Sokol goes onto to say “though there can be positive movement through food, conflict resolution action should be done at a higher level.” (Chapple-Sokol, 2014) I agree, but as a means of dialog in respect to the above mentioned criteria it could be an effective tool, as historically it has served as one before.

Overall, gastrodiplomacy is effective as a nation branding tool, it’s soft power influence is undoubtedly useful, and we have seen states gain from the rebranding of themselves through the use of food. Rachel Wilson sums up why gastrodiplomacy in terms of a nation branding tool has been and continues to be relevant, she explains “The senses create a strong link between place and memory, and food serves as the material representation of the experience.” (Wilson, 2011)


Allport, G. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge MA : Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Chapple-Sokol, S. (2014, March 2nd ). War and Peas: Culinary Conflict Resolution as Citizen Diplomacy. Retrieved March 31st, 2015, from University of Southern California :

Pham, M. J. (2013). Food as Communication: A Case Study of South Korea’s Gastrodiplomacy . Journal of International Service , 11.

Rockower, P. (2010). Korean Tacos and Kimchi Diplomacy. USC Public Diplomacy.

Wilde, O. (1908). A Woman of No Importance . London : Methuen & Company .

Wilson, R. (2011). Cocina Peruana Para El Mundo: Gastrodiplomacy, the Culinary Nation Brand, and the Context of National Cuisine in Peru. Exchange: The Journal of Public Diplomacy, 2.2.

ISIS and it’s PR War

Social media websites have now been around for several years, and have been used to great success from political wins to aiding the overthrow of regimes. Looking at Obama’s first victory, it was seen as a renaissance in political campaigning as he made use of social media strategies and employed serval experts in the field in efforts to gain the majority states he needed to win. Social media was one asset he used, being “a perfect medium for genuine grass-roots political movements, transforming the power dynamics of politics, there are no barriers to entry on sites like Facebook and YouTube. Power is diffused because everybody can participate” (Fraser, 2008) and it’s this horizontal shift in power that has benefited Obama. It’s this same level playing field that is responsible for such fringe groups and previously unknown figures to now enjoy such support as there is little or no control on the ease of access and anonymity the web offers to such groups. Gone are the days of VHS tapes with lengthy demands from terrorists, these days we see propaganda movies that could rival budget Hollywood films and media strategies being employed by ISIS. They have gone so far as having a dedicated media department, rivaling some political parties in their amount of output and its quality.

ISIS releases Hollywood-style trailer threatening war on US 

ISIS and it’s now global brand have built a sizable online presence, one example of its efforts in doing so is by using product placement of all things in efforts to appeal to a western audience I assume.  They have also taken up to adopting Jihadi John, a western media construct they themselves probably couldn’t have dreamt up. ISIS also are very careful in how they portray themselves, they have  well-polished, edited videos depicting how ‘glorious’ life is under ISIS rule in efforts to fund raise while videos circulate online of their actual brutality and underground actions. It’s interesting to think such a brutal group care about their public image and perception, it’s a new wave of terrorists summed up by the term jihad 3.0, in reference to web 3.0.

Different from your average terrorist group, ISIS seem to be intent on displaying bureaucratic know how, from annual reports keeping statistics on for example: “cities taken over…knife murders committed by ISIS forces to checkpoints set up  and even apostates repented” (HUBBARD, 2014) to an online magazine resembling almost a manifesto style layout. In the ten page magazine, they state such claims as to be “conducting direct medical supervision” (Ajbaili, 2014) and issuing legal information in regards to law enforcement in efforts to appear as a credible state.

As I mentioned earlier, their adoption of Jihadi John, who’s real is name Mohammed Emwazi is probably the most well-known face of ISIS and has helped to attract other young Muslims into singing up to fight on the frontlines. An ex ISIS member said the following in a recent interview: “Isis play him like a piano (Jihadi John), a celebrity to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe.” (Sheffield, 2015) Just as the US army has advertising for recruitment with a reportedly $1.35 billion (Elliott, 2006) budget, Chief marketing officer Bruce Jasurda for the US Army accessions command said “we are taking steps to connect our potential recruits with current Soldiers, whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube.” (Command, 2011) It’s a similar strategy with ISIS, their fighters to some degree have been directly engaging with potential recruits online. They play on the idea of belonging as Horgan, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts explains “There’s an urgency: ‘Be part of something that’s bigger than yourself and be part of it now.” (HUBBARD, 2014)

Al-Hayat, their own media centre is responsible for the majority of videos, magazines, word press blogs, reports and pictures that ISIS produce. They themselves don’t publicly post the material but rely on their supporters to post and share its content. Whereas terrorist organizations before and even rogue states have released poorly made propaganda, ISIS have set themselves apart and because of this they are perceived as a credible group. One such example of the type of footage they are producing is this recruitment video of militants giving candy to children with HD footage, sophisticated graphics and logos they have built up a high quality brand almost. It’s also interesting to note that most of the content is in English or subtitled suggesting that they are specifically aiming for a western audience.

Social media in my opinion has played the biggest role in the success of ISIS in recruiting fighters and in having such a large online presence. With “45,000 social media accounts  …being used to spread messages” (SHEFFIELD, 2015) and an estimated “90,000” (SHEFFIELD, 2015) social media messages being posted a day, it’s clear that ISIS have indeed got a strong and influential online presence, more over their development of an android phone application called ‘The Dawn of Glad Tidings’ enables ISIS to post tweets via the individuals twitter account using the app. The app also keeps the user updated with information and news from the frontlines. This is one way ISIS are able to directly link to their audience and supply a constant stream of propaganda.

Overall, ISIS have an extremely well thought out media strategy, with the capability to reach their intended audience directly without much effort, and it’s easy to see why so many young western individuals are joining up. Peter Singer, the director for the centre of the 21st century security and intelligence said that “small governments trying to control all the content on the Internet is like them trying to build sand castles in the desert in the midst of a wind storm.” (Ajbaili, 2014) A clear indication of just how difficult a problem this has become for western governments and intelligence services. So the question remains on how best to tackle ISIS and its online presence, but its model of outreach and propaganda is set to grow further in influence and attract more young individuals to the front lines.


Ajbaili, M. (2014, June 24th ). How ISIS conquered social media. Retrieved March 28th, 2015, from Al Arabiya News :

Command, U. A. (2011, May 24th ). U.S. Army builds on ‘Army Strong’ campaign with new advertising. Retrieved from US Army :

Elliott, S. (2006, November 9th ). Army’s New Battle Cry Aims at Potential Recruits. Retrieved from NY Times :

Fraser, S. D. (2008, November 19). Barack Obama and the Facebook Election. Retrieved March 2015, 22, from US News:

HUBBARD, S. S. (2014, August 30th). ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media. Retrieved March 28th , 2015, from NY Times:

Sheffield, H. (2015, March 09). Isis has built a global brand using Nutella, celebrity and social media. Retrieved March 22, 2015, from The Independent :

SHEFFIELD, H. (2015, March 09th). Isis has built a global brand using Nutella, celebrity and social media. Retrieved March 28th , 2015, from The Independent :

24 Hour News: When will it end?

“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper”

– Jerry Seinfeld


I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t watch rolling news. Don’t get me wrong I do watch morning & evening news occasionally but as I guess you do, I receive my news on a smartphone via various apps that offer for one: real journalism, independent views and interesting stories! You can probably tell I’m not one for glossy mags full of celeb dribble too, and sensational reporting for that fact, which seems to have become the standard norm for main stream media outlets on the most part.

With the emergence of broadband and smartphones, the streaming of content, more specifically news video bites have allowed us to pick and choose what we want.

It gives us the option to seek news with an opinion or news that is portrayed as if one is ‘sitting on the fence’ as they say. Ultimately its choice, quality and accessibility that is the main driving force behind the success of such apps as Buzzfeed, various newspaper apps and other apps that gather various other news reports and feature them all in one place.

Rolling 24 hour news has been around for a while now, and it’s become something of air time filler. It’s more cost effective than producing pre-recorded news stories that have to edited, the presenter has to travel & copy rights have to be checked on footage taken and so on. So it makes sense that simply repeating live read news hourly to camera is a perfect alternative when funding is decreasing.

As a consequence “we lost the concept of “story”, an editorial process whose outcome is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, and hopefully a meaning. During the rise of rolling news that was something we just had to live”. (Manson, 2006) Or as Huffington’s post Jeff Sorensen puts it “ Journalism is now clipped to a sentence that scrolls at the bottom of the screen.” (Sorensen, 2012)

This is the main issue with 24 hour news, the loss of real journalism. The what, why, when, who and how are missing for the most part, which are needed for viewers to form an opinion. ‘Vamping’ as it’s known in the media business is a common thing, filling airtime with pointless stock footage or having someone ramble on to fill time until the weather or sports is frequent. “Hours a day are spent on live feeds waiting for something, anything, to happen.” (McGuire, 2014)

For example, Simon McCoy admitted when covering the royal baby story that there is “Plenty more to come, none of it news. But that won’t stop us”

Interestingly, BBC News have taken to Instagram to post 15 second clips of news in a bid to explore new news formats.

It’s the sensationalism over real journalism. Playing on emotions and being loud and controversial. This in part is due to the fact that simple shock & celebrity news sells. Jeff explains “Serious stories and reporting has been purposefully desensitized to the average viewer. It’s why a massacre of thousands in Syria is a secondary story to the girl from Twilight cheating on the guy from Twilight.” (Sorensen, 2012) It’s a trend we are seeing more and more off.

Another issue that arises from sensationalism is the direct influence such stories have. For instance Sandy Hook, the US school shootings coverage was responsible for influencing more mass shootings. As Stone explains news stations should not “have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story and not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.”  (Stone, 2012) He goes onto say that such stories should be made as factual and ‘boring’ as possible so they don’t glamorize the shooters action. He also makes this point that “it’s not quite right when the mass killers become household names while it’s hard to think of a single specific victim.” (Stone, 2012) He’s right, why is it news media does this? It’s because it sells.

Enough of me pointing out what’s wrong with 24 hour rolling news, what’s the next step in the evolution?

Richard Sambrook and Sean McGuire think that integrating TV feeds onto websites would be effective, doing away with standalone channels completely.  We have already seen this with Xbox live apps and phone applications, to some success. They also think that an online package of on-demand news with personalized bulletins is the way forward, being able to choose as much depth to the story as you wish. I think that blogging and independent journalism will always have its place and rolling news for that matter. As much as it has its problems I don’t see it going anywhere soon. Smartphone applications and tailor-made news will be the next big step, it’s just a question of when.


Manson, P. (2006, January 16th ). Rolling news RIP. Retrieved from The Guardian:

McGuire, R. S. (2014, February 3rd). Have 24-hour TV news channels had their day? Retrieved from The Guardian :

Sorensen, J. (2012, August 20th). 24 Hour News Killed Journalism. Retrieved from Huffington Post:

Stone, J. (2012, December 16th ). Media Critics Say Sensational News Coverage Encourages Future School Shootings. Retrieved from International Business Times:

Hip Hop and the Arab Spring: A soundtrack to Revolution

“Eighteenth-century French revolutionaries marched to La Marseillaise, and two centuries later, rock music spurred opposition to the Shah of Iran and Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. It’s no different with the uprisings in the Arab world.”

– Naomi Westland (USA Today)


(A Gaza Strip B-boy crew)

Hip Hop, a term that describes the Culture rather than just rap music has often been said to have saved a generation from crack and Reaganomics in early 1980’s NY. It was a collective of artistic expression (Graffiti Art, DJing, MCing & Breaking) that rose from the rubble of the South Bronx and gave the youth a voice and an outlet of self-expression. So then, it’s no surprise that we read hip-hop music has been a dominant force in the birth and further spread of the Arab Spring in recent years.

It’s of no surprise that hip-hop music is becoming big in the Middle East. Deeb, a Egyptian rapper made clear that “the whole ‘hip-hop is American’ argument is not valid anymore…The world is becoming one because of globalization, there are no boundaries”. (Hebblethwaite, 2011) Which is true, in recent years the exportation of western music and fashion has become the norm in such areas as the Middle and Far East but what is interesting is that they recognize hip-hop music’s true value and power.

The timeline of the Arab Spring starts in late 2010, with Tunisia as a large gathering of young people was reported. Damage to shops and other private property was in response to Mohamed Bouazizi’s personal protest, in which he had set himself on fire because of police brutality he had faced. Although not widely reported, hip-hop had been the first sign of protest in the state. Tunisian rapper El General had already released “Rais Lebled” criticizing his governments repressive actions, this quickly became popular and in result of that lead to his arrest.

Although the release of his highly critical hip-hop track might not have had a direct impact in Tunisia, it signaled much wider movement and inspired more to follow in El General’s footsteps.

When it came to Egypt, the story is much the same in the way hip-hop music helped to inspire a generation as it did in 70’s NY. Two songs from the Egyptian group Arabian Knightz “became the de facto anthems of Tahrir Square” (Westland, 2012) Asen explains, he also says that they “helped get thousands of young people… into the streets”  (Westland, 2012) and as a result of the Tahrir Square protest, in just 18 days Mubarak was forced to resign. A remarkable victory in such a short space of time, it’s clear hip-hop music was used effectively in mobilizing and sustaining support for the protests. It also has to be noted that Egypt’s young population make up the majority, another reason perhaps for such numbers involved in the protesting.

Deeb, a rapper from Egypt explains “my father’s generation or my grandfather’s generation…they’d tell us, ‘Listen, you’ve done something that we’ve never thought of doing.’ Because they were living under fear.”. (Soundcheck, 2013) Just as Hip Hop Culture gave the youth of NY a voice and ability to challenge the norms of society, it has given Egyptian youth a new outlet of expression. Of course hip-hop music didn’t just appear in the Arab world, it is mostly down to Globalisation in terms of the spread of liberal ideas, democracy, music and of course the application of technology that had allowed them to spread their music.  Deeb goes onto to say “I’ve become more outspoken in what I say… I used to try to sugar-coat what I say…. For example. Now I can say the word ‘Morsi,’ who is our president. Basically, I can criticize him freely. That’s something that we never had before the revolution. We had fear of being persecuted and caught by the cops.” (Soundcheck, 2013).

As the last example of hip-hop being used in the Arab Spring, Libya is an interesting story. Under Gaddafi, music and more specifically hip-hop music was banned from state controlled radio. Subject areas such a directly criticising the regime or speaking out about local issues was a no go. Artists would use the internet to spread their message among their fans but to little success. As tensions within Libya began to rise and then explode “Gaddafi’s paramilitary forces .. Confiscated instruments in a crackdown on student performers in Benghazi”. (FreeMuse, 2011) As the government crackdown began in a bid to silence outspoken rappers and musicians, in the east, it was rebel controlled radio that was airing these tracks criticising the government and inspiring more and more young men to join as fighters for the rebel forces.

It’s interesting to see younger generations pick up this art form and utilize it for their own purposes, just as youth did in the early 1970’s in the South Bronx as a means to be heard and express their anger at a system that was keeping them poor. Just as Rock changed an entire generation and the social atmosphere, hip-hop music and more widely Hip Hop Culture is doing the same if not more.

Here is a link to the B-boy crew in the Gaza Strip that are working to uplift their own community:

Below are a few links to the some of the music:


FreeMuse. (2011, April 20th). Hip-hop is a soundtrack to the North African revolt. Retrieved from FreeMuse:

Hebblethwaite, C. (2011, July 24th). Is hip hop driving the Arab Spring? Retrieved from BBC News Middle East:

Soundcheck. (2013, March 18th). A Modern Revolution: Hip Hop Shines Over The Arab Spring. Retrieved from Soundcheck:

Westland, N. (2012, May 22nd). Rappers provide anthems for Arab Spring. Retrieved from USA Today :

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