Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014b

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What makes you a perfect spy? Three unconventional factors

When you think about the question, who was the world’s worst spy, who comes to your mind? Well, depending if you study intelligence studies, probably no one. But if you had to answer, let me name you someone you definitely will have heard of: James Bond. He not only leaves a trail of destruction behind, everyone knows his name, he gets intimate with any pretty lady that he can find, he hardly wears any disguises, he drinks and clearly acts against his boss’s instructions. Easy answer, wasn’t it? (2)

Spy

So what would make a perfect spy today then? In this blog, three rather unconventional points will try to answer the question.

To get a better idea, it is useful to look at (probably) the most effective (caught) spy ring the world knows about: The Cambridge Five. Five men, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Harold ‘Kim’ Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross. The famous spies, who all graduated from Cambridge, were all recruited by one of their professor (and then each other), during their studies. An interesting point to look at is how they were being recruited. You were not asked whether you wanted to spy for a foreign government and sell out your home country, absolutely not, you were asked questions like if you would be willing to work for peace. What began as spying for an ally in the 1930’s, shifted over to spying for an enemy: the KGB, after the Second World War. What did the Cambridge Five do right, that they could work unnoticed for around 20 years each, secretly telling the Russians about the British and partly American plans during their posts? It might be helpful, to be more than obvious: For example like Guy Burgess. He was what one might call to today, the ‘entertainer’, the one who would make the group laugh. He was gay, excessive and loved to drink. It was thought that he could never be a spy, as he wasn’t deemed capable of it. It might be of an advantage then to be louder and more eye-catching than others, as hardly anyone would suspect you could seriously spy. (1, 3, 4)

But to keep more up to date, in 2014 an anonymous spy said that it might be helpful to be female. Girls, women, ladies, they still tend to be underestimated up until today. A working mother who is a spy? What better cover could you have? You understand emotion, you can still be found with a male colleague in a dark alley way and say you needed a shoulder to cry on, or you are naturally street smart (and weaker than half humanity, so you always knew how to compensate that with being smart rather than strong), and people could potentially question your skills. Ladettes, couldn’t we use the role allocation from the past century to our advantage? (5, 6, 8)

Here is another experience, you don’t even have influence on, that could make you a good spy – potentially . Jeff Stein, a former American spy during the Cold War, comes to the conclusion that a somewhat not truthful childhood and suspicion in your young years, makes you a good agent. You always knew something wasn’t right, you were even spying as a kid to find out what was wrong. If it was a affair one of your parents had, if it was the fact that you were adopted, or anything adults would try to hid from its kid. It might make you a natural, who can keep secrets and doesn’t blush when lying.(7, 9)

Of course, these are just viewpoints and no absolute answers on what makes you a perfect spy. However, the above has shown a few ways and techniques out of hundreds. There is probably no way how to become a spy per se, nor is there a perfect way to become president of the United States. It is life, that plays with you, luck that you may or may not have, and your personality, which are big factors amongst others.

So what do you think?

Would you make a good spy?

 

References

1. Chris Chesser, Alan Beattie, (2015). Secrets of Wars: The Cambridge Five. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFMpC6O0UeQ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

2. WhatCulture.com, (2013). 10 Reasons James Bond Is A Terrible Spy. [online] Available at: http://whatculture.com/film/10-reasons-james-bond-terrible-spy.php/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

3. Bbc.co.uk, (2015). BBC – History – Historic Figures: The Cambridge Spies. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/spies_cambridge.shtml [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

4. BBC News, (2014). Cambridge Spies ‘hopeless drunks’. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-28143770 [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

5. Smyth, S. and Boyle, S. (2014). Women make the best spies says (female) MI6 officer. [online] Mail Online. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2593091/Women-make-best-spies-says-female-MI6-officer.html [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

6. Ziegler, M. (2012). Why The Best Spies in Mossad And The CIA Are Women. [online] Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/crossingborders/2012/09/30/why-the-best-spies-in-mossad-and-the-cia-are-women/ [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

7. Ray, L. (2015). What Are Qualities That Spies Have?. [online] Houston Chronicle. Available at: http://work.chron.com/qualities-spies-have-11003.html [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

8. Cocozza, P. (2014). Female spies are ‘bloody good’ – and it’s partly because of sexism. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2014/mar/31/women-really-do-make-bloody-good-spies [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

9. Stein, J. (2012). What makes a perfect spy tick?. [online] Washington Post. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/what-makes-a-perfect-spy-tick/2012/01/09/gIQAXWvL1Q_story.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2015].

10. Ignatius, D. (2014). David Ignatius: ‘The Good Spy’ offers lessons about how to do intelligence right. [online] Washington Post. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-the-good-spy-offers-lessons-about-how-to-do-intelligence-right/2014/05/22/0b968cd6-e1de-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2015].

The downsides of giving away money for free

Today, it is more than normal for developed countries to donate a certain percentage of their Gross domestic product towards development aid. This can be seen almost anywhere: In 2013 for example,  the United States donated by far the largest sum to development aid worldwide: 31.55 billion US Dollar. This is followed by the United Kingdom, who provided 17.88 billion US Dollar in the same year, followed by Germany, Japan and France. However, even though these countries are the strongest donors in absolute terms, they are far off donating the most according to their GDP, in relative terms. Norway (1,07%), Sweden (1,02%) and Luxembourg (1,0%) are leading, while the US ‘only’ gives away 0,19%, the UK 0,72%, Germany 0,38%, Japan 0.23% and France 0,41%. (1)

Apparently it is common practise to donate to less fortunate countries, in many different ways. Economic development, peacebuilding and conflict resolution measures, voluntary assistance. But why is this done? Why do countries donate to Somalia but not to Italy for example? Why don’t we aid America with its issues, or keep the money in our own countries in the first place? Almost all western nations have immense debts, which could be reduced significantly by this money.

A fairly new way of looking at it could be from a perspective of public diplomacy. Winning over the hearts and mind of the respective country, being viewing in a positive light and maybe even influencing the public as much that it influences the other government. Therefore gaining influence through public diplomacy could be one reason why we try to help other countries. Hence, giving away money for free would come back to self-interest, to improving one own’s public image, political strength, or similar. In return, countries would play with soft power, pressurizing developing nations in a gentle way. Moreover, gift diplomacy relates closely, sometimes referred to tied aid. It can be argued that tied aid makes matters worse, as general solutions rather than customized ones are implemented.

However, giving away money for free has its downsides. There are a couple of different points I want to raise here. The first one is about self-learning and experience, and rather broad. I’m sure you remember times when parents, guardians or friends have told you about their experience, and that you should watch out not to make the same mistake. You hear what they are saying, you listen, but you just can’t take their advice, since your situation is ‘different’. Learning from other people’s mistakes is not easy. And this could for example be applied to development aid today. When the Germans or the Americans open offices in central Africa, to show the people how ‘development is done’, it surely doesn’t help to tell everyone what and how to do it. Customized solutions with local experience can be a much better way of achieving specific goals.

Another idea comes from to the basic principles of the state and particularly its sovereignty. A state, according to the Westphalian principle has the absolute monopoly of power in its territorial boundaries. Therefore, don’t we (the donors) then always need the permission of the recipient nation to donate, since we act within someone else’s’ territory (3)?

Additionally, it should be mentioned that sometimes, development aid just goes down the drain. We have hunger relief for the worst catastrophes, but some money will only reach the suffering once they are suffering so bad, it is almost impossible to get them back on a normal track, far, far away from development aid. Once you have lost your house and your belongings, you are living in a refugee camp, it would need so much more to get you on a self-sufficient basis again than helping to empower the local farmer who can live off his own goods but whose children cannot go to school. I’m not arguing that we should not help people in desperate need, I am raising a question if we shouldn’t start sooner. Moreover, once you become dependent on development aid, and you see aid organizations coming in and saving your life and harvest, over and over again, you might no longer see the point of living a self-sustained, independent life.

We all know the phase: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. However, we are also not always welcome to teach, and it may not always work the way we think is will or has to. Development aid is not a bad thing per se, it’s just far more tricky than just giving away money for free. It’s valid to keep asking, isn’t it?

 

References:

  1. OECD, (2015). Official development assistance (ODA) – Net ODA – OECD Data. [online] Data.oecd.org. Available at: http://data.oecd.org/oda/net-oda.htm [Accessed 28 Jan. 2015].
  2. Findlay, R. (2014). Celebrations and Erasures: The Heritage of “Never Being Colonized” in Ethiopian, Thai, and Japanese Decolonization. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/8080821/Celebrations_and_Erasures_The_Heritage_of_Never_Being_Colonized_in_Ethiopian_Thai_and_Japanese_Decolonization [Accessed 28 Jan. 2015].
  3. Menzel, U. (n.d.). Westphalian State System or Hegemonic World Order?. 1st ed. [ebook] Ulrich Menzel. Available at: http://www.ulrich-menzel.de/vortraege.html [Accessed 28 Jan. 2015].
  4. Worldbank, (2015). GDP growth (annual %) | Data | Table. [online] Worldbank. Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG [Accessed 28 Jan. 2015].
  5. UN Millenium Project, (2015). UN Millennium Project | Press Archive. [online] Unmillenniumproject.org. Available at: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/press/07.htm [Accessed 28 Jan. 2015].
  6. Personal experience while living two months in Kenya.

Charlie, Charlie, who are you?

Recent events in Paris have dominated the media: The deadly attacks on french satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, police forces and a Jewish supermarket. They have been condemned widely in the worldwide media, and everybody talks about them.

BBC Charlie Academic Blog

Source: BBC 2014, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30765824

 

The “Charlie Hebdo” attacks happened on January 7th 2015, when two masked attackers stormed the (satire) magazine’s headquarters in central Paris and eventually killed twelve people, while other attacks followed, which might or might not be in relation to those (Duke, 2015).

Soon after, the killings were no longer seen as violent killings per se however, as a “violent suppression of free speech” (quoted from Maisel 2015). Social media responses have been creative and highly visible: names, pictures and the overall slogan of “Je suis Charlie”, “I am Charlie” have become world-famous, to support the freedom of speech. Another example, maybe one of the most interesting ones, has been conducted by Anonymous, which had temporarily blocked and redirected the French Jihadist website ‘ansar-alhaqq.net’ to a search engine, apparently to show them off and maybe even revenge them (Thompson 2015).

Now (14.01.2015), about a week later, voices have become loud, which resist the new movement and condemn it in return. They are saying “Je ne suis pas Charlie”, “I am not Charlie” (e.g. Duke 2015, Maisel 2015).

Je ne suis pas Charlie

Source: France24 2014, available at: http://www.france24.com/fr/20150109-charlie-hebdo-je-ne-suis-pas-charlie-contestation-emotion-france-attentat-journlaistes-liberte-expression/

 

The slogan disagrees not with the condemnation of the killed journalists, how would they dare, but with the movement, which has established itself subsequently (Maisel 2015).

For example, one blogger, Remy Maisel, who has published a book on satire, is highlighting the difference between meaningful and useless satire. The first one actually critically questioning its mocked topics, while the later does so to please its audience, rather uninterested in the people on whose expense the laugh goes. A valid argument, I believe, since a picture of Mohammed did not help anyone, did it?

…But since we all support freedom of speech and expression, we have to align with the famous quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (quoted from Hall and seen in Maisel 2015). Therefore, we have to let Charlie Hebdo publish its thoughts and caricatures how it pleases, and we have to let the movements move through Paris, right? The meaning of the name “Charlie Hebdo” has changed for the next decade or so, but it emphasizes the need for free expression and speech.

Je ne suis pas Charlie, mais je suis pour la liberté d’expression.

In contrast to that however, we have to critically assess whether the attacks on the satire magazine have been because the attackers wanted to suppress the freedom of speech, or if there had been another reason.

Due to the limitations of this blog however, many interesting questions could be asked concerning the background of the attacks.

Does France in general have a problem within its society and the Muslim contact? If so, is this due to the labour party policy of the 50’s and 60’s ? And more in general, why does this country have such a high Muslim population? And more importantly,  does the freedom of speech (that we apply to anyone), in return apply to us from ‘the other side’? Probably No. But should that change our behavior?

 

Sources:

  1. Duke, S. (2015). Articles: Je ne Suis pas Charlie (I’m Sane). [online] Americanthinker.com. Available at: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/01/je_ne_suis_pas_charlie_im_sane.html [Accessed 12 Jan. 2015].
  2. Hall, The friends of Voltaire (1906) Ch. 7 : Helvétius: The Contradiction, p. 188 available online through google.co.uk
  3. Maisel, R. (2015). Je Ne Suis Pas Exactement Charlie. [online] POLITICO Magazine. Available at: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-je-ne-suis-pas-exactement-charlie-114119.html#.VLOF44nNuCA [Accessed 12 Jan. 2015].
  4. Thompson, D. (2015). Anonymous blocks jihadist website in retaliation for Charlie Hebdo attack. [online] CNNMoney. Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/11/technology/security/anonymous-charlie-hebdo/index.html [Accessed 12 Jan. 2015].

What is Somalia known for?

Somalia is a prime example of state failure (Amburn, 2009) and it is widely know to be a very dangerous country. The terror group Al-Shabab regularly kills and attacks in central and southern Somalia, often also towards the Kenyan border.

About two weeks ago a United Nations (UN) convoy was attacked, and while only the security guards were killed, it only emphasizes that the enemy does not stop for  anything (BBC News, 2014). The Somali-Kenyan border has been a place to avoid since the Kenyan troops entered Somalia last year to help reconstruct law and order (Henderson, 2014).

But is reconstruct even the right word? How could this country fall into such a seemingly  bottomless situation? And even more interestingly, how could it become the home of Al-Shabab, and offer a safe haven for terrorists as we call them? This short paper will only scratch the surface of these reasons, but more importantly it aims to lay out and analyze the history for fellow members of my student society.

The Scope of this Blog
It would be interesting to recap the history of a nation which has a flag with a five-pointed star. To this day it still stands for the Somali race, which can be found in “Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the former associated British and Italian colonies.” (quoted from Embassy of Somali Federal Republic in Ankara, Turkey, 2014), and is a larger territory than the country Somalia itself owns today (Harper, 2012, 12). However, due to the nature of this blog, it is not possible to explore the whole history of Somalia (or the idea of the united Somali race in so-called Greater Somalia), and therefore this piece will focus on the time after the Cold War, namely 1990/1991. It will offer a brief insight of what has happened in the past 20 or so years within the country, and will look at some issues that need to be resolved.

Unorganized since the End of the Cold War
It can be argued that Somalia has been the scene of a civil war since 1991, when the last president, Siad Barre, was overthrown (Harper, 2012, p. xii). Since then, peacekeeping missions have tried to organize and structure the country, preferably putting it on a path towards democracy. But how can Somalia have been in this vague and indefinable state for longer than two decades, even though the country’s population has mainly the same language, ethnicity and culture, which is often the reason for such conflicts? (Harper, 2012, 12, 15; Lewis 2002 262-266)

When the dictatorship and the president were overthrown in 1991, a civil war had been ongoing for over two years, as the power of Siad Barre mainly ruled the capital, Mogadishu. Over a decade earlier in 1974/75, the president’s power began to diminish – when a terrible drought hit the country. First attempts were made to overthrow the president and in the years leading up to 1991 multiple movements and state critical groups emerged (Harper, 2012, p.54).

More complicated than the West imagined
This is when clan politics came into play and different groups turned against each other and against themselves, deepening the civil war further. Clan politics are very important within Somalia, even though they are very difficult to understand, since they are very ambiguous (Harper, 2012, 36ff). While no state entity has existed in the last few decades, clans offered “organizational and legal structures” (quoted from Harper, 2012, p. 39), where no other structures where found. Warlords, clan leaders and all different kinds of leaders all existed in different areas of the country. The crisis got worse when the fight for food and power continued without delay and at this point the international community felt pressure to act. (Chijioke Njoku 2013 143ff; Harper, 2012, p.56ff).

UN Failure
Many efforts have been made to gain control of the country, establish a state or even for peace. A weapon embargo was enacted and a UN operation taskforce was dispatched in 1992, while the troop size was continuingly strengthened (UNSCR 794, 775, 794). The United Nations tried to defuse the situation with all necessary means and with a special operation called “Restore Hope”, but due to the tremendous failure of the operation, the troops withdrew their peacekeepers eventually in 1995 (Kuzmarov 2013; UNSCR 794, 814, 837).

The overall failure of the mission had not been predictable, and the Black Hawk Down incident traumatized the public, which may have lead to an early termination of the mission. The country however, still faced a severe crisis. Outside help was neither wanted nor endured, and the first UN resolution to use active military force against a sovereign state, had failed. (Chijioke Njoku 2013 143-154; Harper, 2012, xii, 60; Lewis 2002 267-275; S/PRST/1995/15).

Who’s fault?
It can be argued, that the United States were partly responsible for this outcome, since they had shipped weapons to Somalia during the Cold War (Kuzmarov 2013). Officially, the UN did not abandon Somalia, however, only a “small political mission” should continue (S/PRST/1995/15). From 1995 onwards, the UN Security Council was kept informed about the developments in Somalia, but it did not act upon the still enduring crisis. The UN aid was focused on humanitarian and financial aid, rather than actively establishing a well-functioning state through military power. So who can be blamed for the enduring situation after even the United Nations had failed to help? And whose responsibility is it to make sure Somalia is well functioning today?

The case of Somalia is a very unique one, and partly the US and UN member states can be blamed for interfering with business that wasn’t theirs, while on the other hand the country hardly knows the state of peace and terrorism easily crosses borders to the neighboring countries. Overall, it is partially everyone’s fault that the country did not find calmness through the UN in the nineties.

The 2000’s
In the years to come, many different approaches were attempted: International peace conferences, financing the war lords while trying to help civilians, and many more. However, it appeared that the state of Somalia was resistant against all external help. Many self-declared rulers spent more time outside of the country than inside, and conferences were sponsored to suppress the guilt of many international players (Harper 2012 p. 64).

Where a vacuum began to exist, islamic groups planted themselves and seized the opportunity for power. There was no centralized ruling authority, but from village to village different warlords ruled (Harper 2012 p.69). Structures and habits emerged that no external intervention could hope to understand, and as history has shown, could not stop (Chijioke Njoku 2013 161-164). In contrast to many western thought-processes, Islamic groups are nothing new to the country. The country is primarily Islamic and after the clan politics in the 1990’s, religion began to play a more active role in the 2000’s. (Harper 2012 p.70, 77)

Temporary Governments and Healing from the Inside?
Two different transnational governments which were implemented by conferences outside of the country, failed as well (ca. 2004 to mid 2012), and the current parliament which has been in place since 2013, works with a temporary constitution. The country is now in the process of building a federal parliamentary republic and just last week a new Prime Minister has been appointed by the President and confirmed by Parliament. However, where the country is going in the near future, remains unknown. (Cia.gov, 2014; Mail Online, 2014; Twitter Somali President 2014 ). It will take years to come, to heal and banish the insurgency present today (UN News Section Service 2004).

The Somali people have to figure out their future by themselves. The parliament, which is in power today realistically remains questionable. The autumn of 2014 has brought with itself a governmental crisis which might or might not put the country towards the right path for some free elections in 2016 (“Vision2016”). Quick and severe steps will have to come from within the country, to make the state of Somalia work. Many questions will have to be answered in the next year: Will the self-declared country of Somaliland be part of Somalia? Will the flag stay the same? How is it ensured that a federalist state is established and no power left in al-shabab’s hands? Since the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007 had begun and the transitional governments are in place, the country could be at a turning point these days (UNSCR 1744).

Sources

  1.    Ali Abdi, F. (2014). SOMALIA: 2016 Election: Optimism, Misgivings, and Leadership Analysis |. [online] Horntribune.com. Available at: http://horntribune.com/somalia-2016-election-optimism-misgivings-and-leadership-analysis-2/ [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  2.    Amburn, B. (2009). Failed States 2007: Long Division. [online] Foreign Policy. Available at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/failed-states  [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  3.    BBC News, (2014). Somali bomb explodes near UN convoy. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30306174 [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  4.    Chijioke Njoku, R. (2013) “The History of Somalia” Greenwood: Santa Barbara (CA), USA
  5.    Cia.gov, (2014). The World Factbook. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/so.html [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  6.    Embassy of Somali Federal Republic in Ankara, Turkey, (2014). Somali Flag Facts – Somali Embassy in Ankara. [online] Available at: http://www.somaliembassytr.org/somali-flag-facts/4571762500 [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  7.    Harper (2012) “Getting Somalia wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a shattered state” Evan Smith: London
  8.    Henderson, I. (2014). ACCORD – Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. [online] Accord.org.za. Available at: http://www.accord.org.za/publications/policy-practice-briefs/1013-kenya-s-military-intervention-in-somalia [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  9.    Kuzmarov, J. (2013). Black Hawk Down: The Real Story. [online] Historynewsnetwork.org. Available at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/153561  [Accessed 23 Dec. 2014].
  10.    Lewis, I.M., (4th ed.) (2002) “A modern history of the Somali: Revised, updated and expanded” Ohio University Press: Athens
  11.    Mail Online, (2014). Somalia appoints new prime minister after damaging spat. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2877759/Somalia-appoints-new-prime-minister-damaging-spat.html [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  12.    Twitter Somali President, (2014). Somali President (@SOPresident) | Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/SOPresident?lang=en [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  13.    UN News Service Section, (2014). UN News – Somalia: Security Council calls for unity amid political crisis. [online] Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49576#.VJPwnBJkMU [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
  14.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 733 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/23445 available on http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/733.pdf, cited as UNSCR 733
  15.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 775 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/775 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 775
  16.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/794 available on http://www.securitycouncilreport.org, cited as UNSCR 794
  17.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 814 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/814 available on http://www.un.int, cited as UNSCR 814
  18.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 837 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/837 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 837
  19.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 885 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/885 available on http://www.securitycouncilreport.org, cited as UNSCR 885
  20.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744 (2007) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/1744 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 1744

What is “News” ? Publishing news for a relevant western news agency.

 

News is new information, easily said. But new information in terms of it just began to exist (because an event just happened) or new information for a certain group of people to whom this certain piece of information has not been exposed to before? News can take many shapes, and especially in our world today we have to look closer at the “news” that are presented to us.

First of all, the two different categories of news mentioned above, are very different from each other. The first category, lets define them as raw news, are relevant when new events or information have been created. The British parliament has made a decision, which then becomes new information, or raw news. But still, who sits behind the decision-making at the newspaper, and decides what is worthy enough to be considered news? Which activities are important enough to tell their readership? Someone has to give it a certain relevance. Especially in the west, male, “white, middle-class Oxbridge trained editors”(quoted from[1]) make these decisions, based on their training and their own judgment. However, it is valid to ask, why then, we have so many different news agencies, if they all bring the same new information?! If all the Oxbridge editors decide likewise. It seems as though different viewpoints might be expressed, as always of course, but only up to a certain degree. The news we get presented within our countries are selected for us, by the (an?) elite of this country, which in return we deem capable of doing so. Does this not tell us instantly, that raw news are manipulated news, which are thought to be interesting for us. They have been chosen for us, they “must” be interesting for us. By reading them, we make them interesting for us, and give them relevance.

The Second category however, is not as easy to define. Information, which might not be actually new (time wise), might still be new for a certain group of people. This can be either new information from the CIA to the president or from the president to the public, etc. A present example would be the release of NSA documents by The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany) etc. which have been handed to them by whistle-blower Edward Snowden over a year ago[2]. They are being released bit by bit, even though the news agencies have had them for a while now. Therefore the people who set our news agenda (editors) as well as politicians releasing the “news” to us have a tremendous amount of power over what we read, since they make it “news”.[3]

Due to the recent technological revolutions (blogging, tweeting, facebook etc.) however, the news setting agenda elite had been involuntarily widened. Nowadays, it is pretty much possible for anyone (with solely access to the internet) to write whatever they deem noteworthy[4]. The internet offers a vast amount of data, which in return, is hard to be analysed or filtered by the end user, if not done so by a news agency. Of course, we have the ability to google and find out about things we particularly want to know about. But what about the news, which are “not read by anyone”, but would be vital/interesting to know? And who, in return, if the not the big news agencies and sources, make blogs and tweets reliable? Or push a topic to the front page to reach a large readership?

It is valid to ask if we really are better informed in this globalized, 24/7, CNN effect dominated world. Individual journalism without any overviewing, overarching entity, might destroy our news agenda just as much as the Rupert Murdoch dominated right wing news channels all over the western media.[5]

Most of the above questions remain subject to individual opinion and offer excessive discussion material. Have the policy makers lost control over setting the news agenda to big news agencies? Or in return, are news agencies losing their control over “news” to the mass and their agenda setting through blogging and tweeting? In whose interest do these agencies operate? Are news presented in small bits and pieces because they are not available earlier or because the news channel wants to stay noteworthy and always have interesting news?[6]

Some major changes have taken place in the world of new information in the recent decades. We may not necessarily be better informed, but we have the opportunity to be. Technology might inform us faster, but maybe not as well researched as we might like it (twitter?).

All this being said, there are many more issues and ways to look at “news”. What about the significance of the first impression for example? Does it last and couldn’t an incorrect first tweet or breaking news story leave us with false or incomplete information?

 

[1] Wheeler 2014a

[2] Lake, E., 2013

[3] Franklin, B. 2009

[4] ibid.

[5] Forbes 2014, Wheeler 2014b

[6] Franklin, B. 2009

 

Bibliography:

  1. Forbes, (2014). Rupert Murdoch & family. [online] Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/profile/rupert-murdoch/ [Accessed 17 Nov. 2014].
  2. Franklin, B. (2009). News values. In Key concepts in public relations. Retrieved from http://0-search.credoreference.com.emu.londonmet.ac.uk/content/entry/sageukpr/news_values/0
  3. Lake, E. (2013). Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if “Anything Happens” To Him. [online] The Daily Beast. Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/25/greenwald-snowden-s-files-are-out-there-if-anything-happens-to-him.html [Accessed 17 Nov. 2014].
  4. Mark Wheeler (2014a) Global Media Corporations: Cross­media ownership, supranational interest and agenda-­setting [Public Diplomacy and Global Communication]. 22 October
  5. Mark Wheeler (2014b) The International News Agenda: The Propaganda Model vs. The CNN effect [Public Diplomacy and Global Communication]. 22 October

NATO as propaganda?

In 1949, the Cold War started to take its shape and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established to assure western security. The Second World War had just ended and new differences had already emerged between the former allies, mainly between the West, consisting of the US, the UK and France, and the East, the USSR. NATO was becoming a counter weight to the Soviet Union and later on the Warsaw Pact. It had a clear place on the international stage, while today, its “raison d’être” is not as clear[NATO 2014a]. Recent events, concerning Ukraine and Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, have brought back an essential question: where does NATO stand today? And maybe even more important: what is its purpose? Moreover, can it still stand strong against any imminence threatening its members? NATO had a crisis of meaning after the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequently had to change its objective. However, is this crisis still lasting or has a new one emerged?

The alliance has expanded its members considerably, and arguably Article V still remains the main reason why it is desirable to join the treaty. The article stands for collective defence: the member states promise each other to defend any other member in a given case: Should any member be attacked, “Each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members” (quoted from [NATO 2014b]). The article, which has become a symbol of unity over time, demonstrates the ultimate form of alliance, which means entering a conflict in the name of a fellow member state. Its aim was “to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area“ (quoted from [NATO 2014b]), since the Cold War, needed strong measures to keep the Soviet Union in cheek. This is one of the core doctrines of NATOs security concept and defence policy[NATO 2014b; Kaplan 1954 p. 457]. Yet, the article does not state in which manner the response should be conducted, which leaves the response up to the other member states and consequently offers the fellow members the possibility to enter conflicts whenever they deem necessary, and not the attacked state. Another point worth being mentioned is deterrence through imminence, which inevitable results through Article V.[Kay, 1998 p. 21, 22; NATO 2014a]

However, the main question for the member states of NATO is how impactful the alliance is today. NATO’s budget and trainings have been reduced significantly since the end of the Cold War, and arguably the European peace for more than the past half century, has weakened the vigilant eye of its members.[Schmitt 2014].

NATO has become a key tool of global communication in the recent Russia/Ukraine crisis. The alliance has conducted more trainings in the east and offers latest viewpoints on deterrence, while still reacting rather than acting from a point of soft static warfare, while Russia is still on the move [Rühle, 2015]. It’s actions aims are to win over the hearts and minds of the people west of Russia, and to demonstrate hard power. Instead of direct talks, trainings and missions are speaking for themselves.

The Ukraine crisis has arguably given NATO a new purpose. It could mean the awaking of a sleeping giant, not only needing to flex the West’s muscles, but also showing Russia that the alliance has not died. It appears that NATO has an urgent desire to demonstrate its viewpoints and to show its strengths.

 

 

 

 

References

[9] The Economist 2014a, b

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