• Jeez, Still Doing Gangnam Videos at State? Social Media Fails

    July 24, 2013

    Posted in: Embassy/State

    With questions being asked about why the State Department spent $630,000 of your tax money to buy “likes” on Facebook, and indeed the point of State’s social media at all (the latter by State’s own Inspector General), it seems worthwhile to raise a few questions of our own.

    The sort of uber-issue with social media is quantity does not equal quality, or effectiveness, or any sort of foreign policy progress. U.S. Embassy Baghdad has over 137,000 likes and US policy in Iraq is in disarray. Numbers alone are meaningless without some measure of accomplishment or goal to go with them (i.e., tickets sold, books downloaded, attendance counted). State lacks any metrics for progress/success/contribution toward US foreign policy goals. In tight economic times, that needs to precede the spending of $630k of taxpayer money. How about THINK first, SPEND later?

    Measuring the effectiveness of the made-up concept of public diplomacy is indeed the problem with public diplomacy. If your goal is to sell tickets or increase attendance, well, you have a clear goal that you can obviously compare directly against actions taken and money spent (Google it; it’s called “return on investment.”) State latched on to things like Facebook and Twitter simply because they were cool and “modern” without any idea what the real point was. But don’t believe me– see what the Inspector General had to say.

    Smoke and Mirrors

    Oh, says State, you can’t really measure the “soft” benefits of social media.

    The “we can’t measure it” thing is a convenient excuse not to try. It was the excuse used in Iraq and Afghanistan to allow billions to be spent on reconstruction projects that did not work. Here’s an idea– why not allow a fully-independent taxpayer organization to audit State’s social media, with a unredacted report to the public on how it furthers US policy aims? Or wait… how do politicians and organizations measure this stuff? Might be a clue there: they of course use unbiased, sophisticated, professional polling and surveys (even if they release jacked-up figures to the public later.)

    Perhaps another question to ask is if these videos are such wonderful vehicles for whatever they are supposed to be doing, why does it seem that only the U.S. knows this? I keep looking for other countries’ versions of Gangnam-style and the like, and just can’t seem to find any.

    Right now we just have smoke, mirrors and self-generated happy talk to go on as State produces Gangnam-video after video.


    Wait, did I say Gangnam-style??????? You remember that fad, from last summer, right? Well, State’s social media wizards are still trying to milk it on your dime into 2013. Folks, nobody is impressed by last year’s fads. Ditch the leisure suits already, ‘kay? Meanwhile, State’s then head of social media did not even know what Gangnam-style was at the peak of the fad, but offered to “dial it up” on YouTube. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.

    But hey, let’s not be all depressed because our government is either spying on us or wasting our money. Let’s rock!

    Costa Rica!

    (Here’s one commentator who asks “Is this how we want the U.S. represented abroad?”)



    As a bonus, here’s “Call Me Maybe” from US Embassy Manila!

    But Wait, There’s More!

    No, no, wait, here’s another U.S. Embassy video from Laos, of the Deputy Chief of Mission (sort of Vice Ambassador) washing his hands in an embassy toilet in honor of National Hand Washing Day. Edgy, yes? If you look at the YouTube page, one of the commenters is actually the guy’s nephew who writes “Uncle Paul, you missed a spot.” LOL.

    OK, OK, just one more, then it’s bed time and I mean it. U.S. Embassy Algeria, with Harlem Shake. Note the Obama cardboard standup:

    There are, oh God, more. Now, go ask a taxpayer, or Congress, if s/he thinks these are a good use of funds (and you’ll find out as a bonus why State always has trouble growing its budget when asked to justify itself in front of Congress).

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  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      That’s painful to watch lol. What else can public affairs offer?

      07/24/13 1:06 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      “What else can public affairs offer?”

      Maybe a Waterboarding Dance?

      07/24/13 1:57 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      Dance of the Oral Sex on Embassy Rooftops?

      07/24/13 1:59 PM | Comment Link

    • Andrei said...


      On the bright side, Edward Snowden was finally allowed to enter Russia.

      07/24/13 2:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Measure this: If these clowns are the “best of the best” then the Foreign Service Exam is the biggest waste of taxpayer money.

      07/24/13 6:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      07/24/13 7:03 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      And here I thought I couldn’t puke one more time.

      Please..PVB..next time provide a bottle of Pepto Bismal with the video. 🙂

      07/25/13 4:30 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      You should see the mess over here. I had to wade through dozens and dozens of these horrid videos to bring you “the best.” My eyes will never be able to see beauty again.

      07/25/13 5:27 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote:”I had to wade through dozens and dozens of these horrid videos to bring you “the best.” unquote

      Well PVB, we appreciate your self inflicted torture to bring us “the best”. Next time just stick your head in an oven. It’s faster. 🙂

      07/25/13 6:39 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      $630 K is chump change. Talk about big time fraud in State:

      Inspector General: “The State Department — for some inexplicable reason — gave IDLO $50 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars, then gave away any oversight of this foreign entity. The irony here is that State violated its own written policy and gave them a huge check to teach the Afghans about the ‘rule of law.’ As the saying goes, you can’t make this up. We’re going to get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable.”

      Oh sure.

      07/25/13 8:25 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...


      Proving yet again that great American dictum: Do something, even if it’s piffle.

      Peter, we also suffer a great obeisance to youth, and social media is speeding up our inner Benjamin Button. Soon I fear anyone who takes more than a moment to mash a button and “Like” something will suffer with Rodney Dangerfield (god rest his soul): those of us who think will get no respect, being seen as too all-fired fuddy-duddy, y’see?

      Pity … Idiocracy, here we come.

      07/25/13 9:41 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Naw, people who join the State Department are the ones who were unpopular in high school. This social media stuff (you can count your friends) is just their psychotic way of dealing with their teenage drama.

      Note: I was unpopular in high school. I deal with it by being mean to small pets.

      07/25/13 9:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...


      You are wry, Peter, and I s’pect no sociopath 😉

      I like your read on why some people feel the compulsion to co-opt the latest cool thing; dreadfully boring. I thought all State people were as hip as you, no?!?

      07/25/13 11:18 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      I play hip on the internet, but only my dog really believes it.

      To be fair, most State people are fairly normal. The problem is that to get ahead in the organization, you have to allow your personality and your values to be subsumed. That’s where it all starts to go wrong. I willfully played along for a long time, with some success, until the tsunami of bs hit me in Iraq and I changed for the better.

      Thing is, I had a career I was pleased with until Iraq. I got promoted as required, and had increasing responsibility in my assignments. When State tried to paint me as “disgruntled,” it really hurt, because it was far from true. Of my 23 years, 21 of them were OK.

      Had it not been for Iraq, I’d still be sucking up and probably unaware that I should have been ashamed for doing it.

      I declare victory. Onward.

      07/25/13 11:34 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      “You should see the mess over here. I had to wade through dozens and dozens of these horrid videos to bring you “the best.””

      Speaking of youth outreach, do they have one of Ambassador Howard Gutman giving a teenage rent-boy a reach-around in the park’s public toilet?

      07/26/13 12:21 AM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...



      You are an honest and principled man in a world deeply in need of such examples (very funny and wise, too.) Like the song says, everybody’s gotta learn sometime. You will always have my profound respect.

      Yes –onward and upward!

      07/26/13 2:12 AM | Comment Link

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