• Social Media Numbers Don’t Add Up at State Department

    November 2, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    The latest self-congratulatory social media pablum from the State Department (in the guise of a “new” Brookings Institute report whose data has been peddled before) offers one non-insight, and one quite revealing.

    The non-insight is over the course of forty dense pages of praise (“At the vanguard of this adaptation is the U.S. State Department,” Hillary Clinton is referred to as “the Godmother of 21st Century Statecraft”) is that despite over 150 people employed at State in 25 separate ediplomacy nodes covering eight different work areas, and at U.S. missions abroad another 900 staff use ediplomacy tools to some extent, there’s not a word said about effectiveness, value, return on investment, whatever you might wish to call actually assessing the point of spending time and money on something.

    What is revealing are the numbers. The report gushes over the numbers of people who friend, follow and like the State Department’s social media outlets. The clear implication is that a tool that reaches this many people can’t but help be effective at, well, something.

    Fair enough, but the problem is that a hugely significant number of the people the State Department is talking to are in the United States, a clear miss for what is supposed to be America’s foreign affairs organ.

    For Facebook, out of some 12 million fans, almost 8 million are in the U.S., about two thirds of them.

    For Twitter, out of 1.7 million followers, 867,000 are in the U.S., about half of them.

    For YouTube, out of 26,700 subscribers, over 15,000 are in the U.S., well more than half.

    We’ll skip the tired old discussion about the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, whcih, among other things, was supposed to prevent the U.S. from disseminating propaganda inside the U.S.; propaganda was for foreigners. Whatever you think of that, technology, primarily the web, has of course made boundaries disappear and anything from a major news event to those goddamn cute cat videos is available on the global smorgasbord.

    We’ll also skip the paranoid rant about how the State Department is trying to influence Americans as a tool of the White House or the gay movement or the Trilateral Commission or Spongebob. The content of the State Department social media is so lame and substance free that its only possible influence is as a sleep aid.

    What we’ll conclude instead is that social media as practiced by the State Department is fairly pointless. With its Hillary’s eDiplomacy wonks and their primary role in conducting America’s foreign affairs (Bill handles the domestic affairs, couldn’t stop myself, sorry, and you were thinking it too), you’d think whatever the point of all the social media, it would have more to do with talking to foreigners than talking to Americans.

    Since no one at State is willing to assess social media in any way except by numbers, perhaps they need to take a closer look at their headcounts and decide if all the time, money and effort is worth it, given that more than half just dribbles back onto us here at home.

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    Your Tax Dollars Pay for This Garbage

    September 4, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    Alec Ross was hired by Hillary Clinton.

    Alec Ross works directly for Hillary Clinton.

    Alec Ross is paid by Hillary Clinton, albeit with your tax dollars.

    Alec Ross is a US Government employee paid for with your tax dollars and this is what he does at work, write things like this Tweet:

    Your government is not representing you well when this is what they do with your money. Please give some thought to getting angry.

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    State Department Twitter Overload

    July 6, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Woooo, too much at once, like eating ice cream too fast and getting that brain freeze. So, no time to rest, here are the Tweets, now let’s break them down:

    To begin: HUZZAH! Thanks to the tireless efforts of America’s diplomats, St. Lucia has become the 100th state to endorse the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). PSI participants interdict illicit transfers of weapons of mass destruction and missile-related items, and strengthen legal authorities to conduct interdictions. Now the fact that St. Lucia is a tiny island country in the Caribbean of only 238 square miles with a population of 174,000 is irrelevant. They will not be acquiring WMDs, and thus it will be unnecessary to invade them. Scratch one off the “To Do” list. And you all thought those Caribbean embassies didn’t do any work. Shame.

    Slipped in between self-love Tweets by State is a note that the US has no freaking clue whatsoever about what is going on in Iraq. Though the State Department Twitterers failed to touch on the subject, the linked article notes “Despite the massive US Embassy in Baghdad, US government personnel have minimal freedom of movement due to security concerns and skyrocketing Iraqi government suspicion of any foreign information-gathering activities… US intelligence agencies in Iraq have also found themselves unable to maintain relations with the prickly and increasingly powerful civilian intelligence agencies in the country.” Oops, sorry ’bout them nine years of war and occupation Iraqis, but Happy July 4th!

    But the best is always last, another round of Hillary Clinton declaring Internet freedom for everyone. Clinton must have an alarm set on her smartphone to issue such a declaration every two weeks. Even as the US summons the Hawk Men to find and render Julian Assange, Hillary can’t stop her own self-loving, claiming “The free flow of news and information is under threat in countries around the world.”

    Wait, that is actually true. OK, here’s the ironical bit: “The United States was proud to work with the main sponsor, Sweden… to stand with our partners to address challenges to online freedom, and to ensure that human rights are protected in the public square of the 21st century.” Hah hah uninformed people, it’s funny because Sweden is trying to snare Assange for the US.

    Meanwhile, Hillary’s running dog Alex “The Innovator” Ross is burping out positive vibe Tweets with the hash tag #netfreedom in support. We’ll add a few choice comments to the feed with that same hashtag to keep things in balance later this morning.

    Whew, there you have it, one blast of Tweets to ruin your whole day. Anything new on Tom and Katie’s divorce by the way?

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    Great Moments in Social Media: Self-Congratulatory Propaganda

    April 13, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    We are all aware of the power of social media– to bend autocratic governments to the will of the people, to inform, to entertain, to allow the Department of State to speak directly to individuals instead of governments. Powerful, 21st century stuff. Indeed, social media is so important to the Department of State that over 150 people work on just that, Tweeting and Facebooking 24/7 like high school freshman on their third Red Bull. The State Department even has a full-time person with the humble title “Innovator,” Alec Ross, to embiggen this amazing set of tools which Hillary Clinton has dubbed “Smart Power” and “eDiplomacy.”

    The Australian government actually sent someone all the way over here to study the Department of State’s social media. That guy wrote “US policymakers have put great stock in the transformative power of Internet freedom. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, these tools will be used “to advance democracy and human rights, to fight climate change and epidemics, to build global support for President Obama’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons, [and] to encourage sustainable economic development that lifts the people at the bottom up.”

    So with that all in mind, let’s have a peek at what the Department of State felt compelled to pass into the Twitter stream on April 10:

    Wow. I wept. That is innovative, 21st century stuff, all on the tax payers dime. Jeez, at least when you “friend” Pepto Bismal on Facebook you get a coupon or something.

    How many of those 150 people working on social media at the State Department do you think it takes to crank out a couple of Tweets like that?

    (Of course not everyone has drunk the Kool Aid. Philip Seib, Huffington Post: “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the existence of an ongoing ‘information war’ that the United States is losing… Clinton’s remarks were particularly welcome as a note of realism from a State Department that often is primarily interested in self-congratulation.”

    Oops. No wonder Hillary looks so tired in that picture.

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    Create Yer Own Blog Post: Web Hypocrisy

    April 9, 2012 // Comments Off on Create Yer Own Blog Post: Web Hypocrisy

    It’s fun to be a blogger, so let’s try one together! You take an item from the news (if under 30, “from the media”) and write something about it. What you write can be serious, funny, sarcastic or poignant– you get to choose! So let’s get started.

    Here is a cartoon (“graphic novel”) produced at taxpayer expense (“your money”) by the US Government, specifically by the Department of State. The Department of State lately is very concerned about web freedom for other countries (“smart power”) because it has convinced itself that if people in other countries had full and free access to the internet, they would be nice and we would not have to bomb them with drones (“policy”).

    So let’s start by watching the cartoon (“propaganda”):

    (If the video does not appear by internet freedom magic above, you can also see it here on the YouTube)

    Now comes the funnest part, where you write something about that video for “your blog.” Here are some samples to help get you started.


    Ironically, the best internet blocking software is made in the US (Include a link for validity, such as Blue Coat).

    Countries the US likes also block or filter the web, places like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

    The State Department itself employs web filtering and blocking, internally clamping off access to web sites that have Wikileaks content that the US government does not want people to see.

    Interesting that the video is captioned in English. Is State trying to propagandize the Iranians, or is this really designed to help whip up more war fever in the US?


    Why does Tehran in that cartoon look a lot like a US urban area?

    If Iran suddenly threw away all of its web controls and blocking, the only change would be a 125% increase in views of videos of cats and babies doing funny things on YouTube.

    If Iran allowed FourSquare and Twitter to run free, would Hillary Clinton be Mayor of Iran?


    So Iran limits broadband access and throttles its web. You mean like Verizon?

    Needs more Family Guy references.

    So this is what the government spends my tax dollars on?

    Sorry, couldn’t watch it, my employer blocks YouTube at work so we don’t spend all day watching crap and not getting any work done.

    (For additional sarcastic blogging inspiration, check out the real-world Twitter feed set up to promote this cartoon at #ConnectIran. Click on some names to note how many of the participants are State Department people sucking up to their bosses by RT’ing State’s message to make it seem like it is “viral.”)


    If only the State Department would afford the We Meant Well blog the same freedom it demands for Iranians.

    The hipster animation moved me. I too demand the basic human right of internet access for Iran!

    And now we must sadly ask ourselves: Can anyone in Iran see this video? We watch it ever so casually here on our computers, while even viewing this in Iran is to risk death.

    Today, we are all Persians.

    So there you have it, your very own blog posting! After you have written yours, be sure to cut it out and stick it on your refrigerator door (“social media”) for everyone to see!

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    April 1: Reflecting on My Image

    April 1, 2012 // 3 Comments »

    Diplomatic Security electronic monitoring foolishly recorded the following subject interaction April 1.

    Thank you for coming in Mr. Van Buren. Image Consultants, Inc. was founded to assist people in your situation, so you’ve come to the right place.

    To begin, we think that you’ve lost touch with your true narrative. You need to get back in touch with what your core story is all about. We understand the temptations—the Playgirl photo shoot was probably a fun tie-in to your blog pieces, but in the end things like that just hurt you. You can’t turn against the very people who read your blog. Yes, yes, I know God made you that way, but hanging it out in public isn’t where you want to be right now. Sometimes it is OK to not say everything that is in your head. Maybe, quite often it is OK. Try an avoid the obvious train wrecks, yes?

    I think however you do need to reconsider the State Department’s offer. After all, you’ve spent a good portion of your adult life there, and working for Alec Ross is not a bad career move at this stage. Yes, we know it would be as his “Special Assistant Valet” responsible primarily for dispensing hair gel, but a year or two isn’t that long in a hardship assignment like that, and look how well your last hardship tour turned out for you! We’ve heard he usually lets his assistants watch him review the Tweet drafts sent up to him by his writing staff, so that is a bonus.

    Now, looking ahead, we’ve run some numbers. Your book has sold well among your extended family, with some decent sales in the Ikea niche market. Apparently the cover art colors pairs well with their Speigleflugfluf collection and people have been buying multiple copies to decoratively fill up their shelves. Our research suggests if you can cut about 40 pages from the next edition you’ll increase sales to Ikea by 10-15%, assuming no color changes to the cover of course. Turns out it won’t matter which 40 pages you cut, so we’ll recommend taking out the parts that aren’t funny. That shouldn’t be too hard, yes?

    Looking ahead, let’s sift through some of the offers. I see you’ve taken our advice and stopped returning calls to Lindsey Lohan, good. Assuming you do not go with the Alec Ross gig, we feel the offer from Trader Joe’s is probably your best bet. They are ready to give up on the no blogging rule as long as you avoid talking about competitor’s prices and you do get the free Hawaiian shirt to wear at work plus the employee discount. That other offer—whistleblower at NBA games—seems sexy and cool but our polling says the $8 an hour you’ll make at Trader Joe’s will eclipse your book earnings after only two days. Kind of a sure thing.

    Anyway, I know you have to run to put in some telework OT, but think it over and we’ll talk more. We’ve got the Gingrich account coming in for a makeover any minute now…

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    Posted in Embassy/State