Pakistan: State’s public affairs highlights social media while public diplomacy highlights military asssistance

Using social media for flood relief in Pakistan, August 6, 2010. [State Department/ Public Domain]

From DipNote, the State Department’s domestic-facing blog, by Rick Snelsire, Spokesperson at U.S. Embassy Islamabad.

The flooding in Pakistan, and U.S. relief efforts, is being reported not only by traditional Pakistani media sources, but also covered through interactive social media networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Youtube. Pakistan’s online media community and citizen reporters can also receive up-to-date information on U.S. flood relief efforts through the U.S. Embassy’s website.

Pakistan’s Facebook community can follow U.S. flood relief activities on the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page, or receive those as well as other updates from around the world on the main Facebook page for the Department. The State Department has twoYoutube websites providing videos of remarks and announcements about the flooding and U.S. efforts to assist flood victims. U.S. relief efforts are also documented on the Department of State’s Twitter and Flickr pages.

An estimated 4.5 million people in Pakistan have been affected by the tragic and devastating flooding that began on July 29. U.S. Embassy employees in Pakistan — and others throughout that country — have been raising money for the Prime Minister’s Fund for Flood Relief via cell phone donations. Within Pakistan, contributors can text their donation amount to the phone number 1234. Within the United States, contributors can text the word “SWAT” to the number 50555 to make an automatic $10 donation. The United States is making commitments of $25 million in assistance to flood-affected areas of Pakistan, bringing the total to date to more than $35 million. We are also deploying humanitarian relief experts and delivering essential supplies — a response consistent with our humanitarian values and our deep commitment to Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton encourages the use of new and social media to not only connect to friends and family, but also to provide a dialogue for understanding, to share innovative ideas and important information, and to create social networks.

About 30% of the visitors to the State.gov website, which DipNote is a part of, are from outside the US. A quick visit to www.America.gov to look for its coverage of US Government efforts to assist with the devastation, and this is the image you’ll find at the top of the page:

image

The implicit message to Americans, eloquently stated by the embassy spokesman, is the US Government is assisting in the efforts. To audiences outside the US, which www.America.gov is intended to be a resource for, the US military is assisting. Surely there wasn’t the conscious decision to show the military as humanitarians and not just drone pilots or could America.gov not find a better photograph or link to an accompanying and clarifying story (there was no obvious link or story available on America.gov)? 

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3 Replies to “Pakistan: State’s public affairs highlights social media while public diplomacy highlights military asssistance”

  1. Hey Matt,If you click on the photo, it leads you to an article that highlights more of the civilian assistance than the photo would suggest. But, yes, it would be nice if you knew you were supposed to click on the photo!

  2. @Al,good point: click the photo for the story! Ok, so I did that and the photo is… what is likely the same Chinook. However, this time emphasis in the image is the aid (good) and the caption does not mention the military (good).

  3. Good reminder that the world often doesn’t view U.S. military airlift as benign. Our cultural context often includes the Berlin Airlift and Sarajevo Airlifts, while others perceive drone strikes and invasion forces. However, the whole issue is complex, because military airlift also is recognized as a symbol that the U.S. government takes an emergency seriously enough to invest its most important hardware assets. Pakistan was extremely grateful when the U.S. military sent dozens of helicopters to assist remote communities after the 2005 earthquake, an act that was considered to have signficant public diplomacy impact, even in opinion polls (though the effects weren’t necessarily long-lasting). Many Pakistanis might view such an image within this context. On the other hand, I was at a university lecture in the U.K. in January, when the U.S. military was in Haiti, ostensibly to triple the cargo capacity at Port au Prince Airport and to help secure Haitian government sites. But many people at the university lecture viewed the images through the context of Iraq and Afghanistan combat. They simply could not fathom that the U.S. government considers its military to be an effective early responder in a humanitarian emergency. Such is the long-term legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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