Friday, May 19, 2017

Joseph Nye: The Conning of America

This blog is about "public diplomacy",  "soft power" (an erectile dysfunction of the mind) and Joseph Nye.  But before we go to those things, let me digress...

What do you call the most brightest guy at Harvard? Answer: Maintenance.  

What's the difference between a poly sci seminar and a circle jerk. With the circle jerk, you get satisfaction.

There!  Got that out of my system.  I just so tired of jokes about sleazy lawyers, who at least do something -- unlike the  tenured but otherwise unemployable upper middle class people in government and academe -- especially political "scientists" or, as I prefer to call them, political scientologists.
Better Call Saul

What, for example, is "public diplomacy" or "soft power"? As these terms are used by people like Joseph Nye, who, while hardly an intellectual, is an excellent con artist.  

Remember that a good con never appears that way at first. 

Here’s Wikipedia, pretty much paraphrasing Joe:

In international relations, public diplomacy or people's diplomacy, broadly speaking, is the communication with and dissemination of propaganda to foreign public to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence. There is no one definition of public diplomacy, and it may be easier to describe than to define it, as definitions vary and continue to change over time. It is practiced through a variety of instruments and methods ranging from personal contact and media interviews to the Internet and educational exchanges. 
People in the biz’ of course adamantly deny that "public diplomacy" is propaganda --just as I pretend that what I do in PR is something more than putting lipstick on a pig (oh...and eyeliner, too!)

And Barack should know


Our Pig of the week, Joseph Nye on the term he invented: "Soft Power"...

Makes sense right?  Of course, it does.  And please note Joe's lack of wrinkles -- that will be important later.

However Joe did not invent "Soft power" -- just came up with a name for something that has been around since the Paleolithic.  In the biz', we call this the "Naming Game".

Names are important to get attention.   But  names come and go, as people get tired of them.  They are too often style  not substance. 

More recently we call "soft power"  "cultural diplomacy" (cf. Arendt, Berridge et al)  Which proponents say is what the Beatles were doing way back when Nye was still a student at the prestigious prep school he went to before Princeton and joined State.

So, all Nye is doing is dressing up a fact with a catchy phrase. Lipstick on a pig ....

Back in 1785, Thomas Jefferson in 1785 commented....
you see I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. but it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as it’s object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world & procure them it’s praise.

Jefferson was impressed by Bourbon style.  Of course, a few years later, there was a huge shift in fashion....

Culottes were out, Sans Culottes were in.   Culture is populist, something that Jefferson, as an aristocrat did not quite get.  More about that later....

In the 50s, the State Department --the Womb of American Government and  one of Nye's umbilicals  --  tried to spread American "culture" -- or what they wanted American culture to be --  with stuff like the Voice of America, which was not all that effective compared to, as mentioned, the Beatles, who weren't even American.  So, the social facts were clear.

Since Nye is one of the architects of neoliberalism and worked for State he is all about "power" which also means sycophancy.. And "diplomacy" for him  means powerful men in black ties exchanging jokes at the urinals.  No, I don't think he is anti-feminist - he's a liberal -- so he's in favor of women peeing standing up side by side with the guys.  

So, for political scientologists,  creativity becomes  "influencing the preferences of others" -- kind of like a weird hat or joke for a pickup artist, just something to get you in the door, the window of opportunity, the diplomatic vagina or rectum.

Jospeh Nye and Friends

Similarly Art and cultural communication become instruments of power,  mere accessories to "public" diplomacy -- like vibrators in sex.  Not that I have forgotten the importance of urinals, mind you.

The trouble is that "soft power" (now called "cultural diplomacy") is non-governmental, indirect, and Socratic -- and, as with the Beatles, often populist if not anti-authoritarian.

Nye moved on from the limp dick concept of "Soft Power" in the Naming Game to "smart power", so beloved of Hillary Clinton.

Empathy:  "We came, we saw, he died"

I suppose you have noticed by now the huge difference between what people like Nye and Hillary say and what they do.  For them this is "diplomacy".  For most people it is lying, a form of control.

Implicit in the neoliberal notion of power is control --   by the Few over the Many, by Patricians such as males of Nye's class or Wannabe Males of Hillary's class,  over the Hoi Polloi.  Since cultural evolution is driven by more or less random memetic mutation -- ideas spontaneously generated and communicated virally -- it cannot be controlled in the way that authoritarians would like.  

But "smart" power  -- ah... that combines a lot of stuff - mostly expensive -- but all delivering a lethal combination of  seduction plus coercion. $$$$$$.  And, of course, a lot of lies.

One great thing about smart power is that is so much easier to blame the victim, who doesn't really know they were getting fucked until it happens.

Still, you are fucked.  Which means we are back to propaganda

And to that giant sucking sound you hear?    Hordes of  ad company people, media whores, university professors, retired civil servants , PR people and similar morally destitute riffraff on their knees in front of government officers doing what they do best.

Public diplomacy:  the art of the blowjob. It sucks -- literally.

"Smart Power"? Think pimps
Pimp juice is good for your skin.

And Joe Nye has great skin as I mentioned earlier.    

He is a shining example of the principles that rule in the Propaganda...sorry, PR...sorry... Public Diplomacy industry. 
There is the Peter Principle -- Nye is clearly promoted beyond his competence -- and Dunning Kruger -- the idea that dumb people tend to think they are really, really smart --and my own Oracle's Razor:  the dumber you talk, the more you get paid.  Sometimes shit is more valuable than food.

Do I exaggerate?  Am I insulting?  

I am insulting.  But I do not exaggerate.

Nye's numerous articles in the Media insult the intelligence of your average  middle school student. So tit for tat. The esteemed professor merely regurgitates the semi-digested glob of the media organs his articles appear in.    But, hey, WaPo and NYT pay him. This is the intellectual version of bukkake.   

And it is all because the  results of "cultural diplomacy" aren't always what the American Establishment wants. The "facts" need constant tweaking.  Dealing with the "people" is like herding cats.

People just don't manage very well.  Take, for example,  Vladimir Putin -- who Nye unfriended long before Facebook even existed. Vlad was supposed to be like Gorbachev --a well meaning, trusting, naive wuss or like Yeltsin, a drunk corrupt buffoon.  Like he's Russian, don't ya know?

Alas, Putin is not only Russia's leader -- he is first of all promoted to his level of competence -- which is an anomaly -- and also a cultural phenomenon.   

Hugely popular in the Russia for his athleticism, open-ness (yes, he does hours of unscripted  Q&A with ordinary people ), and love of animals, Vlad delivered Russia from the chaos wrought by Yeltsin, raised living standards, increased the lifespan and reformed he economy.  He is respected almost everywhere --except in the English speaking world where he is the Great Satan.   He did something unique -- he did not try to change Russian culture -- he tried to express it. 

Does he quash dissent?  No more than happens in the US.  Think: Occupy, which represented a huge American cultural shift in thinking. 

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.And how odd that if you really want a good look at American society and politics you have to go to RT!   
--Naomi Klein

The American plutocracy for whom Joseph Nye is an icon, along with Obama and Hillary, is opposed to real culture change because it cannot control the results.  So, for it "cultural diplomacy" is not about fostering culture creativity but about suppressing it. 

The Republic was established with an Electoral College because the Founders felt that decision about how ran the country could not be entrusted to the roughly 14% or people allowed to vote. 

Remember  the "American Dream"   at the end of WWII when much of the world lay in ruins.? 

The world was in ruins.  But...

The US came out of the war prosperous, at least if you were white.   Everybody could afford a home, if you were white  Higher education was pretty much free if you were white.   People had all sorts of new consumer goods. American TV and movies ruled the world, along with American advertising.  Beer was everywhere.   Freedom!  Democracy! Yay! (if you were white).

Sounds good for America, right?  Great "cultural diplomacy",  too right?


In Europe, people hungered for their own versions of the American dream --but to get there meant very Un-American socialist revolutions and socialist governments. Then,  back home, the children of the Greatest Generation took all that stuff about freedom and democracy seriously -- so they (the Boomers) wanted sex and drugs.   Black people wanted rights.  The Anti-War movement boomed.  This is what happens when people take cultural shifts seriously.

"Soft Power" is  not "soft" but "pop", in the sense of "populist".     Emergent culture of this kind is  therefore often anti-authoritarian leveling the legitimacy of existing  power structures and subversive of existing institutions.  Which is why the Obama administration conspired with local and state authorities to destroy the Occupy movement.   

Subversion.   Means to overturn from below.  Popular culture is by definition "below", along with the "Many".  "High" culture is the province of the Few, like Jefferson's Bourbons.   but the Bourbons lost their heads thanks to the popular will.  Popular culture is driven by the natural selection of memes in an evolutionary process of adaptation to circumstances.

People like Nye. Hillary, Tony Blair and others -- people who were born into  authoritarian privilege -- naturally don't understand or like Popular Culture, unless it is controlled.    In fact, they don't really accept that it self-generates and mutates -- they must always assume that it is orchestrated by Somebody in Control, with an agenda. From their point of view somebody always has to be in control.  And all they have to do is wrest control.   Kill Saddam. Kill Gadaffi.  Kill Assad. 

Therefore, when the Nyes of the world see  a populist movement their immediate reaction is try to suppress it.   A good example is Trump.  It couldn't be ordinary people are just pissed off, could it?   Trump's an idiot -- so he couldn't create a movement.  No, it had to be Putin, the Great Satan. Worse, a cat-lover,.

In the Ukraine, Joseph Nye will tell you it couldn't be that Eastern Ukraine did not want to be governed by a bunch of NeoNazi thugs with ethnic cleansing in mind -- it had to -- responsible for "naked aggression" which presumably means a lot of naked blonde girls crossing the border into the Crimea.

The Russian Menace

People like Joseph Nye  are not paid for objectivity.  Oracle's Razor again.  So much for the meaning of a PhD.

By and large, Public Diplomacy” programs are just money making schemes for our modern version of camp followers -- in the universities, the media and PR --not to mention the bureaucrats who want jobs after retirement.   They are almost never about cultural exchange and creative cross-fertilization.

Governments, in particular, like to choose things  already proven in the marketplace of ideas, kind of like movie remakes.   The trouble is that these things were consensuses generated  by conditions that did not remain he same -- and were originally in any case almost always "out of the box".  

The institutional mind hates "out of the box"   It is a box-maker.

By the time governments and their supporting institutions get to them they are like old toys which are dumped back into a new box, labelled, say,   Cool Britannia or Cool Japan or -- of course, -- the American Dream. (aka "Make America Great Again"). 

The governments spend a lot of money on the box.  What's inside is more or less irrelevant. In Japan, it's Hello Kitty and pedophilic "otaku" culture.

But that helps buy BMWs and summer homes for people in the business.

I naturally think that that is a waste – no one is going to buy me a BMW, not that I could afford parking anyway.

Still, if you are listening out there, Cool Japan, my knee pads are well-worn.

All for the illusion of control.

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