Israel’s Twitter Sampling Diplomacy

I’ve heard of gunboat diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy. But until today, I had been unfamiliar with Twitter diplomacy — at least, until the New York Times reported a selection of the “conversation” taking place about the Gaza crisis and the explanatory tweets offered by David Saranga, head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in NYC. Here’s a sample:

Question from peoplesworld: 40 years of military confrontation hasn’t brought security to Israel, why is this different?

Answer from israelconsulate: We hav 2 prtct R ctzens 2, only way fwd through negotiations, & left Gaza in 05. y Hamas launch missiles not peace

Which brings to mind, however randomly,  Juanita Hall’s sprightly, if  English-challenged song in “South Pacific,” advising American GI’s that they should engage in “Happy talk/Keep talkin happy talk/Is good idea/You like?”

Or think of it in other ways — for example, as a hip DJ’s sampling. And while Mr. Saranga, the Israeli PR spokesperson, isn’t sampling Sam Cooke or Abba Eban, for that matter, the truncated syncopation of his language has that rhythmic discontinuity found under the strobe lights on the dance floor.

Everything old is new, as we know. Take the poet ee cummings:

it’s jolly

odd what pops into

your jolly tete when the

jolly shells begin dropping jolly fast you

hear the rrmp and

then nearandnearerandNEARER

and before

you can

!

& we’re

NOT

(oh–

–i say

that’s jolly odd

old thing, jolly

od, jolly

jolly odd isn’t

it jolly odd

Small-lettered cummings wasn’t only speaking American — he was talking modernity. And I suspect that those shells weren’t peanuts but bombs falling in WW I.

original cover, 1926 (Charles Scribner's Sons, publisher)

original cover, 1926 (Charles Scribner's Sons, publisher)

My mother once observed of my father’s frequent meditative silences that “Sam speaks like a telegram.” She might also have mentioned other telegrammatical communicators such as Ernest Hemingway. In The Sun Also Rises, travelers communicated their plans to their overseas friends like this:

Arrive Paris Christmas STOP Be wearing raccoon coat STOP Bring flask STOP.

All right: I made up that telegram. But still.  The pauses.  The concision. And the irony  — always the irony.

25th anniversary edition (Oxford, 2000), winner of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award & named by the Modern Library as one of the 20th century's 100 Best Non-Fiction Books

25th anniversary edition (Oxford, 2000), winner of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award & named by the Modern Library as one of the 20th century's 100 Best Non-Fiction Books

In The Great War and Modern Memory, the best book I ever read about WW I’s radical alteration of language from late nineteenth century Romanticism to the wised-up flatness and ironic tone the Great War brought.Compare the pre-war with the after party:  steed/horse; comrade/friend; the summons/the draft notice; to conquer/to win; ashes or dust/dead bodies.

And so Israeli’s public diplomacy is sampling, in a sense, the ironic, truncated language of what emerged from what’s been called the first industrial war. But of course that’s all in the Way Back.  What comes across more immediately in Mr. Saranga’s diplomatic language  (post-diplomatic language?) isn’t the irony of the literati as much as the sarcasm of the technorati — unintentional as sarcasm may be.

I detect a little DUH! and some eye-rolling in the following exchange:

explore4corners: How many attacks have there been against IS in the last 6 months? How many casualties? The MSM doesn’t report that here.

Israelconsulate: ovr 500 rockts Hit IL in the 6 mts of CF per the last 72 hrs mre than 300 hit IL. kiling 4 ppl & injuring hndrds

So this is it — the new language of public diplomacy cum PR 2.0, as the public relations world calls it.  A little cummings, a dash of Hemingway, a sprinkle of Sam Cooke, an oz. of Lonelygirl14, a shot of Seinfeld. Pour into 2.0 saucepan and tweet for 5 seconds.

Fact is, Mr. Saranga would get high marks from the new mandarins of public communication. He’s “engaged the conversation,” wading right into the hostility and dispensing with the old-school clueless of  “No Comment.” He’s using social media tools as they have been designed  — not to write prose that the literati inventors of PR would have approved —  but to make the heretofore “silent” inner speech visible within the Short Attention Span Theater of the technorati age.

No longer are we living in a Cartesian world of  “I think, therefore I am.”   Today, it’s  “I tweet,  therefore you’ll know me.”

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