I know Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest, but Sweden won the Eurovision. As I am obsessed (not only with Eurovision but also) with nation branding and perception, I look at the results from a branding perspective. And I will argue that Sweden – not Portugal, not even the host country Ukraine – won the Eurovision.
By now, most of us have heard about the tension between Turkey and the Netherlands (and for those who have not heard about it, CNN has a nice summary). As both countries are heading into elections, they once again showed us that the combination of “irrational voters” and “universal suffrage” might lead to really crazy rhetoric. I argue that this focus on “winning” the elections also influences how Turkey and the Netherlands portray the events in the international arena. And when everybody tries to win the game of soft power, everybody loses. Here is why and how:
With the proposed budget cuts for the U.S. State Department – and USAID -, we once again started seeing soft power discussions on mainstream news outlets. For a scholar, seeing his/her research topic on news outlets is an interesting experience. On one hand, it is a validation of one’s research and academic expertise. If people are talking about your research topic, you are not irrelevant. On the other hand, after hearing the arguments made, all you want to do is to yell “YOU ARE ALL WRONG”. Well, thanks to internet, it is a lot easier to yell that!
You are all wrong, your understanding of soft power is incomplete and flawed. Here is why:
If you have been on any kind of social media platform during the last couple of weeks, you must have seen the new “Passport Index” that ranks each and every passport in the world according to their power – or according to how many visa-free travel opportunities they provide to their holder. But my own travel experience (and obsession with proper measurement techniques) make me wonder whether “visa-free travel opportunity” is a suitable way to assess the power of a passport. Is there a better way to capture the power of a passport? (Hint: The answer is yes. This is why I am writing this blog post.)
International students and student exchanges are topics that I personally feel close to. Coincidentally, I was exposed to the studiy of public diplomacy (and nation branding) when I was (not knowingly) part of the Foreign Fulbright Program – the flagship exchange project of the US. Thus, I feel almost upset if I don’t get to write about the 2014 Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education.
I basically want to talk about on two points: (i) What do these new numbers mean? (ii) Can we international students as an agent/actor in public diplomacy.
I am well aware of the fact that my ‘career’ as a scholar is too short to start re-visiting some of my earlier works. Yet, Erdogan’s speech – which marked the 10th anniversary of AKP (Justice and Development Party) – made me go back to a short rhetorical analysis I carried out three years ago about Erdogan. A blog post is definitely not the place to visit this research. Here, I simply want to discuss my conclusions, state the fundamental rhetorical threats coming from AKP to Turkish identity directly and Turkish soft power indirectly, and take a closer look at Erdogan’s celebratory speech.
Last year, I wrote a short post about Turkish public diplomacy where I practically claimed AKP and Erdogan were the biggest obstacles to a robust PD strategy. Yesterday, AKP won its third consecutive elections, and will be governing the country for another term. And I still have the same concerns about Turkish PD.