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White House acts to shed arrogant image.
July 31, 2002 7:39 AM   Subscribe

White House acts to shed arrogant image. The White House will set up a new office to try to salvage America's plummeting image abroad, it was announced yesterday as an independent taskforce reported that even the country's allies saw the US as "arrogant", "hypocritical" and "self-absorbed". This autumn, an office of global communications will take over the job of selling "Brand America" from the state department, which the White House believes has failed to do the job effectively. Propaganda to garner support for an invasion in Iraq, genuine desire to promote the image of the country, or a meaningless facade that's a waste of money? You make the call.
posted by Ufez Jones (68 comments total)

 
Considering the real benefits that effective public relations can deliver, and the level of expertise that America has to draw on in this field, I think that if a real concerted effort is made to improve the image of America abroad... America's image abroad will improve. Now targeting that effort? A different story. Personally, I think they should definitely do it.

As for support for the coming Iraqi invasion? I'm wondering if the administration continues to believe it needs it. They don't seem to be soliciting much from our erstwhile allies of late.
posted by UncleFes at 7:48 AM on July 31, 2002


Got a problem? Invent a bureaucracy, name it after the problem, and you're all set. And here I thought conservatives were supposed to be in favor of small government...

Here's a thought: instead of setting up a PR office, let's just stop acting so arrogant, hypocritical, and self-absorbed. Maybe that will help.
posted by ook at 7:48 AM on July 31, 2002


The thing about advertising is that it only goes so far: it may get you to buy the product once, but if the product doesn't live up to its promises you're never going to buy it again, no matter how good the ads are.

So yeah, what ook said.
posted by lia at 8:00 AM on July 31, 2002


I'm with ook. That's my call.
posted by nofundy at 8:01 AM on July 31, 2002


I thought kind of along the same lines as ook. If we really want to change our image, shouldn't we change our ways? I guess the primary underlying question is, are the perceptions of the U.S. true? If so, do we simply want to trick people into thinking they're not true, or do we try to make them no longer actually be true?
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:01 AM on July 31, 2002


Actions speak louder than words. People aren't pissed off because the US lacks a good PR department, they're pissed of because of what the US does.
posted by whatnotever at 8:04 AM on July 31, 2002


Ook: it's true, but it's not news. Yanks have been accused of being "...acting so arrogant, hypocritical, and self-absorbed..." since the year dot.

As have the brits, i guess.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:05 AM on July 31, 2002


ook, no matter what America does, someone's going to bitch. In the meantime, America (by virtue of being the biggest-richest-most influential) has to do some things. What's wrong with trying to influence the world in our favor, instead of allowing our critics to dominate the conversation?

My question to you both: what "ways" would you change first? I personally think the whole "arrogant, hypocritical, and self-absorbed" label is a prejudice not borne out by most of our actions abroad. But the world thinks it's cool and fun to bash the leading superpower regardless, so it does.

What have we done that's arrogant, hypocritical, and self-absorbed that the rest of the world hasn't done as well and, often, ten times worse?
posted by UncleFes at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2002


And the president from the party of small gov't creates yet another new office and positions at the white house. That's exactly what we need: more bureaucracy
posted by mathowie at 8:10 AM on July 31, 2002


Reading over, let me caveat that - I believe America should act honorably in all things, should promote peace wherever it can, and should aid those in need. I'm not saying "they're doing it, so why shouldn't we?" BUT, I do think that America gets a bad rap that's essentially (specificl instances, obviously, excepted) undeserved.
posted by UncleFes at 8:10 AM on July 31, 2002


Mr Morey, who runs a New York public relations company, DMG, told the Guardian that the US spent only $5m (£3.2m) a year on public diplomacy, "less than half what [Michael] Bloomberg spent to get elected mayor of New York",

While technically correct, Morley, who's office is in NYC, should have been more exact when quoting what Bloomberg spent on the mayoral election. That figure is $70 million, which is approximately fourteen times the $5 million being spent on Public Diplomacy.
posted by flatlander at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2002


My question to you both: what "ways" would you change first?

Where to start? OK, here's some to start:
1) Approve the Kyoto treaty
2) Approve the treaty to ban landmines
3) Support family planning for third world countries

Everyone feel free to contribute to the list of unilateralist actions taken by the Duhbya regime recently in the name of the American people.
posted by nofundy at 8:21 AM on July 31, 2002


Whatever peoples feelings are on Kyoto it has to recognised that the incumbent is never in a million years going to be able to implement even a dilute version of what was agreed in kyoto, the reality being is that it equates to political suicide in the energy gobbling U.S. However banning militarily ineffective anti-personnel landmines is acheivable, and refusing to contribute to family planning overseas as some sort of sop to the demonic christian right is unforgiveable.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2002


Off those three, only the third is even realistic (and, I agree, should be done). Kyoto is a punishment for American industry by the rest of the world based on flawed science that none of the other polluters have to bother with; the landmine treaty, while ostensibly a laudable goal, is a feel good measure - the countries that use the most mines would never sign, and so far as I know this treaty does nothing to solve what is a REAL problem, mines that are already in the ground.

nofundy, I have my list of things I wish the government were doing, too, and I suspect that, for most of us, left and right alike, that list would contain a great deal in common. I guess my point is that, not very many of these things are cut and dried and that America's reputation for being arrogant, et al is more the result of a long-term counter-PR campaign than a preponderance of real grievance.
posted by UncleFes at 8:33 AM on July 31, 2002


UncleFes: I'm tempted to just pour out a snarky list of some of the more egregious recent examples, but those are all conversations we've all had already; I'd be preaching to the choir on one side and to an empty auditorium on the other.

The statement that "no matter what America does, someone's going to bitch" is true. It's a big world, filled with many opinions, and any nation or idea is going to have its detractors, deservedly or not.

But recently our behavior has become such that even our closest allies, the nations we're ideologically similar to -- the ones who should agree with us -- are complaining publically about our behavior. Those complaints didn't come out of nowhere, and they didn't arise just because the world just suddenly feels like taking the big guy down a peg: that's as vast and vapid an oversimplification as the argument that terrorists "hate freedom".

This administration chooses to try to paper over the problem with PR and marketing. It might even work, in the short term: we're good at PR and marketing. But it sure doesn't seem a sensible, or sustainable solution to me. Generally when governments try their hand at PR, the noun used is "propaganda." And as a nation we're not very good at propaganda. (Remember those super bowl "war on drugs" ads? Think those stopped anyone taking drugs?)

What "ways" would I change first? Boils down to two basic principles: Any actions we demand of another nation, we should also demand of ourselves. (ICC? Sure thing. UN weapons inspectors? Bring 'em on: we've got nothing to hide. Free trade? You bet.) We should actually follow our democratic ideals, instead of just paying them lip service. (Either try Padilla in a real court of law, or turn him loose. Abandon the "military tribunal". Unseal the presidential papers. Keep those checks and balances balanced, and stop consolidating power at the executive branch.)

Perhaps America does get a "bad rap" -- in that more attention is focused on our behavior as a nation than there is on, say, Switzerland. But, dammit, if we're going to be the world's policeman, we ought to deserve it. At the moment, I don't think that we do.
posted by ook at 8:39 AM on July 31, 2002


Shhhhh!

Don't tell anybody but the Kyoto Treaty was voted down by the US Senate by 95-0 during the Clinton Administration.

Again, Ninety-five to zip.

Damn that Duhbya!
posted by flatlander at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2002


Propaganda to garner support for an invasion in Iraq, genuine desire to promote the image of the country, or a meaningless facade that's a waste of money? You make the call.

did someone say, "trifecta?"
posted by mcsweetie at 8:46 AM on July 31, 2002


Hmm...how about we just stop talking out of our ass? If we're going to be the big champions of democracy, how about we stop undermining or destroying democracies that don't give our big companies what they want? If we're going to lead the war on terror, why don't we stop being terrorists ourselves?

Though it has been expressed far better by others...why don't we stop treating the rest of the world like the sweatshop for American prosperity?

Yeah...what ook said (both times)...
posted by troybob at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2002


America's reputation for being arrogant, et al is more the result of a long-term counter-PR campaign than a preponderance of real grievance

Huh? By who? The World-Wide Anti-America Cabal™?

Please remember there's more to the world than Us and Those Other Guys. It's one thing when countries like Iraq and Cuba are calling you the great satan. Nobody much cares. But now we're drawing fire from our allies. That's a sign, if ever there was one, that we're going too far.
posted by ook at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2002


[...let's just stop acting so arrogant, hypocritical, and self-absorbed. ]

Ok - You start and we'll let you know if it helps.
posted by revbrian at 8:54 AM on July 31, 2002


Cute.
posted by ook at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2002


1) Approve the Kyoto treaty
2) Approve the treaty to ban landmines
3) Support family planning for third world countries


Yes that will endear us to the politicians of the world, which is why I hope none of those 3 things are never undertaken. I would prefer the United States be endeared to the people of other countries, and in that respect, we should be for free trade (not the pathetic protectionism of American industry that the Democrats and Republicans take part in) and military non-intervention (lots of people get angry at the sight of U.S. troops occupying their homeland.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2002


What "ways" would I change first? Boils down to two basic principles: Any actions we demand of another nation, we should also demand of ourselves.... We should actually follow our democratic ideals, instead of just paying them lip service.

ook, surprisingly enough, we are in complete and utter agreement on these points.

Those complaints didn't come out of nowhere, and they didn't arise just because the world just suddenly feels like taking the big guy down a peg: that's as vast and vapid an oversimplification as the argument that terrorists "hate freedom".

OK, I concede that. In defense, however, I would counter that the world's desire to take the big guy down a peg should never be discounted (French Revolution being a good example); that the majority of Americans feel as we do, and that American political leadership is temporary by law. In less than two years, W is going to have to justify to the American public that he deserves to stay in office. Personally, I don't think he can do that, and each day's worth of weirdness paves that particular road. In any event, the agenda today can be retracted by tomorrow's administration. And there are lots of courts in the meantime to judge legality and consitutionality.
posted by UncleFes at 9:03 AM on July 31, 2002


By which I meant: just because Ashcroft proposes something ludicrous today does NOT mean the free world is coming to Fascism. He's just one guy, and a short-timer at that.
posted by UncleFes at 9:05 AM on July 31, 2002


"Reiben, I want you to listen closely to ook. This is the way to gripe. ook, continue." (With apologies to Tom)

While many of our unilateralist actions of late are no doubt motivated by less than noble ideals, I also find that we're commonly on the right side of the debate. Kyoto looks nice, smells nice, and plays nice. And is unlikely to do squat. The conventions against landmines and (more recently) torture are windowdressing. The ICC is probably illegal and reeks of colonialism. And on, and on, and on.

Re Winston, America tends to do the right thing, once it's eliminated all other options. We also often do the right things for the wrong reasons. But the noble appearences of what passes for multilateralist foreign policy these days shouldn't be confused with good ideas. And crass unilateralism shouldn't be confused with bad ones.

(On preview, insomnyuk said it more succinctly).

Many (if not most) of the issues we break from our allies over look very nice and no doubt provide loads of useful political capital, but suffer from serious and substantive problems. There's little shame in calling a spade a spade and refusing to play polo with it, even if it miffs those around you.
posted by apostasy at 9:10 AM on July 31, 2002


I agree, UncleFes. (And I apologize for my Cabal snark; that was uncalled for.)

The flipside, however, is that if we stop reacting with horror (and more importantly, with letters to congressmen, protests, public discourse, and -- as you say -- votes) whenever Ashcroft -- or anybody -- proposes something ludicrous, then at least some of those ludicrous proposals will become permanent. Not the end of the free world, just a step in the wrong direction.
posted by ook at 9:12 AM on July 31, 2002


The inherent problem is that most people with a negative image of the United States have that image out of unconscious jealousy.

I did some thought in an effort to understand this sentiment; tried to find a model to make resentment make sense. The best I could do was analogize the way I, and probably most baseball fans feel about the NY Yankees: they're top dog, and have been for, seemingly, ever.

Or another analogy: the way most Americans fee about New York: resentment/contempt.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:14 AM on July 31, 2002


Any actions we demand of others, we do ourselves? Kindly cite our actions which violate this.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:16 AM on July 31, 2002


ook: Very true, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance". (Incidentally, who said that first? Other than Malcolm McDowell.) But we should be equally aware of the dangers at crying Fascist Wolf! at actions that are anything but. I prefer my epithets undiluted when the time comes that they are truly needed.
posted by apostasy at 9:19 AM on July 31, 2002


Oy, I injected a double negative into that last post of mine. My shame is great.

out of unconscious jealousy.

I don't think it's unconscious at all.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:22 AM on July 31, 2002


Re: Charlotte Beers' reported ineffectiveness, as mentioned in the article, the Economist wrote a profiled of her in February, and offered this conclusion:
Ms Beers also knows that the best way to damage a brand is to mismatch the image and the reality. Yet whatever gloss she can apply to America's image is wiped away by behaviour beyond her control. As she took part in a daily conference call to co-ordinate public diplomacy, for example, the Department of Defence merrily released doctored photos depicting a clean-shaven, besuited Mr bin Laden—undermining American claims that it never tampers with evidence.
It's not clear that setting up a new office is going to help that sort of thing, unless the Bush administration actually makes America's international image a genuine factor in deciding our actions abroad.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:25 AM on July 31, 2002


What might be useful is to somehow facilitate the image of the United States as filled only with primitive, gun-toting rednecks and arrogant, indifferent rich people. The problem is that much of America's image is shaped by the entertainment industry, and entertainment thrives on depictions of extremes and parodies.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:29 AM on July 31, 2002


(filled not only with...)
posted by ParisParamus at 9:33 AM on July 31, 2002


Point taken, ook. And apology not necessary (but, of course, accepted).

Jealousy certainly is a piece of the bad PR puzzle, but not all of it. No one thing is all of it. And no one thing can fix it. I suppose a pro-US PR campaign is half-ass propaganda, and certainly we don't need any more "Departments of [whatever]," but my thinking is, what could it hurt? I'd like to see a world that says "America! You Rule!" sometime in my life, and this may be first step toward the actual solutions that ook outlined.

Probably the best PR solution is to fire Beers and hire Fleischman-Hillard (or somebody) to do a full service campaign. And what Paris said in re: the entertainment industry.
posted by UncleFes at 9:33 AM on July 31, 2002


The inherent problem is that most people with a negative image of the United States have that image out of unconscious jealousy.

Ah, so the only source of non-Americans' ire is that we are so rockin' excellent.

Well, I'll sleep better tonight. Phew.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2002


But the bottom line is that the biggest boy on the block is always going to be disliked; its flaws exagerated, its positives played down.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2002


gun-toting rednecks...arrogant, indifferent rich people

Are you sure that's the entertainment industry, or were you really thinking about the White House?

And I always liked the "biggest boy on the block," unless he was a bully.
posted by troybob at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2002


What America should do is form a branch of the service whose primary role is to help rescue people, clean-up, and rebuild after natural disasters. No nation is free from natural disasters, everyone affected by them is innocent, and virtually no country would not be greatful for the help. The advance team should swoop in as soon as possible after the earthquake/flood/etc flying the stars and stripes and taking advantage of the latest and most impressive technology. The team should exit with as little fanfare as possible, and quickly move on to the next problem.

What we need is a patriotic, international A-Team that will help people all over the world and leave them with the feeling that America cares about the rest of the world. While maintaining our wealth and status may mean we roll over other countries if we disagree with them, let no one say our altruism and genuine desire to help is not fulfilled.

The brigade should be named after the NYFD houses that lost the most people in Sept. 11th, and their spirit should live on in helping other victims of disaster.
posted by cell divide at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2002


What America should do is form a branch of the service whose primary role is to help rescue people, clean-up, and rebuild after natural disasters.

American rescue workers frequently help out with international disasters. There are many altruistic Americans and many altruistic private American organizations. The part of America that usually engenders hatred is the government, especially the military.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2002


The inherent problem is that most people with a negative image of the United States have that image out of unconscious jealousy.

Yeah, it'd have to be unconscious, because I can really see how the rest of the world wants to be regarded as arrogant, hypocritical and self-absorbed too.
posted by riviera at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2002


troybob: [...] why don't we stop treating the rest of the world like the sweatshop for American prosperity?

Yes, the US should probably act more in concert with her allies, but I just don't buy this sweatshop argument. Where would Japan be if we didn't buy cameras from Japanese "sweatshops" in the 60s? Where would China be if we didn't buy plastic toys from them in the 80s?

Just because you make more than I do, doesn't mean I'd prefer subsistence farming. Trade isn't about someone "losing" and someone else "winning".
posted by Triplanetary at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2002


I can really see how the rest of the world wants to be regarded as arrogant, hypocritical and self-absorbed too.

It has certainly worked for the French.
posted by Skot at 10:17 AM on July 31, 2002


The inherent problem is that most people with a negative image of the United States have that image out of unconscious jealousy.

Thanks for that refreshing look into my psyche, Paris. Now I understand that my resentment towards American policymakers isn't based on their violation of free trade agreements, disdain for international courts, or writing off thousands of civ deaths in Afganistan as necessary to protect, uhm, civilians; it's because I'm jealous of all that. Yes, that must be it. Is there anything else that I think without knowing it that you'd like to illuminate for us? Sheesh.
posted by holycola at 10:19 AM on July 31, 2002


Any actions we demand of others, we do ourselves? Kindly cite our actions which violate this.

For starters, how about denouncing protectionism in developing nations while practicing it at home (steel production and farming)?
posted by lia at 10:20 AM on July 31, 2002


I'm talking too much in this thread, so this will be my last post; just a couple of specifics I want to respond to:

...most people with a negative image of the United States have that image out of unconscious jealousy. [PP]

Okay. Assuming you're talking about the attitudes of the average 'man on the street', rather than that of foreign governments (which are unlikely to be swayed by a PR office in any case):

If what you say were true, then those people would form an equally negative image of all well-developed, industrialized, "rich" nations. Canada, Japan, Germany, you name it. That seems not to be the case.

I'm not dismissing it as a factor: certainly a wide income gap inflames tensions of all sorts. (Which is, in my opinion, the best argument for humanitarian and development aid both domestically and abroad.) But to consider it the only factor, or even the most important factor, strikes me as, again, an absurd oversimplification. Which is more likely to take up arms against the US: A hardscrabble Afgani farmer enraged by the latest rerun of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Or that same farmer enraged by the death of his family to an American cluster bomb? Or an Iraqi who fears the next US invasion, or an Iranian who fears the one after that?

Bear in mind that we're talking about a relatively recent, and dramatic, shift in world mood. Economic jealousy has been with us for generations: it's unpleasant and unfortunate, but can't be used as the explanation for a problem which is much more recent in origin.

Also bear in mind that the rest of the world is not composed entirely of impoverished dirt farmers whose image of the US is based solely on exaggerated media representations. We're also drawing criticism from nations whose standards of living are equal to or greater than our own: in these cases "jealousy" doesn't factor into the equation at all.

Kindly cite our actions which violate this. [PP]

I kindly refer you to the parenthetical remark immediately following my statement, in which I cited three specific examples. Sheesh.

I prefer my epithets undiluted when the time comes that they are truly needed [apostasy]

As do I. I don't think this PR office is a sign of impending fascism; I just think it's a dumb, and ineffective, idea.

my thinking is, what could it hurt? [UncleFes]

Unfortunately, the damage is already done (in my opinion). The establishment of this office is a public sign that the administration is more concerned with image than with reality, and I believe it will harm our credibility in the long run. It's effectively the same problem as with that Office of Strategic Information blunder a few months ago: basically, we're publically admitting that we'd rather lie about a problem than fix it.

If the administration felt the State department wasn't doing its job properly in terms of public image, they could've just tried to quietly improve the State department. Nobody would've noticed, and it might have done some good. But this very public announcement means that anything this new department does will be automatically suspect. I just don't understand the motivation behind it.
posted by ook at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2002


I agree, insomnuk. Unfortunately, since we are supposedly the biggest and bestest democracy, the assumption is the the activities of our government and military are representative of the ideals of our population. I don't know that much of the world has gotten the clue yet that our government is pretty much a private industry now, and we the people are out of the loop.

Also, I think they get a better picture of our activities in other countries than we do. I don't know if it comes down to ratings, readership, or just lack of interest here, but there are a lot of stories about our role in the world that are more fully covered in foreign press. With this, I think we have a generally distorted view about our place in the world.

Triplanetary: My use of 'sweatshop' was probably not the best choice; I was thinking more generally, in the sense that I think we view the rest of the world as kind of a warehouse for our desires, that we somehow have more of a right to most of the world's resources (including labor) because we are bigger and stronger.
posted by troybob at 10:37 AM on July 31, 2002


My last post on this thread also.

What ook just said (again.) Is it that hard to see or are some willfully ignorant?
posted by nofundy at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2002


What you call "willful ignorance," someone else may call a "debatable point."
posted by UncleFes at 10:52 AM on July 31, 2002


1) Approve the Kyoto treaty

While the Kyoto treaty would never pass in the current political and economic climate in the US. The world and a vast majority of Americans are concerned that global warming presents a real threat and that action should be taken sooner rather than later. We are percieved as arrogant on this issue not just for rejecting the treaty, but also for rejecting any debate on this issue outside of the treaty.

While UncleFes may believe this is "based on flawed science" this is not the case. At this point there is a concensus among climate scientists that this is a real emminent threat. The only question is the extent of the damage ranging from bad to catastrophic. Of the few thousand scientists and researchers who study this you will only find about 3 scientists who will dispute this publicly.

2) Approve the treaty to ban landmines
3) Support family planning for third world countries

These are just more examples of our government not only rejecting international treaties/policies without debate. I think the main problem that gives us a negative image is our seeming refusal to entertain any kind of global discourse on any subject at all.
posted by aaronscool at 10:52 AM on July 31, 2002


i think it'd be cool if the same pr agency that's supposed to rehabilitate martha stewart's image does the US' as well. and it'd be even more cool if there were ad spots together :) that would rule! oh and they could be like the apple switch commercials with testimonials and stuff :) and then imagine the spoofs! and yes what ook sez :) for now... and eternity!
posted by kliuless at 11:00 AM on July 31, 2002


1) Approve the Kyoto treaty
2) Approve the treaty to ban landmines
3) Support family planning for third world countries


4) Treat all countries with the same standards, not support some non-democratic countires when it serves our needs (Saudi-Arabia vs Cuba)

5) Support the World court

6) Really be for free trade (supposed free trader puts tariffs on imported steel)

7) Easy on the cowboy tough talk (Axis of evil comment just when ties were improving with Iran and N. Korea)

etc...
posted by quirked at 11:31 AM on July 31, 2002


Of the few thousand scientists and researchers who study this you will only find about 3 scientists who will dispute this publicly.

Really, that's not what I found.
Yes, 3 = 15,000. Or maybe that's just the new math they're teaching these days.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:40 AM on July 31, 2002


Really, that's not what I found

This is the number one reason why there is so much misinformation about this issue.

"More than 15,000 scientists, [8/4/98: now about 17,000] two-thirds with advanced academic degrees have now signed a Petition against the climate accord concluded in Kyoto (Japan) in December 1997".

Let's take a look at this claim.
--First they use the term "Scientist" rather liberally because only "two-thirds" actually have "advanced degrees".
--Second "Advanced Degrees" may mean anything from as little as a B.S. to a Masters.
--Third many of these people who signed this were duped (bottom of the page) into thinking the petition came from reliable scientific sources.
--Finally and most importantly. The vast majority of people who signed this petition are economists, Medical Doctors!, Dentists! or generally people who's field of expertise lies well outside climate research. Of the Scientist (Physicists, Chemists, Climate Modelers) and researchers who study this on a regular basis this is little dissent.
posted by aaronscool at 12:09 PM on July 31, 2002


Or maybe that's just the new math they're teaching these days.

Well, you're the one whose numbers are rather doubtful:
More than 15,000 scientists, [8/4/98: now about 17,000] two-thirds with advanced academic degrees, have now signed a Petition against the climate accord concluded in Kyoto (Japan) in December 1997.
I like the 'two-thirds with advanced academic degrees' bit: does that mean that my GCSEs in Physics and Chemistry would class me as a scientist? Well, since all the doctors in M*A*S*H and 'Dr Geri Halliwell, Ph.D. in microbiology' featured on the petition, I suspect so.

The petition's not only dubious, but irrelevant. aaronscool talked of 'the few thousand scientists and researchers who study this, and the Oregon petition doesn't say if any of the two-thirds of their '15,000 basic and applied scientists' who have a vague claim to be scientists are actually climate scientists. (Of which there are, as aaronscool said, only a few thousand in the USA.)
posted by riviera at 12:10 PM on July 31, 2002


Really, that's not what I found.
Yes, 3 = 15,000. Or maybe that's just the new math they're teaching these days.


Actually, that would be the fuzzy math....

Who the hell are the people who have signed that petition? Science is not done by popular vote, and the number of various people signing various petitions means little to the validity of the scientific conclusions supported by those petitions. The only way to determine whether or not there is a scientific "consensus" on an issue is the have a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary literature on that issue. I have no such understanding, and I doubt your 15,000 as-good-as-anonymous petition signers do.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:10 PM on July 31, 2002


They're not my numbers, and I was not aware of the backstory relating to that petition.

Here's a scientist who disagrees with the global warming theories. Here's another one. Aaronscool: I'm still looking for scientist number 3.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:20 PM on July 31, 2002


Actually I don't think Lomberg disagrees with the general thrust of global warming theories (though he does criticize them for proclaim more accuracy than they currently have). His disagreement is more with what the proper response should be, and believes Kyoto is a waste of an enormous amount of money for a very limited result.
posted by apostasy at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2002


I don't want to hijack this thread, but for an alternative view of insomnyuk's link, look here.

I have nothing to add to the debate above, but I am fascinated by the criticism of the State Department. I, for one, don't see the problem of America's image abroad as stemming from the State Department, but I'm sure that point could be debated.

But I do wonder if this is part of a continuing effort to politically marginalize Colin Powell, or (less specifically) to have all diplomatic relations out of the hands of the career diplomats and into the hands of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
posted by Chanther at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2002


that what this brooking's guy was saying in the FT yesterday! (more disucssion on plastic :)
posted by kliuless at 12:36 PM on July 31, 2002


1) Approve the Kyoto treaty

While the Kyoto treaty would never pass in the current political and economic climate in the US. The world and a vast majority of Americans are concerned that global warming presents a real threat and that action should be taken sooner rather than later.


Regardless of one's views on global warming, the extent of human behavior on global warming, or the idea that "action should be taken sooner rather than later", Kyoto is still a fundamentally flawed treaty that would do little to nothing to effect global climates while costing trillions of dollars to implement. And if you really think those parties who are drunk on their anti-Americanism would suddenly sober up if we signed on to Kyoto, you are kidding yourself.
posted by ljromanoff at 12:39 PM on July 31, 2002


or should i say disucktion! ...or disuxion :)
posted by kliuless at 12:49 PM on July 31, 2002


I loved this quote from the article: "A former CIC official said the president's advisers "don't think state is doing a good enough job, so they're going to take it on... Nobody is that impressed with Charlotte Beers and what she's done. She listens to people."

Cause, ya know, the last thing we want is people in government who listen to people. Sheesh. (Not that I'm a fan of the Ministry of Propaganda that Ms. Beers heads up...but still, what an odd quote.)
posted by dejah420 at 12:59 PM on July 31, 2002


Not that I'm a fan of the Ministry of Propaganda that Ms. Beers heads up...but still, what an odd quote.)

It's less odd if you actually read the full quote and not only the piece you have included here.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:08 PM on July 31, 2002


Regardless of one's views on global warming, the extent of human behavior on global warming, or the idea that "action should be taken sooner rather than later", Kyoto is still a fundamentally flawed treaty that would do little to nothing to effect global climates while costing trillions of dollars to implement

I don't disagree with you very much on this point. What I do think is wrong is that we have not only pulled out of the Kyoto negotiations, but from ANY discussion on Global Climate change remedies.

The point I was making was that this seems to be our strategy on ANY treaty or international discussion that might have a negative impact on US business. I'm sorry but there are things that need to be done on a global scale that will have an impact on at least some US businesses and we can't continue to ignore those issues without repercussion.

In response to insomnyuk if you want I could dig up their names ;)
posted by aaronscool at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2002


Also in response to insomnyuk try to stay away from the pundits who like to talk but don't do any research. Your example #1 is an Astrophysicist with and #2 is a Polictical Scientist.

When I said "climate scientists" I meant the folks who write and publish the peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject matter.
posted by aaronscool at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2002


Not to take away from the thread or anything, but here's CFR's press release urging improved "public diplomacy". It links to the Executive Summary and the Full Report should one desire.

Quiz: Which member of the CFR is also gossip columnist for a national magazine insert? Membership is rigorous.

Yes, we can always say that "going along to get along" is a viable foreign policy methodology. But as Colin Powell has stated, we should not shrink from taking principled positions and assert a leadership role. This may differ from the consultative, consensus-based approach of the EU, but multilateralism for its own sake is a cul-de-sac.

In any event, the main thrust of this study is simply that concentrating solely on government-to-government diplomacy has drawbacks, if we don't take steps to ensure that our position is also made clear to the people of any given partner nation.
posted by dhartung at 2:41 PM on July 31, 2002


PR could help the problem.

For instance, you guys have just explained how the Kyoto treaty was a dumb idea and therefore that Bush and friends have done the right thing. Yet there was I and most of the world, under the impression that Bush is owned by the oil business and that Kyoto was just one of many selfish, greedy and downright irresponsible actions taken since he came to power.

So, there are honest, persuasive and knowledgeable contributors to Metafilter who have yet to convince me (through an open dialogue, not an ad agency sermon) that Bush isn't all of the above and more, I can't see how Madison Avenue can do any better.
posted by niceness at 2:22 AM on August 1, 2002


"PR could help the problem"
once the 'need' for PR arises, what ever is being touted is pretty much nothing or worthless, like, much ado about nothing. where not talking playstation 3 here. no amount of PR will help...and thats the question...what needs help....well thats another thread. i find it silly and even wimpy that the WH is doing this. I am so tired of Bushs' ruining my country on top of other idiots who have been wrecking it.
PR? whom do we convince with this PR, some other leader? ("oh I'm glad the white house sent me this film clip and bumper sticker, know i can make a decision concerning my people")

This is intellectual chicklets. an insult to pride of others and to ourselves.
posted by clavdivs at 7:41 AM on August 1, 2002


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