April 3, 2011

PD Quotes of the Week

Researching on Turkey's international broadcasting, I came across a great piece by Al Ahram from a year ago. Discussing the various aspects of Turkey's (then) new Arabic-language broadcaster, the article concludes:

"It is still unclear where Turkey's "soft-power" in the Arab world is heading. Erdogan is the only high profile politician in the region who criticises Israel -- Turkey's ally -- and prioritises the Palestinian question in his discourse on the Middle East. In a way this indirectly feeds Arab nationalism, which places the Palestinian question at the centre of its concerns. Ironically, Arab nationalism emerged in response to the Ottoman Empire. The dynamics might be too complex to decipher at this stage but this much is clear: the Turks have arrived."

Given all the events since, and especially the most recent "revolutions" in the MENA region, it is particularly interesting to follow Turkey's role in it all: providing guidance, leadership, as well as initiative and truly trying to live up to its projected image of being a "bridge between the East and the West."

Another interesting piece on a similar subject - that of Turkish Soap Operas - was published by Foreign Policy around the same time. Here's an excerpt:

"Four-hundred years after a nasty occupation of Arab land by the forefathers of these young Turks, the Arab world is embracing Turkey, opening its living rooms and flocking around their television sets to watch over 140 episodes of second-rate Turkish soap operas that don't even do well in Turkey itself.
If only the sultans knew that it could be done on the cheap, they could have dispatched these handsome men and beautiful women and assembled them to conquer hearts and minds in the Arab world on their behalves, saving the treasury endless amount of cash."

Great point. Indeed, modern technologies and the unavoidable transnational relationships that they have created, allow such interaction to take place. Of special note, of course, is the fact that the Arabs despised everything "Turkish" (OK, rather Ottoman, which was still associated with "Turkish") for centuries. The only explanations that come to my mind are:

- Time (but of course) and all the various developments and transformations that Turkey itself has undergone.

- Shared cultural heritage: unfortunately, there's no escaping it.

Public diplomacy implications? I guess it provides a great example, demonstrating yet again that unless there is a true change in attitude and behavior towards a people (i.e. by an actor itself) and unless there is common ground to communicate upon, achieving success in public diplomacy objectives will be very difficult, if not impossible. The source of communication and its perceived credibility on the subject matter. Nothing new, of course.

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