When I was still a mushy-headed youngster working on my B.A. in Political Science at the University of Michigan, the department’s resident Communist got to assign a bunch of reading to me (I’ve forgotten more about the history of the Soviet Union then I ever wanted to know) but she also had to get her licks in with works that were also critical of the US. One of those books was The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleton Williams. I won’t bore you with a synopsis of what it was about. Rather I’ll simply admit that I modified the title for this post.
I wrote a while back about how society has been seduced by a show of emotion, rather than actual action, and the sacrifice that it requires. In that piece, I was pointing out how it had become in vogue to demonstrate the nouveau “moral” superiority, which doesn’t require the courage that characterizes actual morals. But, as we are wont to do, we have upped our game. How? Hashtag diplomacy.
It started a few weeks ago, with people from the State Department tweeting messages about Ukraine with hashtags intended to be catchy. Sure, it was ridiculous, and stupid, but I guess the relative lack of change to Russia’s intentions and actions in the wake of yet another speech from President Wonderful caused some desperation at Foggy Bottom. And as every highly trained and experienced diplomat knows, aggression and indifference to once-great powers will ALWAYS be stopped dead in its tracks by a really smart person tweeting a bon mot coupled with a super-serious hashtag.
But this weeks round of hashtags in response to the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by members of Boko Harem (a terrorist group that another super smart diplomat named Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to classify as a terrorist group when she headed the State Department) were both irritating and infuriating.
It started with the First Lady making a duckface frown and holding a sign with a #BringOurGirlsBack. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The idea that people who kidnap girls, slaughter entire villages, and engage in slavery will somehow be swayed by such a moronic photograph led me to wonder…is she really so arrogant to think that this will change ANYTHING, or is this just more posturing…showing just what a great person you are and how much more YOU care, because you sacrificed a moment of your precious time being a scold to us to take a picture with a sign? But when the celebutarded got in on the act, it was unmistakably clear how they took the message.
The worst part of this isn’t the arrogance of a First Lady who fancies herself to be the second coming of Evita Peron. It isn’t professional diplomats who act like they’re twentysomethings who like fresh out of community college and stuff. It isn’t celebrities making useless and empty gestures that make me want to punch them in their smarmy little faces. It’s the fact that bothering to say anything at all when you clearly aren’t willing to DO anything about it, and take the risk that come with really making a stand tells the rest of the world that we’re a nation of weak and ineffectual navel gazers, which is really only true of our cultural and political elites who congregate on either coast, but in so doing, they invite attacks, which will sooner or later, require the rest of us to put our lives on hold to fight the threats that this shallowness invites. And it is the fact that such nonsense will require an even greater sacrifice from those who don’t engage in it that is the real tragedy of hashtag diplomacy.