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Thursday, June 26, 2014

International Outrage: PR and Short Attention Spans

Our chapters on interest groups and foreign policy note that foreign businesses and governments seek to influence opinion in the United States. The Hill reports:
The Nigerian government has signed a contract worth more than $1.2 million with a Washington public relations firm to deal with the fallout from the Boko Haram kidnappings, documents obtained by The Hill show.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is up for reelection in February, is seeking to counter the perception that he has not done enough to combat the Islamic extremists in his country who abducted more than 270 schoolgirls in April.
To that end, his government has hired Levick, a prominent PR and lobbying firm in Washington, to engage in an effort to change the “the international and local media narrative” surrounding Nigeria’s “efforts to find and safely return the girls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram,” according to a contract document signed June 13.
The firm will also be “assisting the government’s efforts to mobilize international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror.”

Levick is partnering on the contract with Jared Genser, a human rights attorney who primarily represents political prisoners.
Terence McCoy writes at The Washington Post:
From the outset, it was probably inevitable. What was once an international army of protesters that spanned both continents and the Twitterverse has dwindled.
Nearly three months have passed since Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from a dormitory. Boko Haram is suspected of kidnapping approximately 60 more women and girls. And #Bringbackourgirls has, by nearly every measure, failed.
It’s not surprising. Internet activism has a finite life span. In a matter of days, it blinks into existence, then blinks into oblivion.
We've been there before.  Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:
Remember Kony 2012? A 30-minute video expose of a Ugandan warlord, it was one of the fastest spreading viral videos in history, with more than 100 million viewings in six days. Its success suggested that the Internet can be used to stir up public outrage to the point where governments will feel the need to take action.
Then, it all faded away.
Why that happened, and what the episode says about human nature, is the subject of a somewhat pessimistic new paper. It concludes that examining a tough issue in its full complexity dampens emotional involvement on the part of the public, which gets more aroused by black-and-white portrayals of clear-cut enemies.