9.27.2006

Bookstore Diplomacy

Ok, this is the last post (for today) on an article in the Washington Post:

Punch Lines for Pakistan's President
Jon Stewart Laughs It Up With Musharraf

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; Page C01


The president of Pakistan has been in the United States lately to discuss matters of global importance and -- in his spare time -- to flog a memoir. Last night he appeared on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, where he demonstrated both a sense of humor and a deep desire to sell "In the Line of Fire," which, incidentally, is now available on Amazon.com for the low, low price of $16.80, plus shipping and handling.

[...]

Has it really come to this? In recent days, Musharraf has promoted his memoir, published Monday, on "Hannity & Colmes," "Today," "60 Minutes" and "Charlie Rose." He has engaged in long discussions of his country's foreign policy and endured the occasional moment of awkwardness in service to the greater good of book sales.

[...]

Book tours can benefit greatly from juicy details released in advance of publication, and this has proved no less true for Musharraf's book. Last week, it came to light that Musharraf claimed that former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage threatened to bomb his country "back to the Stone Age" if Pakistan did not cooperate in the war on terror. (Armitage has since denied making such a threat.)

Asked about the "Stone Age" quote at a news conference with Bush on Friday, the Pakistani president said he could not discuss his book before it came out, citing an agreement with his publisher.

"In other words, buy the book is what he's saying," Bush said.

Is there any publicity better than that? Of course -- Oprah.
I saw President Musharraf on the Daily Show last night. I thought he came off as very reasoned and very personable. He was a persuasive ambassador for his country.

With an eye to 'ping-pong diplomacy' in the past, I think we are entering a new era of direct diplomacy, with important officials from other countries bypassing (more accurately augmenting) traditional methods of building international relations via government institutions with direct appeals to populations outside of 'government' channels. Formal 'speeches' with flags and podiums and honored guests will still be important, but guest appearances on TV shows will be the new best way to reach people.

And why shouldn't nations appeal directly to the population, both of America and the world? Governments aren't the only institutions making investments in other countries. Either in the form of business ventures or as tourists, private citizens can have very profound impacts on nations, especially ones that may need to rework their images.

I realize that President Musharraf came to power in a coup d'├ętat. I realize that what elections have been held have been widely boycotted and that General Musharraf is advancing an agenda. I realize that his power has been enabled by exiling dissidents, critical newspaper editors, and uncooperative Supreme Court Justices. I'm interested in reading his book to see how much of that appears in its pages.

This is a beginning. I expect to see more appearances by diplomats, ambassadors, and even heads of state on American TV. Their books will appear on bookstore selves. I think it's a good thing. The more international views and opinions expressed the better. It is, however, important to remember that these new authors and guests are no different from government officials here in America. They're working their agenda and as media consumers we must be careful to realize that and take it into account when forming opinions.

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