Monday, October 1, 2007

New Media Puts Spotlight on Burma

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

-Thomas Jefferson, 1813

Even back in 1813 Thomas Jefferson understood the power of the exchange of information. He understood that no one owns information. Oh, many try to, but time usually tells the tale. He also recognized that by trading information we grow exponentially. We are “expansible over all space” and that by sharing we are “incapable of confinement”. Such is the case in Burma (Myanmar). The military government of that country or Junta have just tried to quell peaceful unrest in their country by physical violence and by turning off the internet to it citizens. For over a week bloggers (new media) acting as citizen journalists made sure that reports and photos flowed to the old legacy media. Now that information has been squelched to almost nothing. Still, reports of death and harassment are leaking out.

This leak by the new media in Burma constitutes what is known as Public Diplomacy. Public Diplomacy is the public conversation between two or more nation’s non-governmental interested parties, which has some measurable effect on a government(s) policy. In this case the effect was more attention paid to Burma. A specific example would be President Bush enacting tougher sanctions on the Junta and calling for action at the UN last week. As well, the military government’s crack down on the flow of information via the internet would qualify because it is a reaction to citizen journalists communicating with other non-governmental entities all over the world.

Beyond the exchange of information being Public Diplomacy it is also what is called Soft Power. According to the father of Soft Power Joseph Nye Jr. Soft Power is “the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals…” by attraction rather than coercion. These Burmese blogs do not threaten us or hold us hostage in order to get their message across rather they tell a compelling story that stands on its own merit.

We are not to a point where New Media can drive a story on its own and ensure action. Rather, it still requires the old media to take the baton from the New and then pass it own to our traditional hard powers like the US and China. In any event the role of the New Media in this conflict is unmistakable.

If you want to participate in this public diplomacy and increase the soft power of the Burmese citizens I suggest you log-on and connect with these people via their blogs. You can find a dearth of information on the Burmese blogosphere at or more specifically:

1 comment:

Free Burma! said...

Free Burma!
International Bloggers' Day for Burma on the 4th of October

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.