Over the course of the past few years, Alec J. Ross and Jared Cohen, two 20-something members of the U.S. State Department, have become quasi-celebrities in diplomatic circles, primarily because of their push to spread social networking technology to the farthest corners of the world. Throughout their global technological crusade, both Ross and Cohen have been tirelessly tweeting about their work in places like Russia, Mexico and Baghdad. For the most part, their engagement with the Twitter universe has been well received, each having accumulated well over 250,000 followers. But, as the two social media evangelists found out, Twitter definitely has its diplomatic limits
Cohen and Ross, you see, recently went to Syria, along with several Silicon Valley executives, in an attempt to convince Syrian leaders to loosen their control over the country's Internet. Apparently, the trip went swimmingly, until both State Member youngsters decided to tweet about it on the way back home. "I'm not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappacino [sic] ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus," tweeted Cohen
. Ross, meanwhile, tweeted about his colleague's proposal to hold a cake-eating contest as a form of "creative diplomacy
The tweets probably wouldn't have caused much of a ripple if they hadn't been posted directly after a trip to Syria, a country that the U.S. still engages with what the New York Times calls a "veil of diplomatic politesse
." To many suits in Washington, Ross and Cohen's behavior was reckless, and the diplomats have reportedly been reprimanded -- though not too harshly. Hillary Clinton, for example, lauded the men for pursuing what she called "21st-century statecraft," and said, "I'm very proud of the work they're doing."
Obviously, any nation that's on America's list of terrorist-supporting countries needs to be handled with care. But we don't really understand what was so "reckless" about these tweets. For many Americans, they might even help to demystify countries like Syria, which are too often portrayed as dark, soulless entities, instead of actual nations, with actual civilians, and, yes, actual frappucinos. If they were tweeting about any gross smells or foods in Damascus, that would certainly be reckless. Tweeting about frappucinos and cake, on the other hand, is just another day on the job. [From: The New York Times
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