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How is Mediated Public Diplomacy Being Employed In the 21st Century?

Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story

– Tolstoy

  1. Intro -330

In order to do this, a framework of narrative analysis is needed as well as an understanding of how legitimacy is created.

Section one: Theory and Method: Public Diplomacy, the media and strategic narratives- 1000-1200

1ai) Public Diplomacy and soft-power

Public Diplomacy (PD) is a term has been a feature of the political lexicon since the 1800’s and has been widely utilised by various States as a political tool (Cull, 2009). Academic scholarship and study of the PD has resulted in numerous different versions and conceptualisations of the term.  One definition is given by  (Sharp, 2005) as the attempt to influence public opinions and attitudes in a country in line with the interests and objectives of those that are being represented. However, this definition while partial accurate does not account for who is doing the influencing and for what goal. It can be argued that the definitions of PD change along with advancements in research in the field and therefore one definition will fully define all aspect of PD (Gilboa, 2008). However, this essay will use a broad definition developed by Signitzer and Coombs (1992, p. 138)which defines PD as ‘“the way in which both government and private individuals and groups influence directly or indirectly those public attitudes and opinions which bear directly on another government’s foreign policy decisions” (Gilboa, 2008).This is different to traditional Diplomacy which focuses on State Government’s diplomats/foreign correspondents to State Government’s diplomats/foreign correspondents (Jowett & O’Donell, 2012).Although, one similarity between the two forms of Diplomacy is that they are both used to exercise soft power.

Soft power can be described as use the use of co-option and not coercion. This rest on the ability to persuade, influence, entice and attract (Nye, 2008). Soft power can be measured in two distinct ways:  Through behavioural outcomes, measured by political instruments such as tools and through resources, which can be split into Cultural values, political values and foreign policies. PD is then the framework in which these resources of soft-power can be employed (Nye, 2003).

 1aii) Public Diplomacy, Media and soft power.

The changing definitions of PD can be seen as symptomatic of the evolutions in the practice of public diplomacy has changed since its initial conception, with advancements in the radio in the 1930’s.  Each new notable development in information communication technologies has further catalysed changes in the practice of PD, such as the use of international broadcasting by the USA during the Cold War (Cull, 2009).  As well as the emergence of internet, which has created new mediums of media communication which is shaping and changing modern International Relations (Simons, 2014)[1]. This brought about the coining of the term ‘Mediated public diplomacy’ (MPD) which can be described as the use of mass communication to persuade or influence the public of another State (Entman, 2008) and it is this form of PD that will be explored in this essay. The almost unanimous embracing of the internet by all those with access to it has also had an effect on the way in which soft power is exercised.  This is due to the large increase in the volume of information accessible to the public making attention rather than information the distinguishing factor. This has meant that there is an increasing need to be able to filter information based on its value derived from reputation and credibility of information[2] (Nye, 2008). As once attention of the audience is gained soft power can be used in order to persuade, influence, entice and attract foreign audiences. In this new socio-political environment, politics can arguably be seen as competition for legitimacy. One way in which governments may be able to increase credibility is through the creating of positive long term relationships, with active efforts in the three spheres aforementioned spheres of PD: foreign policy, cultural values and political values. These spheres are not mutually exclusive, although this essay will explore the practice of MPD in relation to the sphere of political values and in particular the use of Strategic communication.

Media is legitimacy creating through endorsing of political behaviour and power associated to policy

(limitiations of Nye’s Analysis is that he does not offer potential sources of this strategic communication. No does an indication towards theory or theoretical constraints. Therefore seeks a method for the strategic communication

1aiii) Mediated Public Diplomacy and strategic communication

Akin to PD there are multiple definitions of strategic communication. This is part due to multi-disciplinary approaches to the field. This essay will focus on the definition drawn from the field of political communication which argues that strategic communication is any form of tacit or overt communication that aims to create or galvanise consent on political issue (Hallahan, et al., 2007).

There are multiple theories that seek to understand the power mechanisms and how the applied in political communication and the broader fields of media and communication studies. Such as (Entman, 2008), who uses framing theory to understand power mechanisms and (Beasley, 2012) which looks at the power of speech and political rhetoric. This essay however will employ the theory of Strategic Narrative as developed by Roselle et al. (2014), this is because this theory aims to explain the effects of soft power in the 21st Century. A Narrative can be described as a conceptual schema that allow humans to connect unconnected phenomena (Todorov, 1977, p. 45) (Antoniades, et al., 2010), providing a structure to and otherwise chaotic sequence of happenings (Roselle, et al., 2014). The theory argues that strategic narratives can influence, entice persuade and attract foreign public’s through the creation of a strategic narratives. These narratives allow the shaping and moulding of an interpretation of an event, the identification of specific issues or even provide a lens for looking at a past, present or future political environment[3].  (Roselle, et al., 2014).

The theory operates on three fundamental conceptions: Firstly, a compelling narrative can be seen as a soft power resource. Secondly, building on the previous point, strategic narratives directly address the ‘formation, projection, diffusion and reception of ideas in the international system.’  (Roselle, et al., 2014). This notion is supported by the previous sections in which Nye argues that political values are a political resource and strategic discourse is a method in which these can be expressed in the practice of MPD. Thirdly, Narratives are created strategically to influence specifically targeted audiences.

These fundamental principles can be accompanied by a theoretical dissection of the structure of a narrative, using a:

  • Begging, which can be classified as the original Status Quo.
  •  A middle, which is a problem or issue that disrupts or changes the way in which the construction of Status Quo.
  • -Then finally an end which is an action or process that is take or prescribed, that attempts to restore things to the Status Quo Ante. (Miskimmon, et al., 2014, p. 5).

Multiple different narratives, in one sample therefore will examine the overaching narrative in order to do this will apply the concept of thematic narratives. Seeking to find the dominant theme

Given the aforementioned definition of a narrative this essay seeks to look at strategic narrative structure not as a single event at given period of time but a thematic nature that can be deconstructed over a specified period. This is a notion that is accepted within literature on framing as given by:

This analysis can be furthered through understanding the setting and context in which the narrator is constructing the narrative as well as noting which Actors are cited and how they are depicted.

Limitation – it just states characteristics but does not seek to provide an architype of certain characters present this means that legitimacy cannot be adequately mapped down to certain character traits.

1aiv) Russian Mediated Public Diplomacy, Strategic Narratives and the Characters of legitimacy

Despite the strong explanatory power of this model, it does not however provide architypes for the way in which Actors may be portrayed in the strategic narrative. This essay argues that this is important as through legitimacy can be attributed to the representation of key characteristics of the TSN. Therefore, building on the mechanism of soft power set out by Nye (2008)  this essay will analyse the portal of actors based on three character types[4]:

‘The Deceptive Villain’ – this can be seen as similar to the concept of the enemy given in (Torsti, 2007) which is an Actor who is consistently perceived negatively, although this concept is more focused on way the actor is perceived In this way and on the use of deceptive practices such as the telling of half-truths or the selective application of cultural and political values

‘The Victim in Need’ – This architype is fairly simple in conception and is essentially the Actor who is being effected by the disrupting of the original status quo.


‘The Virtuous Hero’ – This architype is the antithesis of the ‘Deceptive Villain’, consistently perceived positively and to act in line with political and cultural values.

These characters will form the final unit of analysis for the following research, however before continuing it is necessary to take a quick look at Russia’s modes of MPD.

Like the U.K, Qatar, France (Figenschou, 2004) and a number of other States, Russia engages in MPD through the fund the funding of media services as well as more traditional MPD such as press briefings by the Kremlin. It is however Russia’s use of digital media services such as the news network RT or Sputnik International a global news website founded in November 2014, with coverage in over 30 languages (Sputnik Interational , n.d.). However, Russia MPD has come under recent scrutiny with supposed substantive as well as circumstantial evidence illustrating an attempt to negatively influence Hilary Clinton’s campaign In the US Presidential Election (Harding, 2016). This was through the alleged hacking of documents and passing them onto WikiLeaks whose editor-in-chief is Julian Assange   a regular feature on the RT (Pomerantsev & Weiss, 2014). It has also been argued that Russian MPD is nothing more than tool of propaganda. This claim is bolstered by research, into purported propaganda techniques employed by RT. These tactics include, but are not limited to the use of Conspiracy theories, used to create further distrust in ‘Western’[5] governments (Yablokov, 2015). As well as, the use of ‘’experts’’ who’s backgrounds question their credibility and as a result have not been interviewed on other news networks, such as Holocaust Denier Ryan Dawson (Pomerantsev & Weiss, 2014). It should be noted that even though there is significant and compelling research in this area this is beyond the scope of this essay, please see (Zaharna, 2004, pp. 219-226) for a good comparative analysis

Although this essay will examine how Russia use of MPD during the annexation of Crimea in the penultimate section. Analysing this theory at three different levels: The systematic narrative, which denotes international actors, structuring of the world and how it operates. The national narrative, which illustrates the objectives and values of a state. The third level is the issue narrative, which argue why a specific policy position is taken and necessary, as well as highlighting how it will be applied (Miskimmon, et al., 2014).

Section 2 Testing the Model: Narratives and Actors

This section will first give a brief overview of RT and the Conflict. Then Look at a more traditional sources of MPD which is the Kremlin website, in order to analyse the official position and narrative on the conflict. It will then use these identified positions in order to isolate the Russian perspectives of actors within these given narratives and how RT portrays actors in order to legitimise or delegitimise them.

Through the creation of the characters of the Villain-

The Hero –  and –The Victim-

2ai Applying a Model of Analysis: A look at Content Analysis and Sources

This essay will take use a qualitative narrative analysis. The qualitative will analyse how these strategic narratives are constructed, through examination of their content.  This will be through analysing of three characteristics in the text, that effect their structure, as given by (Miskimmon, et al., 2014, p. 5),

This will be done though the units of analysis of Actors and how they are represented. Key Narrative Events and prescribed action that has or will be taken in order to recreate the previous status quo.

This has been formed into a cognitive coding schema in order to make sure that analysis is uniform[6] and will provide a uniform playing field for further application of theory.

This analysis will draw sources from a 4 week period, (Dougall & Hester, 2007) from the 27th of February which can be seen as when pro- Russian armed intervention in Crimea began (Karagiannis, 2014). As this gives an insight into the major narratives over the period of the referendum which was conducted on the 16th March and the ejecting of Ukrainian forces on the 20th March following the results of the referendum.

The essay will focus on 38 sources from the English Website of RT as well as Two Articles from the Kremlin in English, as this provides a small comparative element focusing on how mediated public diplomacy differs from more established methods.  The unit of analysis will be the whole text, this is due to word constraint and as a result analysis will focus on the major narrative in each article. With subsequent research needed to focus on various secondary and tertiary narratives, such as seen in (ref).

This two sources will be comparatively reviewed, analysing the dominant narrative structure used in each sources as well as how mentioned Actors are portrayed in these sources.

2bi) Analysing Narratives:  Russia, Ukraine and The Annexation of Crimea, a brief overview.

International Relations between Ukraine and Russia in regards to the region have historically been complex with the first annexation of the region by Russia in 1783 and the region has been classified as part of the USSR under both Ukrainian and Russian Control; then subsequently controlled by the Independent State of Ukraine till March 2014.  However, following the fall of the Soviet Union, has arguably resulted in a foreign policy that has viewed post-Soviet governments as what Lo has described  as ‘quasi-states’. These are States which are economically feeble, politically undeveloped and prone to manipulation by foreign powers. This notion insinuates that events occurring in these states have a large impact on regional and geo-political issues for Russia and the maintaining of its own strategic interests. This therefore can be used as a rationale for Russian intervention in Ukraine in 2014 or in Georgia in 2008 (Karagiannis, 2014).

The Annexation of Crimea in 2014, was preceded by a movement of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital Kiev termed ‘Euromaiden’ and was back by the EU and the USA. This was due to the refusal for the then incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych to sign a trade agreement with the EU.  This Implying, that Ukraine was strategically aligned with Russia against the EU and resulted in protests that violently supressed until the signing of a revised trade agreement on the 21st 2014 and the appointing of a new interim government on the 27th February 2014. This provoked Russia and resulted in the tacit and deniable intervention[7]in Crimea on the 27th of February 2014. This intervention used non-military tool of diplomacy and influence in order to facilitate the successful annexation of the region through a plebiscite held on the 15th March 2014 (Lanoszka, 2016).

2biiAnalysing Narratives: RT as a Political Tool –

RT is a Russian State owned and sponsored news broadcasting network that focuses the majority of its content focused on an audience of around 600 million outside of Russia (Pomerantsev & Weiss, 2014), through the production of content in six different languages  (RT, n.d.).  This content is produced through a number of different mediums, with an online website, cable channel, wire service and strong social media presence.  Akin to other Hybrid Media (Chadwick, 2013) networks also uses a variety of media sources such as videos, pictures, interviews and speeches (RT, n.d.).Since its launch in 2005, RT is adamant that its editorial policy and content is independent, in the same manner as the BBC or France 24 despite being state funded and yet advancing a State’s Foreign Policy and views independently (RT, 2011). However, this independence is questionable, and it can be argued that RT does not simply to represent not to simply provide an alternative Russian perspective on major global events. The network can be seen as a strategic change in MPD tactics by the Russian Government that has been seen in the change of the focus of coverage since 2008 (Pomerantsev & Weiss, 2014). This essay, however will pursue this line of reasoning, maintaining that RT can be seen as tool of Russian MPD, in line with theoretical examinations of Russian Public Diplomacy, such as (Seib, 2009).[8]





2ci) Analysing Narratives: Dissecting the thematic narrative structure of the Sample

The TNS employed by RT in the sample is difficult to piece together because of the short and the number different actors reasoning and rationales on the crisis as well as their ‘supposed’[9] justification examined. However, eventually this was made possible with a re-reading of the sample and is given below:

Narrative Source:  RT Suggested Narrative Name:  Protection of Russian Peoples Interests
Original Status Quo Stable Safe Life in Crimea After the fall of the USSR
Problem Identification Lack of Representation and insecurity of Crimean citizens: 

  1. Instability in Kiev  resulting in the threat of Right Wing Extremism
  2. Repeal of the Principles of State Language Policy (PSL) – signifies that the Crimean people are not being adequately represented in Ukrainian Politics. Cultural link of Russia to Ukraine
Prescribed/Taken Action  ‘Incorporation’ of Crimea back into Russia

The TSN employed is a fairly simple and follows a simple chain of events. It argues that two key events led to the disruption of the original status quo, effecting the security and political representation of those in Crimea. However before these two points are explored the idea that Crimea is part of Russia due to historical and cultural factors, plays a large role in the legitimisation and the development of this narrative, this is expressed most fervently in an article that  claims this notion is accepted by National Geographic map to prove this point (RT-19.3, 2014).

Building on this foundation, the first is the instability and threat to the safety of Crimean citizens as a result of the change in Administration and the rise of right wing extremist. This narrative is maintained throughout the sample, from the initial and unrecognised intervention on the 27th February, sparked by the attempted deposing of the local governor in Crimea (RT- 27.2). It is maintained through the mentioning of instability in other parts in Ukraine (RT-15.3) as well as reports of direct hostility towards the Crimean people (RT-3.2).

In conjunction with the previous reason, a second issue is cited was the lack of representation on the Crimean people, with the repeal of the PSL policy signifying the level of disenfranchisement. This act meant that only Ukrainian could be used for official purposes, although in Crimea according to RT a significant proportion of people in Crimea are not able to communicate in any language other than Russian (RT-5.3, 2014). This perceived marginalisation was used in two different ways to initially as a reason is why the move for independence begun (RT-27.2(ii))  as well as a why Crime needed Russian (RT-7.3(ii)) aid. Even though the repeal was later revoked on the 3rd of March, it still remained a dominant issue in the narrative.

These two factors in conjunction present a narrative with strong legitimacy for Russian intervention in Crimea. Not just domestically, but in order to protect people that it views as Russian form supposed instability and potential harm and carried out for the protection of life. This coupled with the concept of representation expressed in the second point creates a narrative that appeals to ‘Western’ concepts of Representative Democracy. These values will be inherent to the political systems of the USA and the UK where the target audience of this information is. Although in order to full grasp how this narrative can be used as method of MPD it is necessary to explore the characters that populate this narrative.

2D) Analysing the Narrative: Crafting the characters

This section will focus on how Actors are portrayed in RT Articles over this period of time as well as drawing similarities to the two transcripts from the Kremlin that where analysed in the previous section. This will focus on the way in which: The West, the Euromaidan opposition, the Crimean, the Ukrainian Government and the Russians are portrayed in the sample. With particular focus on how they try to legitimise actions taken by these parties.

2Di) Analysing the Narrative: Crafting the character of ‘the Virtuous Hero’ and Russia

As expected by a State funded media organisation, the character crafted of Russia is favourable. Russia is shown as having high moral standards and complying with proper procedure of conduct, even welcoming in observers to highlight their integrity (RT-5.3) . With President Vladimir Putin first seek approval for intervention from Russia legislative in order to aid the ‘Victim in need’, namely the Crimean People and government (RT-1.3, 2014). This amalgamated with the perception of threats to the Crimean people from the new Administration in Kiev (RT-7.3(ii), 2014). As well as the cultural heritage of the people in the region, presents a stunning notion of continued legitimacy during the sample duration  (RT- 7.3). With Russian intervention thwarting potential violent action and the loss of life and improving all round security. This legitimacy can be seen to justify action within the political sphere can be seen to promote and justify Russian political values and therefore this can be seen as the moral schema to judge other Actors actions. This is clearly exemplified by the denial of a supposed request for a Visa system between the two nations by the new Ukrainian government on utilitarian grounds, stating that millions or ordinary Ukrainians would suffer (RT-19.3(ii), 2014). This Narrative can be seen as an expression of MPD, as this influence in favour of the Russian, position and legitimacy associated with it

2Dii) Analysing Narratives: Crafting the character of ‘the Victim in need’ and the Crimean People

As expressed by the narrative structure highlighted in the previous section, the Crimean people in this narrative are seen as Russian citizens, due to past integrations into Russian territory and complex cultural identity. This is drawn upon in the narrative constructed by RT focusing on the Russian identity of their citizens (RT-16.3) . There is very much a sense that the status quo ante has already been established, cementing the idea that Russia can be seen as the hero (RT-8.3(ii)).

Another interesting way in which RT crafts this character is the homogenisation of all Crimean’s under this single identity, who all wish to be an independent state, from public mobilisation into ‘self-defence squads’, Crimean citizens (RT-16.3) and well as high ranking government officials in the region  (RT-2.3) . Creating a narrative that all in the region desire emancipation from Ukrainian rule but have been denied the opportunity. This is portrayed as unanimous in the sample and there is not mention of the supposed 4.3% of voters who did not vote in favour of the referendum based on political reasons. However, it should be noted that RT does express those who have not voted such as the Crimean Tatars, ‘citing that 40% of them went to the poll’ (RT-16.3, 2014). However, this narrative is strategically aligned to further strengthen the image that the Crimean people are ‘the victims’ and the Russians are ‘the Heros’. Through stating that the rights of these groups have been historically supressed under the USSR and Independent Ukraine and that this will not happen under integration in Russia. The tone and tactical use of the group of Crimean society aids in creation of the Strategic narrative, as it insinuates that integration into Russia has already happened and this is the solving the problem of representation the Crimean People face.

Furthermore, this gives insight into how crafting this character in this manner can lead to legitimisation of Russian intervention from a ‘Western’ perspective. Due to intervention being framed as the desire to protect the rights and interests of the Crimean people and to give them adequate representation at all strata’s of Crimean society. Therefore, the character of ‘the victim’ can be seen to embody all issues voiced in the disruption of the status quo.

2Diii) Analysing Narratives: Crafting the character of ‘the deceptive villain’ and the ‘West’

Crafting the Character of the ‘West’: – not the radicals and why

Throughout the sample, the ‘West’ is consistently portrayed in a negative manner. They are portrayed as self- interested and tries to play the issue in Crimea as a ‘Clash of Russian and NATO Interests’ (RT-9.3). This portrayal seeks to de-legitimise and not legitimise the ‘West’s’ position on Crimea. Painting these States as untrustworthy as they as have no real interest in the people of Ukraine, highlighted by USA supposedly the bastions of democratic principles breaking their own democratically selected rules in order to support the process of regime change (RT – 11.3).  This notion is exacerbated by claims that ‘’The West’’ created a crisis situation in Crimea in order to further their own geo-political ambitions. Citing previous ‘Western’ intervention in Kosovo and Syria and how this was also incorrectly framed as a ‘crisis’ (RT-14.3, 2014).

In amalgamation with this narrative is the fact that, that the ‘West’ expressing double standards regarding the referendum in Crimea which they have deemed as illegitimate, even though they themselves had just engaged in an illegal regime change. Which according Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov[10] they were aware of an extremist right wing threat arising from the installation of a new government and willingly mislead the people (RT-8.3, 2014).

Also this view of Western Action being illegitimate is also supported by the select quotations of other leaders such as the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who argues that the US and EU have pursued a policy of undemocratic regime for strategic regional goals to check this power.

This is carried out in order to demonise the ‘West’ questioning their credibility and showing them actually as the enemy in this International conflict not only against Russia but also to the representation of these states Citizens.  Therefore in this strategic narrative, they can be seen as enemy (Höijer, 2003) that needs combatting, as they are framed as being responsible for the issue that disrupted the original status quo. This portal as well as delegitimising foreign policy stances and their underpinning rationale seeks to influence the way in which foreign citizens view their Governments are representing them. Highlighting the curtailing of their democratic principles and values citizens elected the government to foster and protect as well as limiting the practice of democracy in other States (RT-17.3, 2014).

Sensualisation of a created Narrative by USA refereeing to Hitler by Clinton.

2E) The effects of strategic narrative, sample size and the need for further Research-300

Not aware that the having hide duplicates on the search function restricted the sample size so significantly till after the data had been analysed. This was only realised while manually looking at the previous weeks achieves for further research.

  1. Conclusion -330

Appendices more detailed methodology, coding form and screen shots of how the data was found.,cd_min:2/27/2014,cd_max:3/20/2014&tbm=nws&start=20


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[1] The ‘Information Age’ has also brought about other forms of diplomacy such as New Public Diplomacy and New Mediated Public Diplomacy but these are beyond the scope of this paper, please see (Melissen, 2005) and (Pammet, 2012)

[2] This is not intended to imply that credibility has only just become important in MPD but that it has become one of the prominent factors.

[3]  This">Essay takes a social constructivist ontology but one based on Political communication, this allows a focus on the agency of the actors in using and constructing narratives. Please see (Bang, 2003)

[4] This essay is aware of the use of Actor Portrayals in the study of international relations, however this essay argues that application of this theory would not be suited to this essay due to word constraint and a difference in focus compared to its locus of normal application.

[5] The Term ‘Western’ is used here and further on in the essay to describe, the U.S.A and Western European Nations.

[6] This is in appendices as well as a methodology including covering source selection and discovery. As well as a template of the coding schema. It is not in the text due to word constraint.

[7] Intervention in Eastern Ukraine not considered in this essay

[8] It should be noted that this paper does not assume that the RT is an actor in Russian MPD but a tool – list more papers.

[9]‘ Supposed’ is expressed in quotations marks as all justifications other than those that support the Russian narrative are not given any credence

[10] This essay will assume that RT has strategically selected sources cited in order to portray a certain strategic narrative, this is concept that is explored and accepted in research on media framing see (Entman, 2008).

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