Advice for Embassies Astroturfing Diaspora Support
A few words of advice for embassies and foreign organizations attempting to create the notion of public support for the current regime; collected from the anecdotes and experiences gathered over the Arab Spring-White House protests.
- When providing students with flags, vary the size and quality. While it’s unlikely that most college students and emigrants pack a flag in their suitcase, it’s even less plausible that they all tow the same version attached to new, identical Home Depot dowels. It’s understandable that you want picturesque scenes of nationalism for state-run media, so make a few changes. For one, desperation breeds creativity, and many people have resorted to craftwork — when your opposition has flags constructed of sheets of colored A4 paper mounted on cardboard, you risk revealing your rouse by upstaging them.
- Don’t put your threats to cut off funds for visiting students in writing. Implicit warnings work just as well, and don’t get forwarded to the opposition movement.
- Create a front organization — something progressive sounding, like ‘Students for Modern Governance.’ This has a twofold effect of countering the opposition’s battle for legitimacy through appearance of public support and creates a PR firewall. When an opposition protester steals a flag, they will be less likely to carelessly shout that its ‘property of the embassy.’
- Keep minders with the pro-government protesters to ensure the efficacy of your threats or bribes. Without the motivation of personal conviction, history shows supporters generally show up for ten minutes, take pictures and flee the eire of the numerously-larger and more-impassioned diaspora.
Lastly, as a suggestion and not a rule, encourage your stalwarts to tone down gross display of excess wealth. Armani jackets and Gucci sunglasses run the risk of alienating people that don’t understand your society is built on ethnic-class politics.
Americans love the scrappy Jacobin.