Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tweeting the 21st Century

I watched a batch of Charlie Chaplin movies a few weeks ago at the American Film Institute which was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tramp’s first moving pictures.  One of those movies – although not quite a century old – was Modern Times.

Here’s another short story – nonfiction – about 21st Century modern times.

Last week in what was a very slow trade news day in Washington, I covered a “soft” presentation at the US German Marshall Fund about its latest report on how much Europeans love Americans – and vice versa.   I went in hopes of gathering an inkling of news about the US-European Union TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.
Over my many years of reporting on trade, I have learned to sleep at boring presentations, but always with one ear open for key words.
During an otherwise stock presentation by new Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland -- who recently was the department’s chef press flak -- she made  mention of three chief objectives in US-European relations, which included TTIP.  She noted the importance of completing the TTIP negotiations and getting it into working order as a top US priority for the United States.
I woke up.
The second point was the need to shore up a secure and independent European energy market – especially in the aftermath of Russia’s activities in Ukraine.
But now fully awake, what really got my attention was the third priority – “rooting out the cancer of corruption that is eating away at our livelihoods and our democracy and our security in too many parts of our own states.”  (Quote is not from memory, but from my own high-technology Sony recorder.)
Whoa!  What did she say?  Since when is corruption in Europe a priority for this country?
Interesting, but still not a trade story, so I didn’t pursue it with the speaker.
But afterwards, I spoke to some attendees lingering around after the presentation.  Saying that I am getting old and was afraid I am losing my hearing, I asked one European journalist friend what he made of Ms. Nuland’s corruption comment.   He admitted that he heard nothing about corruption or even TTIP in the speech.
I then asked a European Union official based in Washington.  His answer was that he also did not hear anything around corruption.  The then quickly admitted that he was fooling around with his smart phone.
I turned to a nearby student-age attendee.  He said he heard the reference to corruption in the speech, but did not know what the speaker was referring to.
A 21st Century (Modern Times) lesson.  Don’t count on people listening to you even if they are in the same room and only a few feet away – which could be a big boon for policymakers who participate in public sessions.
Perhaps the best way to get points across in the 21st century – truly – is to tweet your message across the ethersphere in 140 characters or less.

What?  What did he say?    WAKE UP.

Jim Berger

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