why Alec Ross is a moron

Alec-Ross-01Evgeny Morozov at The Baffler:

Ross’s tenure at the State Department was, by and large, a failure. His efforts to promote “twenty-first-century statecraft”—Clinton’s lofty vision for American power that would put “Internet freedom” and digital technologies at its core—floundered after the State Department was confronted by Cablegate, the release of a massive library of leaked diplomatic cables that began in late 2010 and was coordinated by WikiLeaks. Ross, who claimed the twenty-first-century-statecraft concept as his own and hoped that it would become “a major part of [Clinton’s] legacy,” was suddenly forced into damage control. Few would find his pronouncements on “Internet freedom” credible after the State Department’s reaction to WikiLeaks. An even more unglamorous picture of his activities emerges from Clinton’s email trove. The good news is that Ross did innovate on at least one front—spin. In 2012, Ross wrote to Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff: “‘Hillary Clinton is the most innovation-friendly American diplomat since Benjamin Franklin.’ Thought you’d enjoy that line. It appears in minute 10 of show I did on CSPAN. I’m going to continue to use it.”

Ross’s brief moment of national fame had more to do with his penchant for self-promotion than innovation. In summer 2010, Ross and Cohen took a delegation of American technology executives from the likes of Cisco and Microsoft to Damascus to meet with Bashar al-Assad—strange are the twists of twenty-first-century statecraft. Never missing an opportunity to show off, the pair tweeted all the fun they were having in Syria. (Cohen: “I’m not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappuccino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus”; Ross: “Creative Diplomacy: @jaredcohen challenged Minister of Telecom to cake-eating contest.”) By Ross’s account, though, the trip pursued the much nobler objective of fomenting regime change via social media. As he wrote in another email to Mills, “When Jared and I went to Syria, it was because we knew that Syrian society was growing increasingly young (population will double in 17 years) and digital and that this was going to create disruptions in society that we could potential [sic] harness for our purposes.”

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