American Ambassador to Nepal, Scott H DeLisi, is in the limelight – thanks to his Facebook page. His opinions expressed there are being quoted by Nepali mainstream media frequently.
While we have been reading his opinions on current political, and social, aspects of Nepal, his opinion against the strike called by Nepali Congress on Sunday created a controversy because the leaders of the old party discussed it in length during their Central Working Committee meeting and later expressed publicly that what he wrote was undiplomatic; and that he should not be giving public lectures of Nepali politicians.
Nagarik editor-in-chief Narayan Wagle wrote an opinion, published on the front-page of the daily on the strike day (Link – in Nepali), that was probably the most harshly worded condemnation of the general strike where he also mentioned DeLisi.
On Mainstream Media and Social Media, Nepalis vigorously condemned the general strike demanding the withdrawal. And, on that context, it was not odd that the ambassador’s opinion with similar emotion got a lot of likes and supportive comments.
DeLisi’s opinion on strike was not new as he had opined in the same way at least in one instance earlier; and I don’t see any problem with a diplomat or anyone else demanding legitimate behavior.
However, it may be worthwhile ponder on why the US Embassy in Kathmandu is doing this. The answer is in a speech that DeLisi delivered during a seminar on ‘The Changing Face of Media’ in Kathmandu on December 14 where he ascertained:
“Social media have changed the way the Embassy does business.”
Before concluding that he had said:
“A year ago, I could not have predicted that my Facebook page would be frequently quoted in the Nepali newspapers… it’s clear that our various social media tools – from Facebook and Twitter to web chats and YouTube – will continue to allow us to control our message and reach a broad spectrum of the Nepali population.”
Traditionally, the channel that the Embassies used was national mainstream media which could control the message. With social media, there is no intermediary to control the messages; and the US Embassy wants to use that channel so to reach their targeted audience – Nepalis people in this context – directly. For them, it’s certainly the best channel to reach the people.
For us? We get to know what the Embassy thinks directly; read their promotional materials; know about what good they are doing for Nepal; and peek a little into their everyday business.
But it’s important for all the Nepalis to know that the messages on the social media of any embassy is the face, not the heart – it’s something that they want to show us; not something that they are. And, we need to behave (which include commenting to their messages, writing on their wall and quoting their messages) accordingly to their social media content.
My friend Dinesh Wagle wrote a long news on the front-page of Kantipur daily: Facebook diplomacy! (in Nepali) discussing the issue.