State Department to World: 'Tell Me a Story'

Posted by Bridget Hunter
October 6, 2008
Democracy Video Challenge

About the Author: Bridget Hunter works in the Bureau of International Information Programs.

In a new kind of public-private partnership, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman launched the State Department’s Democracy Video Challenge on September 15 at U.N. headquarters. The launch was timed to coincide with United Nations’ first International Day of Democracy. Partners for the online video contest include the State Department, democracy and youth organizations, academia, and the news, film and entertainment industries.

The contest, which asks aspiring filmmakers to complete the phrase “Democracy is …,” seeks to engage the world in sharing ideas about how democratic principles work -- or could work -- around the world. An independent panel of experts will identify finalists and the global audience will determine which entrants win a trip to the United States for gala screenings of their films and meetings with film industry professionals.

“We are creating opportunities for using emerging technology to engage in a discussion of democracy,” Jonathan Margolis, deputy coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, told the New York Times.

The competition represents another public diplomacy foray into the wired world.

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
October 6, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

People fight hard, suffer and die by the thousands to bring Democracy to their nation. It is too late to think of Ideas about how to bring Democracy to the World, it is time to fight for human rights worldwide. To do that you need the DOD handing out guns and ammo not DOS handing out film contests. Unless of course you are just looking for ways to have cocktail parties and LOOK like you are doing something serious, not partying, then the DOS and the U.N., defenders and protectors of every dictator that is ever born and ruled by sheer terror and evil can have one, that is all they do anyway and no one pays any attention. That is why Americans, even those that are running for President could not point South Dakota let alone Syria on a map. GUNS and AMMO brings Democracy and freedom, cocktail parties brings more drug addicts. If you really serious about promoting the advantages of Democracy, Just send any one of the youth filmmakers to anyone of the U.S-Israeli backed tyrant prisons and torture rooms and you may have an effective presentation in favor of Democracy. But wait, that will for sure ruin the fine cocktail party Huuh, LOL.

Will
|
Minnesota, USA
October 6, 2008

Will in Minnesota writes:

Democracy is a political system which enables the self-rule of a country's population in which the will of the majority of the people is the law of the land in every regard. Earth has never had a system of actual democracy simply because we've never had the technology to define the true will of our diverse majorities. Because governments without public oversight naturally become institutionally corrupted over generations due to normal human greed, no small group can ever assure honest and benevolent rule of a people. Only the people, themselves, can rule themselves fairly, with their best interests at heart. Only We can rule ourselves benevolently. So, Let's rule!

Nirvana
|
Kenya
October 7, 2008

Nirvana in Kenya writes:

How cool is this! Really looking forward to seeing the contributions to: Democracy. Your Voice. Your Video.

I feel good about Dipnote, and my country, through this friendly, approachable, informative venue. Thanks!

Jonathan
|
Texas, USA
October 7, 2008

Jonathan in Texas writes:

Great post SNP. I like when people point the obvious.

I agree with you fully on pushing the issue of democracy in the world instead of human rights. Let's face it; a world of democracy will never happen. Ya, I said never happen. Unless the democratic nations want to spend trillions of dollars, thousands of soldiers lives, and thousands of civilian lives, then I can see a world of democracy.

There is obviously some sort of money put into this project and I see this as wasteful. If you want to know what democracy means to people, ask them on DipNote. Ask people to write an essay (I guess that's too old school). Why set aside funds for a needless project?

Democracy used to mean good or hope to me. After this administration, it means war to me. If a country is not a democracy, then it is portrayed in the US eye as horrible or wrong. Those countries labeled as dictatorships or threatening countries, more than likely they are not democracies which categorizes them under this label.

Democracy used to be that the people had the power. In the past 8 year, the people have been powerless. Many Americans disagree with this administration on several issues like the mortgage crisis, war in Iraq, government spending etc. BUT our government continues to listen to themselves and run this country without lending an ear to the public. So then some politicians use the disgruntled Americans as leverage in their arguments and campaigns. Democracy has turned to nothing but politics.

So there you go my brief view on democracy. No camera. I guess I'm just upset because I know I'm not going to get an invite to that cocktail party.....jk I have a nice suit to wear!!!!

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
October 7, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

I appreciate those who commented that human rights should be the focus. However, that does not negate the importance of democracy. This administration is not the only example of what democracy is -- we need to move beyond the last eight years and not let it limit our definition of democracy. I applaud this project because it is providing the opportunity to begin to do just that.

I really enjoyed the video and I like the idea that people from across the globe will create their own videos to share their unique viewpoints. So while this contest may not change much, it will give us an opportunity to learn more about each other and open a dialogue for what democracy means around the world -- and new ways it can be defined.

I do love the idea of an essay, and I encourage DipNote to continue to host conversations about what democracy means, but there is a lot of power in the images from video. I look forward to seeing what is created.

Lastly, I'd like to say that anytime people are given the opportunity to openly share their opinions is a good thing. And when we listen and respect each other's opinions, then positive change can happen.

"We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity." - Malcom X

Cameron
|
Texas, USA
October 7, 2008

Cameron in Texas writes:

It is my opinion that James Glassman and the State Department are creating this video challenge as a great opportunity for America to educate themselves about democracy and politics. I have no issues with this as long as the tax payer is paying to create it, otherwise it is a waste, just like half of the things our government comes up with. As for kids wanting to post their views and beliefs about politics they do not need some government program to do that, they are already doing that through Youtube. Also, it does suprise me how the government is supporitng this program that will of course only provoke anti-democratic (Michael Moore) type views. Finally, I only wish members of our Public affairs would spend more time towards public education, and not towards public views.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
October 7, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Anna in Washington, DC -- "This administration is not the only example of what democracy is -- we need to move beyond the last eight years and not let it limit our definition of democracy."

Indeed. I agree, and here is an example of the many different ideas about the structure of democracy the people can choose for themselves.

From the JoonAng Daily, a S. Korean newspaper.

"French-style presidency proves popular option."

http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2895161

Syrian P.
|
Syria
October 7, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky -- One of the most oppressive forms of Government can be, and for some has been, the Democratic model. An absolute Monarch on the other hand can maintain a government that is far more in tune with the wishes of his subjects than a President in an elected Democratic System. It is not the form of government that matter for the betterment of a nation, it is how the government governs.

John
|
Greece
October 7, 2008

John in Greece writes:

U.S.A. has the best governmental system in the world! Both Fed and local wise! All levels! And its elevating healthy and wisely? (chuckle)

Other countries should take example of the American governmental system, and not the U.S. from the "others".

It's up to them to elaborate on the philosophy of the U.S. infrastructure and Bills and act (their local) local, using the same "frequency" that made America successful, clear and honest: A DEMOCRATIC NEW EARTH!

I think you guys forget that when we talk about the U.S., we "deal" with the "hugest" and most successful human Fed system in the world. And the most important: under a common ideological and humanitarian value "code", other countries do not have, although they are attempting to play the new "Fed generator" role, like "E.U & Russian partners".

Imagine that only Florida is the "double" size of France... Who cares what Koreans think? Who cares about France and all the others?

The only way is "up", all of which is being "UNITED"!

I cannot understand why we should start discussing the democratic platform of a nation (U.S.A.) that is already a TOTAL Success + a DEMOCRATIC lighthouse for all the others.

Those "others" should start solving their own problems for a start.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
October 8, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ SNP in Syria -- "It is not the form of government that matter for the betterment of a nation, it is how the government governs."

Well said.

Every form of government has its pros and cons. No matter what government type is used it only overlays the fundamental dynamic of human nature, the struggle for power and dominance. Even if a system was adopted, designed to bring equality to everyone, it would crumble immediately. The more capable or fortunate persons will always maneuver for advantage over those less fortunate.

Diffused power will eventually condense into those hands most capable of keeping it and away from the hands too weak to hold it.

Or to quote Plato: "Democracy passes into despotism."

The price of freedom for the people is eternal vigilance.

When the fore-fathers of the US designed the constitution, the president was decided by the electorate, the congress by the people. That was fine and good before the consolidation of power in the presidential office. Now, the president can circumvent the congress on many issues and it's debatable how much representation the political elite bring for their constituents. When people become complacent, the slow imperceptible erosion of their rights begins.

Take for example the US prison system. Not including those on probation, the number of people on parole and currently incarcerated is 3,000,000.

3 Million.

That's larger than the entire population of Kuwait. Larger than Mongolia, larger than Jamaica, and on par with the population of Albania. That's a hefty lead over China, despite the fact that China has four times as many people. Every one of these Americans are stripped of their voting rights for several years after their incarceration. But once they're out, they still have to pay taxes. That's called taxation without representation, and if I remember my history correctly, we Americans had a giant tea party in the Boston harbor over that. And at that time the entire US population was only 2.2 million, smaller than our prison population today.

Did most of those people do wrong to others? Probably. Maybe. But once they serve their time, what gives the majority the power to strip from a minority the supposedly inalienable right to vote? Nothing. And yet that's what has happened, disenfranchising an entire domestic population that is greater than 47 other countries.

I ask my fellow citizens, what senator or representative is arguing on the behalf of these people, these outcasts who may have done wrong but since paid their dues and yet still are refugees from their own representational democratic government? What senator or representative is preaching judicial reform and prison management? I'm sure there are some out there but off the top of my head I cannot think of a single one. No one wants the stigma of championing for those branded as criminals, regardless of how repressed those people might be.

Another example. It is estimated that 14 million people use marijuana in the US. Larger than the countries of Cambodia, Guatemala, and Zimbabwe. The Jewish population in America is only 5.2 million. The detrimental effects of this drug is hotly debated but it's generally accepted in the medical community that it's less than long term alcohol use. While I don't condone the use of marijuana personally, I also don't see why a minority should be subjected to the tyranny of the majority. Budweiser is one of the largest contributors to the anti-marijuana lobby. Why is that? Any one who cries too loudly against this hypocrisy is immediately viewed with suspicion and placed under surveillance by various local and federal agencies despite the fact that they have the legal right to challenge existing laws through public support and legislation. But no representative will promote drug reform as their platform -- they can't risk their careers. Unless its from the pharmaceutical industry, there's profit in that.

As ranked by the World Database of Happiness, the happiest places to live on Earth are Denmark, Sweden, and Luxemburg (the US ranks 17th). The first two are constitutional monarchies, and the last is a parliamentary representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, ruled by a Grand Duke. It is the world's only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy. Are they that happy and in the top ten richest countries of the world strictly because of those governments? Probably not. But they must be doing something right. Perhaps it's that they remain vigilant against the concentration of power which seeks to exploit the minority?

So before the US continues to export even further its "democratic ideals" maybe it should first make sure that those particular ideals are actually serving the whole of the people and not just the meager majority or elite. I only hope we can stop preaching long enough to hear the good advice of other countries.

Sarmoye B.
|
Mali
October 8, 2008

Sarmoye in Mali writes:

The Market of Gao(old capital of Songhoy Empire and world cultural patrimoine) in the north of Mali is called:WASHINGTON, since the independance of Mali. WHY?

The inhabitants hope that God will bless their town as America.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
October 12, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

Whoa, guys, I appreciate your comments, but I tend to agree with Winston Churchill, who said: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Yes, governments that are not truly democratic routinely call themselves so, but I think a government that is representative of the people is our best hope.

.

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