Black Signs at the Exhibition

The IMF has come through for Georgia in an enormous way, approving a $750 million credit line for the beleaguered republic. Beyond the much needed aid, it’s a powerful political reminder for Russia of the gargantuan economic advantage the West maintains.

But in that article notice the black banner in the feature photograph. It’s a promotional piece for the slick SOSGeorgia site, written in very literate English and produced by a Georgian IT firm. Have you noticed how much better the Georgians are at appealing to world opinion than the Russians? Granted, theirs is the far more sympathetic cause, but there is some native skill involved in the marketing that may have something to do with the country’s cultural, political and commercial orientation toward the West. I hate to speculate too deeply on it, but it’s possible that disconnection from the West simply leads to bad public relations strategy. At least when you need to persuade the West, as both the Russians and Georgians do.

Johanna Neuman wrote a fascinating little book in the 90s called Lights, Camera, War, which was essentially an unintentional nonfiction treatment of JG Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition. Like Ballard did, Neuman examined the modern lust for violent sensation through international media, which she thought could be driving global politics. We might go further and suggest that as the lights and cameras go out, so necessarily do opportunities for victory through media, and thus for political success in war. Possibly that speaks in a way to interdependence conferring soft advantages which can even neutralize superior military power in conflicts.

Perhaps this is similar to the way the productivity of domestic industries can atrophy when insulated from exposure to international markets. Russia’s increasing cultural and political disengagement from the West, and her increasingly mercantile trade relationship, could be inadvertently stripping her of this unseen competitive advantage.

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One Response to “Black Signs at the Exhibition”

  1. [...] South Ossetia. The blog notes that one site established to put forward the Georgian case online encapsulates marketing skills absent from the Russian side. Posted by Onnik Krikorian  Print Version Share [...]

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