There's been a good deal of excitement (well, relatively speaking) about the recent twitter exchanges between US President Barack Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
It was neither matey banter of the kind used by Australia's Kevin Rudd (when he was foreign minister) and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, nor was it, thankfully, the threatening exhanges between Hamas and the Israeli army, which went far beyond sabre rattling.
Instead it was polite chit-chat, talking about a phone call they had had.
It follows the excitement when the @HassanRouhani twitter account re-tweeted the US State Department, but this time, it was an exchange - of a kind that you might hear by the chutney stand at a Women's Institute meeting, up to and including 'Have a nice day' and 'Thank you'. Although, admittedly, not many WI meetings cover the need for the political willpower necessary to solve a nuclear conundrum - nor do they express much concern about the traffic in New York. The twitter conversation was a reference to a phone conversation, but they barely referred to the contents of that conversation itself.
The details on that remained private.
And yet the ... ahem... twiplomats get excited. And the head honcho at Twitter, Jack Dorsey even called it 'inspiring'. Digital diplomacy has reached the sharp end, then?
Well, not quite - this is, after all, a public reference to private diplomacy of the old-fashioned kind. Nothing more than an official spokesman would tell the press anyway. They had a polite call, they discussed serious issues, including the nuclear thing. They talked about the traffic. It was friendlier than exchanges with Iran have been for some time - but we don't get the details.
So it wasn't public or digital diplomacy - not least since it took place on a medium (Twitter itself) denied to the Iranian people. Public diplomacy that's only half-way public.
When Dorsey directly asked the @HassanRouhani account about twitter access for the Iranain people of, he got a revealing reply...
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) October 1, 2013
Does this strike you as the authentic voice of the Iranian president?
It wasn't, of course. It was a spokesman, someone rather more at home with the medium than your average head of state. This never was, therefore, an exchange between presidents, a display of genuine digital diplomacy. It was an exchange between the presidents' people. And they told us nothing we wouldn't have already known.
It's a novelty that this sort of exchange happens, but it isn't, as another Twitter founder Dick Costelo called it, 'a tectonic shift in geo-political relations'. Instead, sadly, it's an inauthentic public exchange, giving a version of a private conversation.
It feels like progress, it looks like progress, but we've still a long way to go.
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