By Jean Latz Griffin
President Obama’s use of cell phone text messages and online social networking to bring his words directly to people in the Middle East in their own languages appears to be just the global, political web outreach he needed to recapture some of the online momentum of his campaign.
Leapfrogging over gatekeepers, whether in the print or broadcast media, the State Department sent text messages of highlights of Obama’s Cairo speech to people outside the U.S. in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English. By law, the State Department couldn’t do the same thing for people in the U.S.
More than 20,000 people primarily in Muslim countries received the text messages on their cell phones, according to White House deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough, speaking on Saturday to the Associated Press.
In addition, administration officials set up live chats on Facebook to reach the estimated 20 million users of the social networking site in the Arab countries. The hope was to continue the conversation and spread Obama’s message further and for a longer period of time than would be possible through traditional means.
The scope and potential effect of the online outreach was the first since the election to come close to the game-changing nature of Obama’s Presidential campaign. Many had been concerned that President Obama and his administration, which had lost many of the top online staffers of the campaign, wouldn’t be able to recreate the ground breaking successes of candidate Obama and his campaign.
This bold move has put his new media prowess back in the limelight. In addition to the text messages and Facebook discussions, Obama’s full speech at Cairo was viewed 723,705 times on YouTube, smaller sections of the speech another 151,238 times, in the first four days after the speech. Transcripts, usually only in English, were made available in 13 languages.
“I think it is wonderful, proactive, culturally sensitive and eventually effective in creating goodwill and much more,” said Martha Elena Galindo, a translation specialist who is president and CEO of Florida-based Galindo Publicidad, Inc., in an online message to CyberINK.
“The common sense rule of talking to people in the language they can understand applies also to diplomacy and politics,” Galindo said. “Texting per se puts him even more ahead of the global political game since it immediately reaches younger generations as well. [There is] less gap, less cultural filters, [which enables the President] to get crystal clear messages to them.”
Gul Ayaz, Islamabad bureau chief for Khyber News, told CyberINK that he believed Obama’s texting and social networking would help to remove misconceptions on the Internet and in blogs that contribute to hatred against Muslims.
“It will be really innovative way to launch such a move,” Ayaz wrote in an online message. “I have many reasons to believe what President Obama said in Cairo. He speaks from his heart rather making any glory sermon.”
By providing the ability for people to text message back about the speech, the administration hopes to keep the discussion going and reinforce Obama’s message, especially among young people. The State Department published some of the comments on the america.gov website. Here are some, exactly as they were texted:
Please give My respect to Presidant Obama and I would like to say to him that I’ve never wished to be in amireca like now just to shake hands with you. Khaled.
Courageous speech. Raised expectations. We want justice, only justice. UN resolutions. I trust him, because he is a free man. Free men say their minds , and stand for it. Mona-Egypt
That’s good. I’m Christian with a great Muslim friend Abdul. His life is worthy of emulation. We can all live together. Joe
many thanks for your excellent service.can i get the sound of this speech .i will be very grateful if you could help me with it .
Thanks. hope we make peace for all
“President obama said what i want to hear, i had tears in my eyes, because his words touched my soul. I belived every words he said and i am sure he is sincere, but we wants action not words. We want to feel that america is friend to us not against us. We want to be treated fairly by you. Thanks