Tag Archives: journalism

Bernie Sanders and Foreign Policy

bernie-sanders-portrait-02Over the last few months, a steady trickle of people have been mentioning to me, privately, that they know about the Sanders campaign through me. It’s a little daunting, knowing that when people ask you his stance on an issue, what you tell them actually matters. So my reply, for the most part, has been – “I’ll look into it and get back to you,” or, “Actually, I’ll email the campaign and see if I can get some info.” (If you remember, my last post was about the campaign involving its grassroots supporters directly, in a self-organized, decentralized structure that’s filled with 99%ers.)

A few days ago, a friend specifically asked if I had any links to articles she could show her mom, who wanted to know what Bernie was like on foreign policy. In the interest of getting another primary voter to #FeelTheBern, I scoured r/SandersForPresident and googled for answers, and came up with a list of policy flyers made available for free as PDFs. FeelTheBern.org makes them available for free, for activists and grassroots supporters who want to communicate Bernie’s talking points. I passed those on – btw, here’s the link – and that was that.

This morning, my dad yelled, “Rachel! Bernie’s on TV!” I came down a few minutes later to see Bernie getting interviewed on Meet the Press, and watched as he responded constructively to questions that might have put another candidate on the defensive. A while later, I wandered back in as Dianne Feinstein was talking about what it will mean if the Russian plane that exploded in midair was destroyed by a terrorist bomb.

Feinstein is a Democrat from California, and the host introduced her by citing her career and noting that she’s seen exactly this kind of scenario play out in the past. While he didn’t ask her to outright confirm whether it was a bomb, he asked about the likelihood that that might be the case. Feinstein’s response said, essentially, that based on her experience she would be surprised if it turned out to be something other than a bomb (my words, not hers). As I listened, I realized that the terrorist group in question was ISIS/ISIL, and they were saying that if it is, that’s an attack by a group that has now made significant military headway in the Middle East against Russia, and Russia might finally sit up and take notice.

Feinstein seemed to know what she was talking about, and I was curious – with so much coverage about Bernie’s supposed foreign policy weakness, did someone like Feinstein have anything to say about Senator Sanders? I couldn’t find any direct comments (though if anybody does, please pass them my way). Well, at the very least, I could compare what she was saying, which seemed to make sense, and see how it lined up against the actions Sanders has taken in the past. The following excerpt is one of the candidate’s quotes, from the article “Bernie Sanders on ISIS,” at www.FeelTheBern.org:

 “I have supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and believe they are authorized under current law, and I support targeted U.S. military efforts to protect U.S. citizens. It is my firm belief, however, that the war against ISIS will never be won unless nations in the Middle East step up their military efforts and take more responsibility for the security and stability of their region. The United States and other western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight. It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia, for example, is a nation controlled by one of the wealthiest families in the world and has the fourth largest military budget of any nation. This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged.”

After looking through that information, I feel like I have a handle on where Sanders stands on ISIS – that it’s important for regional powers to take the lead. I definitely feel like I understand more about his thoughts on a specific foreign policy issue, so I wanted to share this. Have a look and let me know what you think, and if you’re wondering where Sanders stands on foreign policy, this article is as good a place as any to start.

Read the entire article here.

“Getting” the Internet: The CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse

When people think of social media jobs, they might consider pop-culture commentary and corporate representation – but what about social media in public service? Last week, the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response used a darkly fictional twist – and a keen understanding of social media’s strengths – to tap into the hive mind’s love of all things undead, sparking a global viral sensation of Zombie Apocalypse humor (and educating the public) in the process.

Many companies use social media without really “getting it,” so seeing a government agency set such an excellent example, particularly in a way that acknowledges the foibles of internet culture, is really exciting. Curious to know more, I reached out to the CDC, and the lead for the Emergency Web and Social Media Team, Catherine Jamal was generous enough to answer some questions regarding the process of seeing Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse go viral.

So sit back, and prepare to be infected…with knowledge.

Generating Zombies: Social Media at the CDC

Using collaboration between teams, the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness & Response created the Zombie campaign to revolve around emergency preparedness and the agency’s response to emergencies.

Members of the team had used social media for emergency preparedness in multiple situations, and unsurprisingly – given how this project came together – Jamal says there is “a lot” of social media experience at the CDC. When it comes to their online activities, the organization – like many businesses – uses a strategy that links information via website, social media, and more. In terms of their specific use of Twitter, the H1N1 outbreak was the catalyst behind the CDC’s emergency twitter feed and a Facebook Page.

“This idea [for the Zombie meme] came up during a brain-storming session between CDC communication experts in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response,” said Jamal. “We were exploring how we might reach more people with our preparedness messages since personal preparedness is such a critical component of developing resilient communities.”

What companies can take note of from the CDC’s approach here is that they observed how a real world disaster – the Japan Earthquake – unfolded in the popular consciousness via a discussion their representatives took part in via the twitter account,@CDCemergency. The team noticed that “several people tweeted about zombie preparedness,” perhaps planting a seed for the later idea.

When that later idea was used – when the campaign was launched on 5/16/11 – Zombies were used as a metaphor for serious disasters: hurricanes, disease outbreaks, earthquakes and floods, to name just a few examples. This allowed @CDCemergency to introduce a topic that “people don’t typically talk about until it’s too late.” (Put another way, don’t wait to try and buy 10 gallons of water till the day after the apocalypse.)

But it’s not just peoples’ immediate safety that the CDC is interested in protecting. In a larger sense, “The campaign was also to have a broader conversation about the role of public health in keeping people safe from health threats every day.”

 Going Viral: Spreading the Zombie Apocalypse Infection

If you’ve ever posted a photo of your cat on Twitter, you know the path to viral isn’t always an easy – or obvious one. For every Rebecca Black, there are millions of…well, the rest of us. I was interested in knowing what the CDC had used to launch interest in their campaign, since my awareness of it came well after Zombie Apocalypse began to trend on Twitter. This thing spread like the Rage virus; how did it get out there so fast? Jamal outlined its evolution:

Beginning with a post on Dr. Ali S. Khan’s public health matters blog, the campaign initially “utilized several additional existing social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, widgets, and badges. The blog post had an accompanying web page discussing the related social media.”

As noted above, I learned of the meme via twitter – but shortly after, mainstream news outlets picked up the story, and it went global IRL as well as online. So not only does the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response and now have a successful viral campaign on their hands, but the team’s public health message is being spread effectively at breakneck speed around a globe fraught with earthquakes, monsoons, floods, disease outbreaks and more.

The team “hoped that by using zombies as our focus and marketing the message via social media, we could gain the attention of a younger audience that is difficult to reach with traditional preparedness messages.” At a glance, it would appear they were successful – they were as surprised as anyone else to see CDC hit Twitter as a Trending Topic the day of the release.

To give an idea of how significant the jump in the CDC website’s hit was, Jamal provided the following context: while a typical blog post on the CDC site receives between 900-3000 total page views, the reach of Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse came out to over 2 million views – in less than a week. This makes it the #1 page on the CDC’s website.

That’s at least over a six hundred percent increase, based on the higher end of the figure. The average might reveal a far higher leap. Clearly, and whatever fears one might have about the public’s need to be entertained in order to be educated, this is an effective way to transmit information. “All zombie movies have a hero of some sort,” goes the CDC’s message, “and we encourage people to be ready to be that hero!”

The Serious Side of Social Media Outreach

Given the success of the Zombie Apocalypse meme, it’s not surprising that  the CDC is interested in continuing to use social media for their outreach, offering the following advice: “A good way to get ready for the next apocalypse – no matter what it is – is for people to take some personal responsibility for themselves and their community.”

So what say you, dear readers? Has Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse got you stockpiling twinkies for the End Times?

Visit the CDC Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse Guide for information that can help you and your family prepare for a variety of disasters. Check out some of my Zombie-Related reviews for more braaaains…

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