In an interview with CNN this week, Iran broke with a long tradition of crazy when the new President, Hassan Rouhani, acknowledged that the Holocaust was “reprehensible and condemnable,” and happened. Then, on Thursday, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, held bilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The highest-level contact between the two foes since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the meetings resulted in Mr. Zarif’s remarkable call for an agreement on the nuclear issue within a year.
Yet the truly groundbreaking step in international diplomacy this week may have been taken by Israel, when it used the official Twitter page of its U.S. embassy to showcase a parody LinkedIn account for Mr. Rouhani.
The mock page, in which the fake Mr. Rouhani boasts of being a “master salesman” working to help Iran “maintain its role as the leading sponsor of worldwide terror,” is a remarkably amateur effort. The Israelis should have hired a comic; the record suggests it would then have been funny.
But possibly in this effort Israel gives us a glimpse of the potential of full-scale, troll diplomacy. If only the mocking fake LinkedIn profile had been a viable option in 2003, we could have avoided the war in Iraq. A mere “George W. Bush just endorsed Saddam Hussein in access of evil!” may have gone some way toward satisfying America’s need for vengeance post 9/11. Iraq was arguably chosen at random as a target, so down-voting Norway’s entire comment history on Reddit may have had the same mollifying effect.
Reparations could have involved America both “liking” and commenting on every single one of Norway’s baby photos for a five-year term.
I’ve felt for a while that social media’s lack of a regulated currency creates a problem. People are just printing “likes.” They have no value any more. If you retweeted everyone in your Twitter feed, you’d lose all your followers, a danger that creates some stability in the market. Although it has recently led to flooding of the (essentially underground) “favouriting” market, causing that currency to lose its value.
These problems will have to be addressed if what appears at first glance to be Israel’s childish and counterproductive move this week does launch a new era in geopolitics. Possibly each country’s official Facebook page should have only so many “likes” at its disposal so like overtures will appear meaningful. A country could not run on a like deficit, and no nation should be allowed to change its profile picture every two weeks in order to accrue more.
Once we’re all engaged in fighting on the Internet, countries may find they could save billions by abandoning their nuclear ambitions or nuclear hoarding, as the case may be. Powerful nations with their vast resources would probably have little difficulty obtaining weapons of deterrence more appropriate to the Internet age. They would stockpile compromising photos of rival world leaders, who would do all in their power to avoid being targets of revenge porn.
Smaller nations would spend all their time Photoshopping, much the way Iran and North Korea (the country most likely to be blocked and reported for spam) do now. They would face visits from United Nations porn inspectors, who will make a lot of “Just need to check your arsenal” jokes. Currently, countries Photoshop to make it look as though they have weapons. In the future, Photoshop will be the weapon.
Russia’s support of Syria could amount to little more than forwarding a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama eating a kitten. Syria could post that picture on Tumblr, where it would be seen by everyone, except maybe Cuba, which would still be exclusively on MySpace.
Syria would risk retaliation in the form of silos of videos, different videos, of Bashar al-Assad singing Suffragette City in the shower, all uploaded simultaneously to YouTube. Some particularly inept terrorist might seize on the ensuing snark-storm chaos to launch an attack on Usenet, only to find there’s no one there. One hopes a mutual ally would intervene with a video of a panda trying to put a bucket on its head because, as the mutual ally’s LiveJournal post would say: “No one wants a Flame War III.”
At the exact moment Israel would launch its 1,700th fake Twitter account, IRANIAN HULK, with the Tweet: “HULK ADVOCATE FOR PROLIFERATION OF NUCULEAR WEAPONS.” It will tweet 13,790 times in the following six months, but never get more than 16 followers.