Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dictator Signaling

In the last couple of weeks, I have been surprised at some communication choices made by dictators/ not-real-dictators-but-well-powerful-guys. The more interesting cases were the interviews given by Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and Muammar Gaddafi to Western media. FOr Saif al-Islam, well, he's always on TV. His father is there less frequently, but still gives interviews.

Yesterday, Laurent Gbagbo followed the leader, leader, by giving an awkward phone interview on LCI.




Why would they give interviews to medias in countries where their support is really weak? I cannot see how this could change western opinion, but I am willing to see the arguments for that. A friend mentioned that a more likely story is that they are trying to signal to their inner circle(say, businessmen or political friends), that they are still in charge, that they are still have contacts, and that everything is normal. Following the defections of foreign ambassadors, of ministers and army strongmen last month, and of the foreign minister last week, this makes sense to me in the case of Gaddafi(i.e., there is a risk of defection).  I don't know enough about Cote d'Ivoire to give examples.

This explanation does not account, though, for the interview that the president of Georgia gave to French TV in 2008 when Georgia was at war against Russia over some Northern provinces. I thought he gave one to France 2, but I can't find the link. In any case, he gave another interview to France 24. The interesting thing about the interview I can't find is that he was talking in French. Anyway... The type of conflict was of a different sort, and Saakashvili had a friendly relationship with France and Sarkozy at the time. So the goal of the interview was probably different.

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