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Controlling the Narrative (Costa Concordia & Diplomacy)

Published on 26 January 2012
Updated on 19 March 2024

Excerpt from Aldo Matteucci’s lates blog “Controlling the Narrative


Diplomacy in the end is also (today even mainly) about “controlling the narrative”. A good diplomat will be keenly aware of this. There are two intersecting narratives: the internal one in the negotiating room, and the public one. They are interrelated, for they are both based on persuasion (otherwise it would be a diktat), but far from identical.

The external narrative addresses public opinion, for the people must endorse the outcome of the negotiation. The aim then is to ring-fence the negotiation: to set the scope of the politically possible. Such a campaign is geared to securing moral high ground – and the emotions that go with it. It is based on the duality of right/wrong. The weaker side will take refuge, if at all possible, on moral high ground.

The internal one better reflects the balance of power. Skillful diplomacy may change the result of the negotiation somewhat, but on average, I’d say, it closely tracks power. Naked power is best displayed in all its lewdness behind the Green Door (if one remembers the porn movie of the 70s) of the Green Room.

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