The State Department’s Ridiculous Hashtag Diplomacy

For reasons that probably seemed good when they talked it over at a strategy meeting, the State Department’s press office decided to take to Twitter:

As Russian troops amass along the Ukraine border and take over military facilities in the Crimea region, the United States has distanced itself from any boots-on-the-ground intervention.

The U.S. won’t send troops or weapons, but it will send hashtags.

While Congress approved an aid package for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia this week, the State Department pushed a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #UnitedForUkraine, which calls on people to share their support for the country.

President Obama had great success using social media during his campaigning days, but does that same mindset work for foreign affairs?

“I don’t know what effect this is supposed to have,” said former State Department diplomat James Lewis. “It’s a hashtag. What’s it going to do? For this situation, it’s not a useful tool.”

It started with this tweet a month ago from State Department Spokesperson Jenn Psaki:

Then, this being Twitter, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided a little highjacking was in order:

So, Psaki came back with this.

Ah yes, the power of hashtag.

Seriously, who put these people in charge?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. stonetools says:

    If you aren’t going to do anything significant, make some noise.
    #BetterThan Nothing

  2. JWH says:

    This Ukraine hashtag activism has a patina of the ridiculous. But at the same time, I think it’s worth remembering that any modern propaganda campaign needs to include a social-media element.

    Interesting article about such efforts here:

  3. Dividist says:

    As Donald Rumsfeld wisely informed us…

    “There are hashtag knowns. These are hashtags we know that we know. There are hashtag unknowns. That is to say, there are hastags that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown hashtag unknowns. There are hashtags we don’t know we don’t know.”

    Which is to say you go to war with the hashtag you have, not the hashtag you might want or wish to have at a later time.

  4. John Peabody says:

    So, the State Department is calling for hashtags? Way to go…to compare the freedom of a nation with the same importance we gave to #TeamCoco.

  5. BigFire says:

    Doug, we (and by we, I’m not including myself) put these people in charge in the State Department. It’s sad that a deliberate joke character Emmett Fitz-Hume (as played by Chevy Chase), aka, a junior State Department spokesman in Spys Like Us actually command more common sense than the actual ones we got.

  6. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: Yes, being noisy won’t annoy anyone, or give anyone ammunition to claim we’re fomenting dissent as a pretext for invasion. It’s not like the government is strapped for cash, let’s just throw money at any old venture and see what sticks.