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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > July 2016 > Books in brief

Books in brief

Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age

by Tom Fletcher (William Collins, £18.99)

“Diplomacy is Darwinian: its practitioners need to evolve to survive.” This is the first line of Tom Fletcher’s excellent new book on diplomacy—or perhaps more correctly “statecraft.”

Fletcher was a British diplomat for many years serving as ambassador in Lebanon between 2011 and 2015. Early on in the book, he describes the evolution of his career: “When I started, we had to consider how policy would look on the Sky News ticker at the bottom of the screen: 140 words,” he writes. “By the time I left, we were judging how it would look on Twitter: 140 characters.”

At the heart of it all is connectivity. The “tweeting Talleyrands,” as he calls them, need to interact with their audiences. Diplomats must learn the language of this new digital terrain in the way they once learnt Mandarin or Arabic. And for this they need to give their audience information on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

But all in moderation. Quoting BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti’s dictum that brands are harmed when they give their audience content they don’t want, the reader comes to realise that diplomacy is becoming yet one more “content provider”—and has to play by the rules accordingly. Keep the audience interested; keep them clicking.

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In Prospect’s July issue: In her final issue as Editor Bronwen Maddox explores the legacy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair having spoken with him at a Prospect event on 24th May. She examines his domestic policy, the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and what the future holds for the Labour Party. The Chancellor George Osborne lays down his view on why the public should to “Remain” in the EU, and Ian Hargreaves takes a close look at what is happening at the BBC. Also in this issue: Former Conservative leader David Davis suggests he can see a very narrow set of circumstances that might push him towards running for the party leadership again, William Skidelsky writes about why tennis is the best sport and Vanora Bennett looks at Svetlana Alexievich’s extraordinary work recording Russia’s lost voices.