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More complaints about the U.S Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo

By Ezra Klein

Matt's post reminds me of possibly the most absurd part of the U.S.' video presentation at the World Expo: It ends with Kobe Bryant touting "teamwork" as a fundamental American value. Kobe Bryant! It's like me being the poster child for keeping your opinions to yourself.

Also, Citibank's sponsorship of the U.S. pavilion came pretty late in the process. From what I was told, it came when the United States basically needed a few more million at crunch time. That is to say, the donation happened recently. Recently, of course, being during the period of time when the U.S. government was a major shareholder in Citibank. And yet we still called the room "the Citibank room" and we still dissolved President Obama's face into a text screen saying the film was brought to you by Citibank. Maybe this was some subtle message about how we're so capitalist that we'd rather humiliate ourselves than act like we own a company that we do, in fact, largely own, but it's still silly. We couldn't have used our major shareholder status to demand they content themselves with a tasteful plaque?

By Ezra Klein  |  May 24, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
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I never thought China air will be so 'state capitalistic' that Ezra demands Citi portrays Obama picture as our great guardian in the style of Socialistic countries. I have seen enough Indian PMs photo in Bank advertisements and they don't go well even if bank is owned by Government for a while. Vikram Pandit can very readily confirm how tasteless it all becomes having lived through totally public sector banking in India.

Posted by: umesh409 | May 24, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

how much did GM spend?

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 24, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, thanks for noting the issues associated with the US Pavilion.

Most critiques of the US Pavilion -- and there are plenty -- have focused on its uninspiring architecture, its organizers' self-promotional style, the commercial nature of its contents (purchased at an exceedingly high price), and the muffed process that resulted in the private sole-sourcing of the assignment to create the US Pavilion to an inexperienced team with insider connections in the government.

Shanghai correspondent Adam Minter has been especially attentive to these issues on his well-regarded blog, Shanghai Scrap, available at

I've taken another tack, publishing on the Huffington Post. I'm most concerned about the privatization of American public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is America's only consistent alternative to war to making our way in the world. "Blackwatering" public diplomacy is in no one's best interest.

The US Pavilion might have been the spearpoint of this strategy had it not been bungled by the Bush Administration so badly that it required Secretary Clinton to execute on the money, which she did to save -- and buy for her global buddies -- the US Pavilion. She then created the Global Partnership Initiative to perpetuate the process of having Corporate America assume more of the State Department's former public diplomacy responsibilities.

Your readers are referred to three sequential articles that lay out the issues and recommend solutions, beginning with the US Pavilion and ending with a prescription for a more vital American public diplomacy. They are, in chronological order:

1. "'Blackwatering' Public Diplomacy: The US Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo," May 3, 2010

2. "US Pavilion A Stalking Horse for Privatization? Complaint to IRS Challenges Tax Exemption," May 18, 2010

3. Bob Jacobson: Hillary Hits Her Hut; or, How I Was Shanghai'ed at the US Pavilion, as told by the American Secretary of State (her eyes now wide-open!)

Thanks to Matt and you, Ezra, the word is now out in the mainstream press. But there's more to come from the trenches....

Bob Jacobson
Tucson, AZ
Email: Bob Jacobson

Posted by: bluefire1 | May 24, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Per my earlier posting, my articles cited appear on HUFFINGTON POST. The WaPost server automatically deleted the hyperlinks, so please use Google to search for these articles. It works.

Also, my email link was also deleted. For those who might like to write to me with comments or questions, my email address is:

bluefire AT well DOT com


Bob Jacobson
Tucson, AZ

Posted by: bluefire1 | May 24, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

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