“Hashtag Diplomacy”: Right-Wing Media Hide US Assistance In Search For Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Right-wing media have criticized the Obama administration's participation in the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, claiming that “hashtag diplomacy” is not enough. But these allegations ignore the fact that the administration has offered Nigeria assistance from the start, and has sent a team of specialists to aid the search.

Michelle Obama Participates In #BringBackOurGirls Campaign After Schoolgirls Kidnapped In Nigeria

Reuters: Terrorist Group Boko Haram Commits Mass Abduction Of Schoolgirls. On April 21, Reuters reported that more than 234 young girls had been kidnapped from Chibok school in Nigeria by an extremist group known as Boko Haram. Reuters described the group as an Islamic extremist organization that has “increasingly targeted civilians instead of just security forces.” [Reuters, 4/21/14]

New York Times: Mrs. Obama Takes Part In #BringBackOurGirls Social Media Campaign. On May 10, the New York Times reported that First Lady Michelle Obama had “condemned the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorists,” and taken part in “a viral Internet campaign on their behalf, with people around the world taking to Twitter and other social media to demand the return of the girls to their families” by posting a photo of herself with a paper that read "#BringBackOurGirls." [The New York Times5/10/14]

Right-Wing Media Claim Administration Is Only Engaging In “Hashtag Diplomacy”

Columnist George Will Compares #BringBackOurGirls Campaign To Foreign Policy. During Fox News' Sunday show with Chris Wallace, Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will dismissed the #BringBackOurGirls campaign as “an exercise in self-esteem.” While an on-air graphic asked “Does 'Hashtag Activism' Work?” Will criticized the movement, saying, “this is not intended to have any effect on the real world.” Will did not mention the White House's existing efforts to assist Nigeria with the search. From Fox News Sunday:

WILL: It's an exercise in self-esteem. I do not know how adults stand there facing a camera and say bring back our girls. Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their twitter accounts and say, “ah oh, Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior.” 


Power is the ability to achieve intended effects, and this is not intended to have any effect on the real world. It's a little bit like environmentalism has become. The incandescent light bulb becomes the enemy, has no effect whatever on the planet, but it makes people feel good about themselves. [Fox News, Fox News Sunday5/11/14]  

Fox Regular Donald Trump Falsely Suggested Obama Adminstration Hasn't Sent Help To NigeriaOn the May 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Donald Trump criticized the Obama administration for participating in the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign and suggested Obama “take some of our elites” to assist in Nigeria. Later, co-host Steve Doocy asked, “Why is the first lady showing us the hashtag? Shouldn't she just show her husband?” (emphasis added):

KILMEADE: So the hashtag isn't enough for you? The #BringBackOurGirls?

TRUMP: Oh that was incredible. I mean, incredible. But, you know, we're a different place, we're a different country. We're not respected. I don't want to use the word fear, but we're certainly not feared. And we're a much different place than we used to beBut certainly he should be able to go in there very easily -- and I'm not a big one for intervention. When I look at what's going on, we should run our own country. But when a thing like that happens, we can do that. We take some of our elites. We can go in there and do that very easily and that's something we should be doing, in my opinion. You have to do something to save those girls. 


KILMEADE: I a hundred percent believe that this is a moment that you have to have intervention. 276 girls remain in captivity. You gotta go in there.

DOOCY: Why is the first lady showing us the hashtag? Shouldn't she just show her husband? [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/12/14

National Review Online: “The Obama Administration Has Proved That It Is All 'Coolness' And No Substance.” The National Review Online compared the awareness campaign to President Obama's foreign policy in Nigeria, claiming that the government was “tweeting” but not “actually do[ing] something about it.” It concluded that “the Obama administration has proved that it is all ”coolness" and no substance":

In fact, when ABC News reported Michelle Obama's sign-holding, the headline read, “Michelle Obama Joins #BringOurGirlsBack Movement on Twitter.” Since when does tweeting a picture of yourself qualify as “joining” anything? Is this really the best the government of the most powerful country in the world can come up with in response to this abuse of human rights? Tweeting a pop-culture reference? Holding up a sign is the Internet mavens' way of pretending that they care about an issue, but not enough to actually do something about it.


The fake pout and poster with no action is a silly Internet trend that should never have been used for a situation as grave as this one. In fact, it is a downright insult to the families of the young girls who were abducted. Imagine if you told a close friend that your daughter had been kidnapped and her response was to text you a picture of herself holding a sign that read, “I'm so sorry to hear that!”

Once again, the Obama administration has proved that it is all “coolness” and no substance. Maybe we should start calling it the BuzzFeed administration. [National Review Online5/9/14]

The White House Has Already Taken Steps To Assist Nigeria

Wash. PostU.S. Sending “Military And Law Enforcement” Experts To Assist In Search. On May 6, The Washington Post reported that a team of technical experts including “military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing and victim assistance” were being assembled to assist the search for the missing Nigerian school girls. The Post highlighted Obama's statements that “the U.S. will do everything it can to help Nigeria,” and that “finding the girls is the immediate priority.” [The Washington Post5/6/14]

BBC: “Military Advisers, Negotiators, And Counselors Arrived” In Lagos, Nigeria On Friday. On May 9, the BBC reported that “military advisers, negotiators, and counselors” had arrived in Lagos, Nigeria to aid in the search of the abducted schoolgirls. According to the BBC, Secretary of State John Kerry's said that the special forces "'are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan's government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families'." [BBC, 5/9/14]

The U.S. Has Offered Assistance To Nigeria From The Start

NPR: U.S. Secretary Of State Says U.S. Offered Support To Nigerian Govt. From The Start. NPR noted on May 7 that “the U.S. had been offering support from the beginning,” but that the Pentagon's effort to send “a small group of intelligence, communications and logistics experts” were delayed because “Nigeria had its own strategy at first.” [NPR, 5/7/14]

Wash. Post: Repeated Offers Of U.S. Assistance Were Initially Ignored. The Washington Post also acknowledged the fact that the Nigerian Government refused offers of U.S. assistance for weeks despite the fact that the United States embassy “offered help and was in touch with Nigeria 'from Day One' of the crisis”:

The Ni­ger­ian president for weeks refused international help in the search for more than 300 girls abducted from a school by Islamist extremists, one in a series of missteps that have led to growing international outrage against the government.


The United States' embassy and agencies offered help and were in touch with Nigeria “from Day One” of the crisis, according to Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Yet it was only on Tuesday and Wednesday, almost a month later, that President Goodluck Jonathan accepted help from the United States, Britain, France and China. [The Washington Post5/11/14]