Strategic Humor and Post-Truth Public Diplomacy

Principal Investigator:
Dmitry Chernobrov, CPD Research Fellow 2022-24

This project will explore persuasive applications of humor and the rise of post-truth trends in public diplomacy. I put forward the concept of strategic humor—the use of humor by state and proxy actors to promote instrumental interpretations of contested events to domestic and foreign audiences. I focus on two principal aspects: the use of humor as a strategy of framing contested events to the advantage of a particular actor, and the choice of humor amid other narrative forms for maximum appeal and outreach because of its newsworthiness, emotive resonance with audiences, and suitability for digital media environments. Using mixed methods, the project will analyze the content and create a typology of strategic humor produced by different sides in the recent escalation of tensions between Russia, the U.S. and NATO over Ukraine, and will analyze the reception of such humorous messages by audiences. Findings of this study will shed light on how strategic humor is used as a public diplomacy tool to advance state interests, deflect criticism, legitimate policy and challenge the narratives of others.