Global Public Relations
Fortune certainly smiles on the already fortunate.
Old Spice and its Swagger line of products—deodorants, sprays, body washes—are now perfectly positioned for a lucrative sponsorship deal with the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Not really, of course.
But, as is quite evident, Pompeo has made it his central project to Make America Swagger Again. Diplomatically speaking.
However, there is also more than a little irony—perhaps an empire's worth of irony—emanating from this Old Spice Swagger connection. Several recurring and pungent American smells might be in need of a serious cover-up.
You might recognize a few of them...
The delusions of grandeur.
The misguided narrative.
The blind-spot of hypocrisy.
On May 16, in the lobby of the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C., presumably with a straight face, Pompeo told diplomats and others:
Swagger is not arrogance; it is not boastfulness, it is not ego. No, swagger is confidence; in one's self, in one's ideas. In our case, it is America's essential rightness. And it is aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America's core principles.
In what swagger-reality does "America's essential rightness" not sound like arrogance, boastfulness, ego? The jump from confidence in one's ideas to the essential rightness of one's ideas seems a textbook example of delusions of grandeur.
OK, sure, every organizational culture hits a crossroads where it needs to get its edge back. But does an American recovery in global affairs necessitate spinning a backstory so ill-conceived? At the end of the day, swagger as "aggressiveness born of righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special" is by any other name a not-so-veiled version of jihad.
As for the blind-spot of American hypocrisy, the truer burning question for swagger is this: Which word or phrase is the most disingenuous? Essential rightness. Aggressiveness born of righteous knowledge. A just cause that is special.
Meanwhile, on May 16, on the campus of Virginia Military Institute, former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave the commencement address—likely with a straight face.
Tillerson urged new graduates and would-be leaders: America's citizens must demand that our future is not centered on "wishful thinking." We should not accept "hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises."
Famously fired by a tweet, Tillerson called for Americans and American leaders to have "a clear-eyed view of the facts as they are" in global affairs. This vision is "the truth that will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges." Eventually, he said, "If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities...then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom."
It's enough to make a person swagger.