Tyrant on Twitter: Hugo Chavez takes to social networking
As the proprietor of this blog, and generally as a blogger who has made a tiny bit of a name for himself, I find myself on a lot of mailing lists. Some are fine (Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's and Rep. Steny Hoyer's, for example), some annoy me (most of the conservative/Republican ones), and some are just downright amusing (if not in a funny way) -- such as that of the "Embassy of the Bolivarian Republican of Venezuela to the U.S.," which, as you might expect, bombards me with bombastic pro-Chavez propaganda.
I suppose I'm on that mailing list because I've written extensively on Chavez, though hardly in a friendly way. I prefer to call him "The Tyrant of Caracas." (See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Yes, it's pretty clear I loathe him.)
Anyway, whatever. I usually ignore the e-mails, but it's helpful, I suppose, to get the propaganda straight from the source, via a diplomatic channel in Washington.
What I learned yesterday is that Chavez is a big hit on Twitter:
Just two weeks after joining Twitter, President Hugo Chavez has become Venezuela's most followed user of the online social network, with over 265,000 followers as of Monday, May 10. He is also amongst the only heads of state that is using the network to directly engage with followers, both in Venezuela and around the world.
President Chavez joined Twitter on April 28, and within 12 hours had gained more than 45,000 followers. Since then, his Twitter account – @chavezcandanga – has gained followers at a rate sometimes exceeding 1,000 per hour. It is estimated that within the first month of use, President Chavez will gain one million followers.
While his first tweets were merely informational, on May 3 he began responding directly to other Twitter users, a practice replicated by virtually none of the other heads of state that use the service. (His first response was to a Mexican girl, to whom he wished a happy birthday to her sister.) He has also taken to responding to tweets during presidential addresses and speeches.
His is certainly a dictatorship with a smiley face. And while he may be popular on Twitter, it's apparent that social networking does not discriminate against tyranny. Hitler no doubt would have been bigger than Ashton Kutcher.