Twitter: Where Political Discourse Goes to Die

Twitter: Where Political Discourse Goes to Die

On November 25, 2016 the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro died. Without getting into the politics of it he was a divisive figure. To some he was a ruthless tyrant who imprisoned and executed dissidents, and to others he was a leader who modernized Cuba and stood up to the imperialism of the 20th century. But regardless of how you view him, his death was a newsworthy event and in the hours after it was announced it became a top story across the major news networks and social media.

Networks put up articles about Castro’s death, his past, and the reaction of world leaders, and social media became a place for everyone to express their opinions on Castro’s life and death, but also to attack their political opponents.

Here are the BBC and CNN headlines:

 

And here are some Tweets about the news:

But there were also Tweets attacking political opponents. From people mocking Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments:

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-1-20-16-pm
Justin Trudeau’s “deep sorrow” over Castro’s passing was not taken well by everyone.

And those who criticized Donald Trump and Marco Rubio’s responses:

And sadly these attacks are indicative of the way social media is used when it comes to politics. While social media is a useful tool in many regards, it also is a platform to attack those you don’t agree with, and that kind of attitude cannot help repair the political animosity that has become so prevalent. Politically, Fidel Castro’s death offers us the opportunity to discuss the legacy of a controversial figure and the changing relationship the United States has with Cuba, especially in the light of Trump’s election. And to be fair, people on both sides have sincerely expressed their opinions on Castro and their hopes for Cuba going forward. On social media and away from it people have shared Castro’s accomplishments, they have shown concern for those abused under him, and they speak with hope of the “Cuban Thaw” and that it can benefit Cubans and repair the relationship between the United Sates and Cuba.

But what do we get for the most part? Trends like #trudeaueulogies and such enlightened phrases like “lying lefties” and “Drumpf”. Poking fun at our political opponents is not necessarily wrong, but it prevents actual dialogue. And while traditional media platforms are not always immune from this, they are places for actual journalism with little bias. They encourage actual thought about the events of the world, not just mindless, cathartic ramblings. And ultimately that’s the difference between traditional and social media on these kind of events; traditional media promotes discussion, and social media is where that discussion goes to die.

Daniel Salé

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4 thoughts on “Twitter: Where Political Discourse Goes to Die

  1. Great post Daniel,

    I think that what most people these days try to cast people as villains or heroes instead of as human beings. Castro did some good things, and he did some bad things. Just like the rest of us. I really hope we (as a society) move out of this binary conversation sooner rather than later.

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  2. Great Post!I agree with Robbie. These day’s too many people are focused on making people heroes or villain’s. I personally think Trudeau’s statement about Fidel Castro’s death was perfectly fine and un offensive. I understand that perhaps for people negatively effected by Castro it was off putting, but we can’t forget there is a whole other group who celebrate him. In my opinion since Trudeau and his father shared good relationship’s with Castro it would have been a bigger deal if he didn’t send his condolences. In the end you can never satisfy everybody and people who don’t agree with you will always look for and opportunity to make you a villain (especially if you are a prominent figure), which is easier done on Twitter because of quickly forming trends.

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  3. This was a pretty interesting post! I saw the backlash that Trudeau got for his comments about Castro’s death. I agree with Amrit that I didn’t find Trudeau’s comment offensive, he’s a politician and has to project competence in his every action, including social media posts. Trump’s statements, on the other hand, just further enforce his inconsiderateness and crassness. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find good political course on social media platforms (and occasionally in real life as well).

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  4. “@marcorubio please stick to your own country’s shameful and embarrassing upcoming leader!”

    oh snap! that tweet just made me say oh snap! I feel that pithy comebacks like this are what make twitter so great, but they are probably the only good thing to come out of the “political discourse” on twitter. I definitely see what you’re saying. The conversations are super reductive and just end up being arguments. Nice post; I feel that you covered the issue really well.

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