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:
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.