August 3, 2009

#freemediave and the boiling media war

Juan Cristóbal says: -The government's takeover of 34 radio stations over the weekend has gained considerable attention. In spite of the bad PR it is getting and bound to continue getting, the assault on free speech is picking up speed. More closures have been announced, and the National Assembly will begin studying the Media Law as soon as Tuesday.

The remarkable thing is that since Venezuela's opposition is using tools such as Twitter to get the message out (under the topic #freemediave), the government has begun a hilarious, adolescent campaign to discredit that, too.

This press release from the government's ABN propaganda outlet should go into the Hall of Fame of chavista unintentional jokes. It childishly boasts that "#freemediave" has lost its spot in the top 10 Twitter topics - and yes, some poor chavista sap is actually tracking this stuff.

It claims the lack of popularity is probably due to the oppposition "not having solid arguments" or because they defend "illegal" radio stations instead of proposing "alternatives."

To those who have endured the government's eight-hour cadenas without a single coherent thought, blasting the opposition for not making solid arguments in 140 characters or less sounds like a joke. But in reality, it's the government's futile attempts to pretend this onslaught has anything to do with "arguments" what makes us chuckle. It's like a school bully saying, after beating the crap out of you, that he simply didn't find your logic all that convincing.

ABN informs its readers that Twitter's "official language" is "English" and suggests this non-fact is partly to blame for #freemediave's perceived lack of traction. It claims the problem is that the Twitter campaign is "aimed" at higher-income Venezuelans who represent less than 10% of the population, and ignores poor Venezuelans, who compose the majority of Internet users. In the government's eyes, poor Internet users do not use Twitter because ... just because (and, damn it, this guy will make sure that stays that way!.

It's not clear whether the point of the article is anything but boasting about ... something. What is clear is that the government does not understand Twitter nor its power yet.

The government's assault on free speech marches on, and it will use all the tools available (oil, media, judicial repression, undeserved hubris, bad grammar) to fight the coming backlash.