Is the Cuban Government Losing the Battle of the Social Networks?

Screen capture of a message, now deleted, published by the Ministry of Education on Monday. “When the sequins and their deceptive brightness are removed, it is worth asking the cyber justices, is Andy Vázquez a misunderstood civic-minded type? Don’t fuck with me, try it on someone else.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 February 2020 — Ministries, institutions or public figures, no matter where you look, the Cuban government is losing the battle on social networks and the hardest blows come from their own ranks. Vulgarities, threats, challenges to physical fights and tons of typos are some of the most repeated stupidities on the Twitter and Facebook accounts that give voice to the authorities of the Island.

The most recent stumble is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (Mined), which reproduced in a tweet, now deleted, without mentioning that it was a quote or putting it in quote marks, a text against the actor who plays the popular character Facundo on TV. “Is Andy Vázquez a misunderstood civic-minded type? Don’t fuck with me, try it on someone else,” says the message that has caused an avalanche of criticism for the foul language used by this educational institution.

However, it’s not the Ministry’s tweet that is the greatest vulgarity that has been published in the account of a Cuban institution nor is it something unusual in the official discourse, accustomed to revolutionary bravado and using an arboreal language believing it thus places itself closer to the people. Actually, it has been a very old practice in the propaganda of Castroism, which stands out for everything from its sexual metaphors, to direct allusions to male gonads as symbols of patriotism and courage.

The difference is that while everything remained in the field of the articulated word, of the shout launched in the middle of an act of repudiation against a dissident or reduced to a motto written on a fence on the street, the diffusion was minor. But now, with thousands or millions of eyes on the official accounts of social networks, every little slip, every rough word and every aggressive phrase multiplies the reactions and reaches an incalculable number of Internet users on and off the Island.

The mixture of secrecy, rudeness, insults and worn out slogans of the past that make up the communication policy of partisan institutions, ministries and leaders in the networks, are also born of their prejudices towards new technologies. It is worth remembering that they launched themselves on them almost forced by the reality that the independent speech of bloggers and tweeters had gained a lot of terrain on those grounds.

Also, their attitudes show the sluggishness in addressing certain issues, spreading news or issuing a judgment that characterizes the information channels controlled by the Communist Party. Until the Plaza of the Revolution has spoken, its followers cannot do it and by the time it does it dictates from the focus on hashtags, which ones should be used. Hence the boring blather or the uniform repetition of hashtags that defines their accounts.

Creativity, the proper opinion and the phrase with a mixture of humor and freshness can be costly, something that some enthusiastic tweeters have learned that, having distanced themselves just a few millimeters from the government discourse, have had to erase their publications, amend the plan and even close their accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to avoid upsetting their superiors.

Network administrators are often tied hands. They can master technology, know the best way to reach the audience and have the desire to undertake new paths in political communication, but they run into a strong informational discipline based on polarization, the exclusion of differences, arrogance, control excessive information and an absolute inability to dialogue.

The engineers graduating from the University of Computer Science or graduates in the faculties of Journalism that are part of the “communications” teams of must suffer from this situation. Some of them, no matter how much they try to convince their bosses you no longer speak this way in the 21st century and that on public networks public officials must exercise good manners and be receptive to the opinions of citizen, they encounter the wall of discursive practices formed in the verbal guerrilla warfare of more than half a century.

Right now, when a tweet is published in a ministerial account, on the timeline of an official or on the Facebook wall of an institution, there will be those who, within the official structures, cross themselves and think: “To the trenches, ours are coming.” And they will be right. There are no stronger blows to credibility, than those Castroism is causing to itself.


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