Trending on Cuba’s Official Networks: A Vaccine and an Anniversary

The Faculty of Communication is the ideal setting to create false campaigns to support the Cuban system on social media. (FCOM)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 August 2020 — Right about now a script is repeated in the official media. Photos, headlines and slogans focus on Fidel Castro, in anticipation of his birthday tomorrow. A media offensive that has barely changed since my days as a journalism student, and one to which — in the midst of this pandemic — is added the propaganda about an early Cuban vaccine against Covid-19.

This week, University of Havana students in the Faculty of Communication are  participating in a marathon on Twitter and other social networks. The objective of this digital crusade is to praise, like two legs of the same table, the figure of Castro and the scientific potential of the Island to develop an immediate cure against this pandemic.

As university classes are canceled and the homebound students become uncontrollable, some of them have been summoned to appear physically at the Communications Faculty, located on San Pedro Street and Independence Avenue in Havana. In front of a keyboard and a screen, they have hours of arduous “ideological battle” ahead of them on the networks.

Several of these future journalists arrived at the school aboard a four-door SUV owned by the Faculty, driven by the driver of the dean herself, Hilda Saladrigas Medina. Saladrigas is an academic who, among her multiple awards, holds that of a specialist in Social and Organizational Communication Management, skills that she has put to the test this August.

Among the methods of managing social and organizational communication is precisely this practice of providing spaces equipped with technology and connectivity to a group of individuals who are entrusted with the task of transmitting a message. Not only do they post on the site while others monitor them for compliance, but they also receive a detailed list of hashtags and phrases to use on the internet.

The material costs are borne by the state budget. Participation is guaranteed, either by choosing those who consciously share the content of the message, or by motivating with some benefit those who see an opportunity to stand out. In the event that there are no resources available to materialize the motivation, there is always the possibility of pressuring those who don’t show any interest.

The Faculty of Communication is the ideal setting for these practices: its classrooms are full of young people, with fewer spelling mistakes than in other specialties and an obligation to be very loyal, on pain of being expelled from their chosen career. In my student days we were called to sweeten the numbers of the 10 Million Ton Harvest, now it is their turn to pretend that they recall a historical corpse.

With this mechanism of pressure and perks, young journalists have been involved in this century in the campaign to free the five Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in US jails, denigrate dissidents who have accounts on social networks, show a false support for the appointment of Miguel Díaz-Canel as president and, now, give a glimmer of hope that the vaccine against covid-19 will be “Made in Cuba.”

The front page of the official newspaper Granma already advanced this Wednesday what is exploited as “spontaneous” in the networks. In the center of the gaze we see an image of Fidel Castro, and immediately below is the headline that announces that the Island is “on the way to …” take over the shield to repel the coronavirus. The pattern of what to say is clear, now it only remains for dozens or hundreds of young fingers to type on both topics.

The effect of this handling of communications management, in which Saladrigas is an expert, is that the lack of creativity, the repetition of slogans, the “cut and paste” that the students call on for their congratulations, and in the obviousness that few believe that there are so many people willing to spend their megabytes purchased at abusive prices to remember a deceased individual.

Not even a vaccine can revive the dead.


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