Translating Twitter from Honduras

By Al Giordano

OMG! OMG! Oh noes! A violent coup d’etat and its censorship in Honduras is fine by us, but we’re really really upset about the coup on Twitter!

Thus could be summed up the unintentionally comedic efforts of some coup supporters on the Twitter #Honduras feed today.

Most of the messages there - hundreds per hour - are in Spanish. A handful are in Brazilian Portuguese and in English. And as with the events in Iran this month, Twitter has become a clearinghouse for information, disinformation, rumors, arguments, questions and answers about what is going on in a country where an authoritarian regime has attempted to block the media and the Internet.

Yesterday, the pro-coup defenders seemed to outnumber the critics of the coup on Twitter. But that's old news now: most of the "tweets" have turned against the coup.

Two events seem to have taken the steam out of the twittering coup defenders: One, the evident press and Internet censorship by the coup regime. The hypocrisy of being apologists for censorship and repression online – where only those Hondurans and cyber-cafes with satellite access can get on the Internet (satellite access, interestingly, skews to poor rural areas and their cyber cafes, where opposition to the coup is strong and organized) – became too much for some to continue with the same fighting spirit. Two, the statements by US President Obama today about the coup being “illegal” has clearly whooped the morale of the golpistas, whose only hope, really, was that Washington would endorse and protect their end run around their country's constitution.

Meanwhile, a creative anonymous twitterer and coup opponent created the accounts of DiarioPrensa and DiarioHeraldo, using the logos of two pro-coup national newspapers as avatars, to galvanize the anti-coup forces in that medium.

The pro-coup twitterers are apoplectic over that one, posting repeated messages like this one (translated from Spanish):

Unscrupulous twitterers are creating fakes of the Twitter accounts of #Honduras newspapers!

To which the creator of those accounts responded:

What La Prensa and El Heraldo need is a “forced transition” toward freedom of expression and respect for democracy in #Honduras

The remaining pro-coup twitterers are mainly obsessed with, A. declaring every anti-coup claim on Twitter is false, and B. complaining about Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama. That, and the communism and homosexuality that they say unites the two (real model citizens, these golpistas):

Show me a communist in power, and I’ll show you a good reason for a coup d’etat

As Hugo said, him and Castro woke up and they were on the right side of Obama

Why is Obama a freedom hater?

CNN can go learn journalism from WSJ! WSJ - Honduras Defends its Democracy

y won't BHO supprt the rule of law? No1is above the law, not even pres.

Analyst Charles Krauthammer to Fox News: “Obama Is Wrong”

“Professional” Venezuelan Rioters Stir Protests in Honduras

Anyway, you get the idea.

Meanwhile, the anti-coup forces have now overwhelmed the coup defenders on Twitter, with messages like these:

twitter seems to be the only source of info here in #Honduras. all news channels blocked even international

It’s confirmed that the 4th Armored Battalion is with the people

Chile calls its Honduran ambassador back to Santiago

Military curfew in Tegucicalpa #Honduras from 6PM

Conflicts cause at least 15 wounded in #Honduras

"We in Latin America can no longer accept someone trying to resolve his problem through the means of a coup," Lula da Silva

Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala close the borders to commerce with #Honduras

President Zelaya announces his return to #Honduras after his speech tomorrow to the UN

In #Honduras only the private TV channels are broadcasting and its programming is based on sports and cartoons

Mel assures that he will return to his country to restore constitutional order

We are journalists with dignity not disposed to obey orders; we maintain our journalistic ethics and we inform

The popular organizations in struggle to recover the constitutional order are uniting in the Resistance Front in search of unity

Curfew imminent in #Honduras (heard on Radio Progreso)

“PetroCaribe will stop sending all oil to #Honduras while a de facto government is in power” – H Chavez

The Honduran people are not informed, all the media is blocked

I think this is the first time in my life that the governments of Venezuela (Chavez), Cuba and the US agree about anything

Brasil withdraws its ambassador from #Honduras

At least 60 wounded in the conflicts in #Honduras

CNN in Espanol is fine, but English viewers deserve in-depth treatment of #Honduras too.

OAS declares "no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized."

Honduras is now #6 on the (Twitter) trends. Finally

“We condem these acts unambiguously, and we demand the restitution of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya” said Calderon of MX

Mexico also retires its ambassador from #Honduras

I denounce that the cable AMNET service continues blocking the international news channels

They’ve begun to bring those that demonstrate to prison

National TV is censoring and doesn’t tell what is really happening other than what it finds convenient

Take all "tweets" with a grain of salt, and confirm their claims through other sources. But one has to admit that the "collective conscience" reflected by the sum of so many posts does provide the reader with a feel for where the fault lines of the debate rage...



when I checked #Honduras on Twitter earlier

A significant fraction of the tweets were obviously right-wingers in the U.S. who were gleefully announcing that Obama had sided with Chavez and Castro. It was kind of entertaining in a way.

Uses and Grats in Tweetland

Based on the uses and gratification theory of media usage — turned toward the messenger as opposed to being applied to its usual suspect, the audience — I see, based on my use of Twitter during the Iranian and now Honduran crises, a marked divergence.

In the case of Iran, the Tweets I ran across, in droves, seemed much more heavily weighted toward the uses part of the equation — getting actionable information out to the audience.

In my recent excursion into the Honduran Twitterland, I discovered, at least on the days I ventured in, a much more coup-support orientation based primarily on gratification — that is people spouting opinions [often ill-informed] or even disinformation [such as one claiming Chavez had invaded Honduras, dutifully re-tweeted multiple times].

And, after all, a primary purpose of stridently spouting opinion devoid of actionable information, accuracy or facts, [aka propaganda] as I see it, is to seek the gratification of getting others to join your bandwagon on similar terms [with the added gratification of positioning yourself to belittle those who disagree with you from the weaseled strength of that groupthink].

This is a broad stroke, of course, but I think Twitter, because of its limitation on words, quickly and decisively separates the uses from the grats in media land — whereas in more complex, authentic media forms, the two are blended [from the point of view of both the messenger and the audience] — sometimes, though rarely, to the extent of approaching an artform.

Or maybe I'm all wet here, using words in search of some unobtainable gratification. 


More than just tweets

The Twitter comments are hilarious and, as mentioned in the comments, clearly from right-wing Hondurans, probably in the United States - as Tegucigalpa has no internet with the military blocking access.

I posted on my blog a short update, from MediaLeft, immediately as I heard of it. Just to update readers. Within hours I got two posts, and have seen this elsewhere, of what appears to be trollers commenting:

"we hondurans are proud of this day in which we defended our constitutional system viva honduras!"





This seems to be concerted effort on behalf of the right in the country to place itself apart from, say an Iran. Honduras is not unstable, it is democratic - see, this (murder, curfews) is democracy and "defense" of the constitution.

Keep up the great work.


Since the Iran threads have nearly dropped off the front page, I'm dropping an off-topic link here. Stephen Zunes has a terrific column that echoes a lot of what Al has been saying here about the authenticity of the resistance movement in Iran.

The coup in honduras is

The coup in honduras is along class lines. 


It stands to reason that the upper class is going to be more in support of the coup and that they are also going to be much more likely to use twitter.

@ Jesus Reyes

Jesus - Send me an email documenting your attempted claims here. Without such documentation, you're asking us to publish a libel.

Heh. It's the same all along Latin America.

The only difference is, in some countries the thugs feel emboldened enough to stage coups, and in others not.

Here in Brazil, if you circulate exclusively among the top 2% earners, you'd think Lula is Satan incarnate, that he's destroying the country and a popular uprising against him is imminent. Lula!

Global Exchance Calling for Replacement of Ambassador

Anyone have any information on Hugo Llorens, current U.S. ambassador to Honduras?  What, if anything, was his involvement in the 2002 coup against Chavez?

Global Exchange, now mounting a delegation to support protestors in Honduras,  is calling for his ouster.

According to BBC Mundo...

Zelaya says he is planning to return to Honduras on Thursday. Supposedly, the Secretary General of the OAS may accompany him. I wonder how that will work out?


And now I see from one of Narco News' linked stories that he's planning on going to the UN in New York before returning. Very smart.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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