An awesome student guest post…
Social media has once again snatched the spotlight during political proceedings, but this time, instead of organizing protests against a repressive regime, dissidence came in a much more sarcastic flavor. Information by Twitter is rapidly becoming the standard for instantaneous news, and clever spectators weren’t about to exclude the presidential elections in France.
Despite a 1977 ban on publishing election results or exit polls before voting closes and a risk of a €75.000 ($99,000) fine, foreign and French citizens used Twitter to avoid the ban and still leak results. Moreover, these tweeters passed the message along while employing a medley of humor, cleverness, and candid opposition to a law that technology has seriously outpaced. “Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about,” boasts the tagline on the Twitter homepage.
Using #RadioLondres, tweets harkened back to World War II, when London-based radio stations transmitted coded messages to the resistance in France. Dated rhetoric helped to mock the law that even Sarkozy admits has passed its prime. Taking their cues from history, tweeters coded their messages, adding “je répète [I repeat]” as one might over the radio. Tweets replaced the names of candidates with a handful of nicknames, well-known traits, and plays-on-words, though most “codes” were about as encrypted as “the eagle has landed.” Sarkozy became Hungary (the origin of his surname) or Rolex after his expensive taste, and Hollande became the Netherlands or Flanby, after a French brand of flan. Some say it refers to his figure, others his policies.
One tweet compared the “prices” of maple syrup in Holland and in Hungary as $33 to $26, overestimating the lead Hollande held over Sarkozy, and showing that instantaneous information is bound to include some errors. Another gave the “temperatures” in Amsterdam, Budapest, Nuremberg (in reference to far-right candidate Marine Le Pen) and Cuba (demarking far-left Mélenchon). Le Pen was called Voldemort by another tweeter (see a sample of original tweets below).
News sources in Belgium and Switzerland accused of spreading the leak are facing investigations in the name of the original intent of the law—to keep late voters from being influenced by those before them. Yet in an era of viral videos and constant information, it seems unlikely that the law is practical. Nowadays French candidates have their own Twitter accounts run by staff, a tactic popularized by the Obama campaign and spurred by efforts to attract and reach young voters. Social media is increasingly ubiquitous, and represents a leap forward in organizing and connecting people and communities and sharing many forms of first- and second-hand information. With these assets, the political role of social media is only likely to grow.
Sample of some of those thousands of tweets, for those who speak French:
lemeckiltefaut.com Le flan 28, le nain 26, voldemort 16, cravate rouge 13, mais euuh 11.