Honduras and the Internet

October 17, 2009

Further to my last post on Why I Support the Resistencia, the following is a post I wrote at the end of June but never posted.  Interestingly, although my thoughts on who is doing the posting has not changed over the past few months, my impressions of the resistencia have.  Perhaps I was more influenced by the golpista’s characterisation of Zelaya supporters than I thought:

I’ve been thinking and writing and deleting and rewriting posts about the political crisis here in Honduras and had all but decided to just keep quiet and post only the most apolitical updates and personal news. But I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  As an Internet researcher I am fascinated with the onging conversations and debates about the Zelaya and about the coup, and with what they reveal about Honduran politics and scoiety.

While most people probably still rely on traditional media outlets for news about the crisis in Honduras, the news from these sources has been less than reliable.   Domestic media coverage has been tightly controlled with some pro-Zelaya outlets shut down, and programmes or talkback callers have been cut short if they are pro-Zelaya or anti-coup. There have been reports of the arrest and detention of pro- Zelaya journalists.  Within Honduras the truth can be hard to come by. However the International media has not been great either.  Although there has had more coverage of the anti-coup message, reports are often inaccurate treating rumours as fact and many seem overly sensational.

As a result many here have turned to the new social media to read about, and to report events and information, and to promote thier point of view. Giordano wrote yesterday of the Twitter War over Honduras, reporting that at the time of his writing the anti-coup twitterers were winning the war.  With the weight of the worlds leadership on thier side they quickly worked to spread the word regarding the seriousness of the coup, particularly in the face of solid media coverage of the death of Michael Jackson.   But pro-coup Honduran twitterers (and bloggers, emailers and journalists) have fought back, and hard.  My informal observation has been that the strongest messages coming through over the past day have been anti-Zelaya and pro coup (or as they would have it, constitional succession?).  A count of the last 100 messages in a Twitter search using the term ‘Honduras’ showed 51 pro-coup, and just 11 anti-coup (the 40 other were news only, personal tweets or unclear).  In particular there seems to be a concerted effort by the pro-coup Twitterers to inform the international media and politicians that this was a legal change of power not a coup, and that Hondurans do not want Zelaya back.  At face value the battle  now seems to indicate that Honduras is largely anti-Zelaya. Pro-coup Twitterers and bloggers report 70-80% of Hondurans are anti-Zelaya.  As there are never any links to actual statistical data I read these as 70-80% of Hondurans known to the writer are anti-Zelaya.  The significance  of this becomes apparent when one looks more closely at eaxctly who is writing the posts and twitters.

The first characteristic of anyone using the new social media is that they must have access to the internet. They also need to be able to string words together in a compelling and readable manner. In a place like Honduras,to be able to blog or twitter means the author in general has a higher than average level of education, and an income that supports regular access to a computer and the internet.  As a result it is primarily middle class and above who are doing most of the Internet posting.  And these also happen to be the groups in Honduran society that are clearly anti-Zelaya.  Zelaya’s support, and the resistance to the coup on the other hand, comes mostly from the working poor and campesinos.  These are the ones who are least likely to be writing blog posts or filing newspaper reports. The voice of the poor is, as usual, largely absent from the online conversation.

Even where Zelaya’s supporters in Honduras do raise a voice it is often ignored or ridiculed. They are frequently referred to as naive, uneducated and manipulated. Certainly there is evidence that he tried to buy peoples support, and it is highly likely he was thinking about more than (or something completely different to) the well-being of the poor when he raised the minimum wage and handed out free light bulbs.  But that this should lead to the wholesale dismissal of their point of view is I think, indicative of the class and societal divisions in Honduras.

That Zelaya was supported by the unions, campesino and indigenous groups is not insignificant.  That the social internet is authored by the middle class and above, I think is significant and needs to be taken into account when assessing the support for, and against the coup and the new government.


3 Responses to “Honduras and the Internet”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Thought this might fit in with the religious vs. secular topic – Here’s a video about churches fighting poverty and its consequences.

  2. Sharon Says:

    Thanks Kevin. And apologies for not replying sooner, somehow I missed this comment.

    I strongly support fair trade (just look at the tag line on my blog) and love to see creative messages like this video that help to raise awareness of fair trade. I think however, that the message here is a little simplistic – fair trade on it’s own is not going to save the world. Buying fair trade is one small and not too difficult step that us in the West can do, but it does not challenge the underlying economic structures that contribute to poverty, nor the ongoing problem of over-consumption and unsustainable lifestyles in the West.

    I do agree however, that it is one way to start the journey, to get people thinking about poverty and to take a step towards more lifestyle change.

  3. […] the coup for a while.  But it didn’t take long for me to figure out some key truths about who was doing the talking, although I have to confess to becoming heartily sick of the use of the word truth, which was […]

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