Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Fidel Castro seriously an obsessive blogger?

Is Fidel Castro seriously an obsessive blogger?
03:38 PM PT, Oct 13 2008

Last week, Tina Brown's news and culture site, The Daily Beast, featured
a scoopy piece called "Fidel the Blogger," which explored the
astonishing premise that Cuba's jefe emeritus has jumped on the Internet
bandwagon and begun spewing out posts in earnest.

Castro, wrote author Maria Ospina, "has discovered a new way to spread
his opinions. In the last year, he's written more than 150 blogs posts,"
and is "posting furiously about the Wall Street meltdown, sports, and
his soft spot for [Barack] Obama's kids." We learned that Castro is
dressing the part too. "The politician-turned-blogger has traded his
military getup for an informal tracksuit, a more appropriate choice for
someone who works at a home computer."

Because I speak a poco bit of Spanish, and also write about Web trends,
I followed the links in Ospina's story with interest, curious about how
a major historical figure like Castro might approach this most
pajama-friendly of mediums. Like such as, did he have anybody copy
editing his musings before he posted them? Did he crop his own images?
Mix it up with readers in his comments section? And what kind of link
love was the guy giving?

Thing was though, I could never actually find the blog. Ospina had
linked to two different sites -- one called Cubadebate, a site run by
Cuban journalists that featured an archive page with 150+ links to
pieces written by Castro, in chronological order (as opposed to the
newest-first order blogs use) up to late September. The description of
this page reads, "all of the articles published by Fidel which have
appeared as 'Reflections of the Commander in Chief.'"
A screen grab from the page referenced in the Beast article. The last
entry, #156, is several weeks old.

The second set of links the article provides point to Granma, the
official news organ of Cuba's Communist Party, where some of Castro's
articles are also archived.

Looking around a bit more, I found another similar list on the site on
ACN, the Cuban News Agency, and another one on, a big Cuban Web
portal. But they all seemed to be versions of the same list of print

I contacted The Daily Beast to see what exactly their definition of a
blog was, and whether the Cuban government, the newspaper editors
involved or Castro himself had suggested that this was a weblog in any
generally understood sense.

A publicist replied that the Daily Beast follows Wikipedia's definition
of a blog, the first sentence of which is:

A Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular
entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as
graphics or video.

I'd argue that this definition does not cover Web pages that archive
dozens of links to newspaper articles -- none of which contain images or
links, comment sections or any other bloggy accouterments. The idea that
an individual "usually maintains" his own blog seems key too, and I'm
having trouble conceiving of Fidel as in any sense behind the wheel of
this page. Yes, Fidel's "entries" are definitely regular, and you can
find all of them in one place. But that would probably also mean this
page listing transcripts of President Bush's radio addresses is a blog too.

As for who else is out there calling this a blog, Ospina explained via
email that Castro "has a section on this government sponsored website
called 'Reflections of Fidel' where he shares informal thoughts musings
etc., so it is thought of as his blog." This could well be the case,
though Ospina didn't say who thinks of it that way.

She did however acknowledge that "everything he publishes online is also
published in newspapers -- and is carried by newspapers around the

Which to my ear sounds like a syndicated print column, not a blog. But
tell me if I'm splitting hairs.

— David Sarno

No comments: