There’s plenty one could say about Alberto Federico Ravell’s dismissal as Executive Director of the last remaining anti-Chávez TV station in Venezuela, Globovision. For now, though, I’ll just note that the AFR defenestration represents, to my mind, Twitter’s coming of age as an information tool in Venezuela.
As far as I can tell, Ravellgate has been the first major Venezuelan news story that would have been literally incomprehensible in the absence of Twitter. With a couple of late exceptions, the established media haven’t touched it. Without Twitter, (and, especially, AFR’s own not-particularly-veiled string of tweets about his own fate) we really could only have guessed at the reasons behind his dismissal.
Sure, even without the Tweetesphere, we all could have sensed that, as Simón Alberto Consalvi put it (through a tweet, bien sur), “the speed with which they’ve lifted the judicial measures against [Globovision president and major shareholder Guillermo] Zuloaga is a message from the government to the country, a buen entendedor…”
But it’s only by putting tweet and tweet together that we’ve been able to really peer squarely into the sordid quid-pro-quo involved: the government sure seems to have demanded Ravell’s scalp in return for getting off Guillermo Zuloaga and Nelson Mezerhane’s backs.
Not so long ago, a story on this scale would’ve gotten wall-to-wall coverage in a variety of media, from radio and the newspapers to the TV, including, notably, on Globovisión itself. No longer.
Personally, I’ve been resisting the Twitter trend for the better part of a year: I’ve enjoyed inhabitting the reactionary curmodgeon role that my genuine and deep-seated horror at the site’s 140-character limit propelled me toward. But the Ravell story has ratified something I’d started to sense a few months ago: Twitter is no longer ignorable…not in the media context we’ve got in Venezuela these days, anyway.
It still worries me, though. What we’re seeing developing is a dramatic and deepening digital divide between the 10-20% of Venezuelans with the access and the sophistication to use tools like these, and the vast, excluded majority.