There is little doubt that President Barack Obama’s success in the election was due in great part to his online campaigning and digital media savvy—on top of his political skill, charisma and youthful good looks, of course. President Obama has almost 2 million followers on Twitter, and his blog is read by an estimated 13 million people. These social media tools don’t just keep him cool, so to say; they have allowed his administration to engage constituents and fans alike on policy issues like health care reform, even as Obama’s popularity has diminished over the past month.
In Brazil, the latest newcomer to the blogosphere is none other than President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. O Blog do Presidente (The President’s Blog) was launched in July, but the buzz started earlier this year, when the government announced that it was experimenting with layouts and ideas, and even considering signing up to twitter—although this hasn’t happened yet.
Lula is said to have been impressed with President Obama’s and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s blogs, and with their clear and personal messages. But even before O Blog do Presidente went live, it was received with skepticism by the Brazilian press and, it was flooded with negative feedback from other bloggers.
It appeared that Lula and his team forgot one simple quality of blogs: their interactivity. O Blog do Presidente didn’t accept comments or feedback—and this was only changed earlier this month—and critics said the WordPress site was nothing more than a collection of facts about Lula and the Brazilian government, resembling a Wikipedia entry about the president. But with one clear distinction: it was supposedly penned by the man himself.
So shouldn’t this model of openness, new media and direct communication—without the filter of traditional media—be able to benefit any contemporary leader? Apparently not. In the case of Lula, it could even end up hurting him. Some critics say his blog is meant to gather support for his 2010 reelection (which would require a constitutional reform) and is little more than a campaign platform for a president who has lost populist appeal over the years. So far, President Lula has rejected the possibility of running for a third period. Stay tuned to the presidential blog for insight as to whether he may change his mind:
* Ruxandra Guidi is a guest blogger to americasquarterly.org. She is an independent journalist based in Austin, Texas, and her work can be found at Fonografia Collective (http://fonografiacollective.com).