Once again, Twitter killed off a major international figure—this time Fidel Castro.
The Twitterverse exploded yesterday with news that the famous Cuban leader had passed away, but the news was never confirmed, meaning that it’s just idle rumor and gossip at this point.
But with Castro, it transcends Twitter. Long before Twitter was even a twinkle in its inventor’s eyes (who is the Mark Zuckerberg of Twitter anyway?), the world was killing off Castro. It’s a day for which entire swaths of the Cuban-American population has been yearning for years, decades even. They are desperate for the demise of the man who used revolution to turn their beloved country into a Communist regime.
Of course the obsessive focus on the views of Cuban Americans sometimes obscures the fact that Castro, now 86, has a great deal of support in his own country and even among some Americans. But he has been a despised figure by the U.S. government for nearly five decades.
For the past six years, Cuba has been led by Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, which sparked endless stories about the state of Fidel’s health, since he was willing to relinquish power.
The Twitter obsession with Castro’s death this time was launched by a Miami blogger, Alberto Muller, speculating about Fidel’s declining health, according to California radio station KPCC. Muller wrote in Spanish about Castro’s declining health and dementia and that he no longer had the ability to walk, talk or breathe on his own.
The rumor mill swung into overdrive when the Havana Times asked “Where is Cuba’s Fidel Castro?” in a headline, questioning his health after he failed to congratulate his close ally Hugo Chavez when he won re-election as president of Venezuela on Sunday.
“As the mentor of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, it was expected that the first congratulations to him for winning a new term in office on Sunday would have come from Fidel,” the Times story said. “Instead, Raul Castro congratulated Chavez and not a word from his older brother. Such silence is beginning to provoke speculation on Fidel’s health. ”
That was all the provocation the Twitterverse needed to go into overdrive. Many tweets compared Fidel to Kenny, a character on South Park who is always the subject of death rumors.