Saturday 16 June 2012

Stephen Colbert: Oh and, you know, masturbation.

The premise is simple. The government tourist agency, Visit Sweden, decides to advertise the country as a tourist destination on Twitter. They hire an advertising company who comes up with the plan to create a Twitter account for Sweden then turn over the account to your average citizen for a week and "letting them at it", telling the world in their own words all about the beautiful country of Sweden. The results? People say the darnedest things or in this case, Swedes say the darnedest things.

How "darned"? None other than Stephen Colbert has jumped on the bandwagon rallying his troops of the Colbert Nation to write to "Visit Sweden" demanding that he be given his turn at tweeting his thoughts on life in Sweden. In the June 12th episode of the television show The Colbert Show, Stephen had a segment describing all this including some very, very amusing examples of the tweets of some supposedly average Swedes. It is a reminder that what you say to your friends over a cup of coffee with a full complement of facial expressions and hand gestures may be quite funny but when broadcast to the entire world in the cold, emotionless black and white of 140 characters, may come across as scandalous, outrageous or just plain stupid.

However, let me add that if Visit Sweden wanted to attract the attention of the world to Sweden, I would now say that they have succeeded admirably. When Colbert talked about the Twitter account @Sweden on June 12, he said the account had 30,000 followers. I looked right now, June 16, and the account shows over sixty thousand followers (2016-10-15: 103,000 followers) so it has doubled in the past 4 days due to "The Colbert Bump"? @StephenAtHome has over 3.5 million followers and as Stephen himself pointed out on his show, letting him take the helm for a week would probably put their number of followers through the roof.

Stephen gave two examples of "darnedest" during his show. A gentleman, Jack Werner, tweeted the following:

@Sweden December 16, 2011 16:54
@rivalg I guess I’m drinking a lot of coffee, lighting my face up with my laptop and hanging out w friends. Oh and, you know, masturbation.

As Stephen so amusingly added, just because you are have 140 characters doesn't mean you have to use all of them.

The second example came from one Sonja Abrahamsson:

@Sweden June 12, 2012 12:41
Whats the fuzz with jews. You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?

What!?! It turns out that Ms. Abrahamsson lives in a very small town where everybody knows everybody else and her life experiences with the rest of the world might be considered rather parochial. However, Visit Sweden is sticking to its guns so to speak and letting these citizens stand on their own two feet. None of the tweets are being filtered and even though I couldn't find the above two tweets in Twitter itself, the web site for this experiment in Swedish social media, The Curator of Sweden, is still publishing unedited, uncensored and unplugged each and every tweet of those who have taken to the tweet-o-sphere.

The Colbert Report - June12, 2012



At the moment, Stephen Colbert has urged all of his fans, those of The Colbert Nation, to write to "" requesting that he, Stephen Colbert, be allowed to take over the account for one week.

Can he succeed? I have no doubt. Back in 2006, Hungary announced a contest to rename a bridge. From Wikipedia:

The Megyeri Bridge, previously known as the Northern M0 Danube bridge, is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, respectively the west and east sides of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. It is an important section of the M0 ringroad around Budapest.

When the "smoke cleared", Stephen Colbert won the contest hands down with 17 million votes. The real funny part about this is that the population of Hungary is 10 million!

This did prompt a visit to the show from András Simonyi, the ambassador of Hungary to the United States, on September 14, 2006 who told Stephen that in order to have a bridge named after you, you had to be dead. It was all quite funny but it was certainly a reminder of just how much influence Stephen Colbert wields.

Final Word
It made for a funny segment on The Colbert Report however I wonder how much flak did Jack Werner get from tweeting about masturbation and Sonja Abrahamsson from tweeting about Jews? It's one thing to idly tweet to your friends but what happens when somebody as influential as Stephen Colbert rebroadcasts your musings and brings the attention of the entire world to your doorstep? Is amusing raised to sex addict? Is ignorance raised to racist?

In my blog "My 15 Minutes", I talk about Andy Warhol saying that we will all be famous for 15 minutes and said that I hoped my 15 would be for something good and not for something dumb. I guess Stephen Colbert will be the judge of that.


NY Times - Jun 10/2012
Swedes’ Twitter Voice: Anyone, Saying (Blush) Almost Anything by Sarah Lyall
The @Sweden program, known as Curators of Sweden, came about when the Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden, the government tourist agency, sought to develop a plan to present the country to the world on Twitter. They hired an advertising company, Volontaire.

LATimes - Jun 12/2012
Guest tweeters on Sweden's Twitter account stir up controversy by Michelle Maltais
If you had the keys to your country's Twitter account, what would you say?
Sure, every individual has an important voice in the chorus -- or cacophony -- that is a democracy. But should they really be given an online bullhorn to speak for everyone in the country?

Curators of Sweden: About: This is @Sweden
Every week, someone in Sweden is @Sweden: sole ruler of the world’s most democratic Twitter account. For seven days, he or she recommends things to do and places to see, sharing diverse opinions, and ideas along the way.

Curators of Sweden: Jack Werner
@Sweden December 16, 2011 16:54
@rivalg I guess I’m drinking a lot of coffee, lighting my face up with my laptop and hanging out w friends. Oh and, you know, masturbation.

Curators of Sweden: Sonja Abrahamsson
@Sweden June 12, 2012 12:41
Whats the fuzz with jews. You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?

Wikipedia: Cultural impact of The Colbert Report: The Colbert Bump
The "Colbert Bump" is defined, connotatively by the Report, as an increase in popularity of a person (author, musician, politician, etc.) or thing (website, etc.) as a result of appearing as a guest on or (in the case of a thing) being mentioned on the show. For example, if a politician appears on The Colbert Report, they may become more popular with certain voters and thus are more likely to be elected. According to the American Political Science Association, contributions to Democratic politicians rose 40% for 30 days after an appearance on the show. The Mozilla Foundation also experienced a noticeable spike in the download rates of the Firefox browser right after the launch of Firefox 3 was mentioned in the program. Magazines such as GQ, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated have all had sales spikes when Colbert appeared on their covers.

Wikipedia: Cultural impact of The Colbert Report: Hungarian bridge campaign
In 2006, the Ministry of Transport of Hungary launched an online call for public suggestions to name a future motorway bridge over the Danube, just north of Budapest.

Wikipedia: Megyeri Bridge: Naming poll
By August 22, 2006, the "Stephen Colbert híd" was in first with 17 million votes, about 14 million votes ahead of the second-placed Zrínyi híd, named after the Croatian-Hungarian national hero, Miklós Zrínyi, and about 7 million more than the entire population of Hungary.
[híd = bridge in Hungarian]


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