Presidential Tweeting

The President of Republic of Estonia, Toomas Henrik Ilves has had a Twitter account, @IlvesToomas since May 2012. Not one of the first adopters among heads of states in the world, he has nevertheless taken quite a freeform and experimental approach to using this communications channel, with a rant in response to Nobelist Paul Krugman’s systematic bashing of Estonia’s austerity measures and poking fun at his aviation-enthusiastic colleague in the East creating some public controversy before. You can agree or disagree with him (and he often engages with responders), but having an elected figure step out of the expected frames is noteworthy in itself.

Yet, I have to say, the below dialogue was just too amusing. As full conversations are too hard to share on Twitter, hence copying the thread (cleaned for readability) in this blog post to share:

Edijs Cakuls:
fighting about whether @IlvesToomas writes his own tweets or not. at the moment i am being called naive.

anna hanks:
@naakums Between the Walter Duranty and the @MiriamElder and @juliaioffe references, I’d say that Twitter acct was run by a journalist.

Edijs Cakuls:
@annainaustin thanks! oh well, looks i am naive one.

anna hanks:
@naakums …I wouldn’t feel so strongly if the twitter stream wasn’t written much the way I’d write it if I was pretending to be president!
@naakums Also, I might be wrong, but I think only academics — use “Finno-ugric.”
@naakums Note that the video of many of the speeches he gave is up on his twitter acct….
@naakums Cold be wrong, but if the dude has a male speechwriter educated in the west, I’d say that was who is running acct.

Edijs Cakuls:
@annainaustin thanks! i appreciate your insight. and a bit sad at the same time.

So, basically the “evidence” that what Ilves is saying on Twitter couldn’t potentially come from a President, especially of a tiny North-Eastern European republic includes ability to name your own ethnic language group (Finno-Ugric), cite well-established journalists (Duranty, Elder & Ioffe) and tell an intellectually intriguing story on say, e-democracy or cyber defense to demanding international audiences from time to time (aka his political speeches)?

There are some good news here! First, Anna, the “dude” on Twitter is real. And you’d be surprised, but he also writes a vast majority of his own speeches. And if you were to see a single video to get some sense of him in person, I always recommend this one to my friends.

Secondly, Edijs, comes out you’re not naive afterall – yet never stop doubting. And no reason to be sad!

And thirdly, I am somewhat surprised that this short-sighted stereotype (that if a country has been out of a Soviet occupation for less than a quarter of a century, their leaders need to be deficient in English, oblivious to the world outside and preferably safe bores without a single opinionated thought, especially under 140 characters) is so alive in Texas and Latvia alike – I love the sweet sound of the stereotype crumbling, bit by bit. Estonia is a start-up nation, it has succeeded in the past, and will succeed in the future by daring to do things differently, questioning the status quo and contributing to defining the future realities of the world, rather than just settling in them as inevitables. Oh, and we tend to have some quirky fun in the process, too.

President has already chipped in, too (oops – using Latin?! Could it still be him?):

toomas hendrik ilves:
@naakums Yep, my “Western-educated” (Columbia ’76) Cartesian Homunculus, is responsible for everything on this simulacrum’s (aka “Dude”) CV.


  • sten, a good post and i appreciate much of what you say, but i’d also give @naakums some slack here. All in all, he/she has got the correct stereotype that helps make right choices about most “high-value” political twitter accounts. In other words, they are not run by the people they are representing.

    • I spent too much time on this, but here is a thought: this naakums seems to be from Latvia and you would expect he knows something about the president of his neighbouring country. Though it does seem a bit strange that a head of state is getting intense with American schoolgirls on Twitter. Even NYT columnist, in especially the tone used, is a bit weird choice of opponent for someone who essentially gets paid to bear on his shoulders the dignity of a nation (the rest is done by PM itseems). Perhaps real dignity is not highly rated in that ‘hood and the “street cred” is?

    • Fair ’nuff, I was reacting much more to the amusing analysis, rather than @naakums’ original question that triggered it.

  • yes, thanks for the video link, I got the sense. more berlusconi than monti. much more berlusconi.

    • Interestingly, when I think of Berlusconi, I think of dozens of trials for economic crimes that occasionally even end in conviction, bunga-bunga stories and videos like this one:

      You obviously have to be thinking of something (or someone) else to even come to this parallel… *shrug*