Jun in southern Spain is the first town in the world to be fully integrated with Twitter. This summer, the mayor Jose Antonio Rodriguez Salas announced that all departments and elected officials, including the police, had to maintain an interactive presence on the social network, to make themselves more accessible and accountable.
As well as calling and emailing their public officials – or waiting for the Bat-signal to appear in the sky – citizens of Jun (population 4,000) can beckon public servants to the rescue with the blue bird of Twitter. Policemen wear the force’s Twitter handle on their epaulets and cars; caretakers tweet updates of repairs, while the socialist mayor uses his account to promote charity fundraising efforts and demand mass resignations.
With most politicians already on Twitter, integrating an entire civic infrastructure onto a social network is the logical next step according to Dr Nick Anstead, lecturer in political communications at London School of Economics. But there’s an important point to be raised about all this. “Do we really want legislators and officials receiving a constant stream of public pressure?” Anstead asks.
With the help of a world-renowned translator*, I visited Jun’s “Twitter town square” to see if it really is making local governance more accessible and accountable, or if it’s just another PR stunt by a mayor trying to raise his profile on the national stage.
One of the town’s local rozzers shows off the force’s Twitter handle, @PoliciaJun. Complaints are labelled with the hashtag #cerdo (#pig).
— Tony Wang (@TonyW) June 21, 2013
Here’s how interactive Twitter policing works in practice:
“There is a loose horse on the road again.”
“Thank you for the warning. We’re off to shoot it.”
“Dismantled ship on Jun industrial estate with more than 700 cannabis plants. Thanks to all tip-offs.”
José M de la Torres can hear the screeching of tires, which can only mean one thing: boy racers wreaking havoc in Jun. He tweets the local 5-O and copies in the mayor:
— Policia de Jun (@PoliciaJun) October 26, 2013
“Civil Guard is on the way.”
Miguel Martinez is a popular maintenance worker in Jun whose updates are regularly retweeted by the mayor and other councillors.
— Miguel Martinez (@Miguelfontanero) November 25, 2013
“We continue cleaning greenery in St Jerome.”
Foreign journalists also enjoy the Spanish caretaker’s Tweets in translation.
— Miguel Martinez (@Miguelfontanero) November 18, 2013
“As you take the bags to check almond shells I cut the scoundrels ears.”
Javier Garcia is peeved about broken glass in a children’s playground, so he tweeted the mayor:
— javier garcia (@javiergarciarol) November 26, 2013
No reply as yet from the mayor.
In hip-hop, the hype man’s job is to encourage the audience to throw their hands in the air and make some goddam noise. In recession-era Spanish politics, the job of a small-town socialist mayor on Twitter isn’t much different.
“According to your criteria, who in our country should resign?”
— ManuVega (@Martayanavega) November 24, 2013
“It’s clear, the whole government for lying and going back on their electoral promises.”
— PacoSaavedraGCF (@PacoSaavedraGCF) November 26, 2013
“Resign, Jose Antonio. All the estates have been left empty.”
*Thanks to Google Translate for its excellent translation work.