Tweeple of the year, 1906 edition

You might have heard of the Clearstream trial currently under way in France, where former PM Dominique de Villepin is on trial for attempting to smear his political enemies, including one Nicolas Sarkozy, then interior minister.

French blogger Aliocha (also in the political magazine Marianne) writes about the Twitter stream of the trial:

It’s the latest new thing – journalists at the Clearstream trial are reporting live on Twitter. The Post sees in that development a new risk of weakening Agence France Presse, already swamped by Twitter’s immediacy. Let’s temper the classic reflex, which is to throw a handful of earth on the coffin of the so-called traditional press while our friend the internet is still cutting its baby teeth. One has to say that trial reports in 140 characters, however blow-for-blow, are about as clear as watching satellite TV with the encryption on.

Aliocha then introduces a writer of whom I had never previously heard, Félix Fénéon, who for a few months in 1906 used the “News in Three Lines” column of Le Matin to tell stories in poetic snippets of fewer than 135 characters, such as:

Félix Féneon (via Wikimedia Commons)
Félix Féneon (via Wikimedia Commons)
  • M. X., de Montauban, nettoyait son fusil. On l’enterre demain. (“Mr X of Montauban was cleaning his rifle. He will be buried tomorrow.”)
  • Madame Fournier, M. Voisin, M. Septeuil se sont pendus : neurasthénie, cancer, chômage. (“Mme Fournier, M. Voisin and M. Septeuil have hanged themselves: neurasthenia, cancer and unemployment.”)
  • Le bateau de pêche la Marie-Jeanne, dix hommes dessus. Une lame de fond, dix hommes dessous. (“Fishing boat Mary Jane, ten men aboard. A sudden swell, ten men below.”)

In the words of Aliocha, “hats off, you amateur Twitterers!”


Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

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