At #Thatcher, no halfhearted tweets on Iron Lady's legacy
The global reaction to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's death displayed the depth of her impact – like it or not.
Irreverent, brisk, and decisive.Skip to next paragraph
Ryan Brown edits the Africa Monitor blog and contributes to the national and international news desks of the Monitor. She is a former Fulbright fellow to South Africa and holds a degree in history from Duke University.
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As Margaret Thatcher was in life, so are the tweets that have followed her death.
In the minutes following the announcement of the former British prime minister's death Monday, #Thatcher shot to the top of global Twitter trends as the world weighed in on her legacy – or at least as much of it as they could cram into 140 characters or less.
Here are some highlights of the global Twitter reaction.
World leaders were among the first to weigh in on Thatcher's legacy with carefully curated messages of condolence.
"Lady Thatcher didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country," wrote @David_Cameron, the official Twitter account of the British Prime Minister. (And the snarky backlash quickly followed. "From equality and happiness?" one tweeter replied, one of some 2,000 who responded to the prime minister's initial tweet. "Just how out of touch can one man be?" asked another.)
"She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered," weighed in @BarackObama, while India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh (@PMOIndia) wrote blandly, "She was a transformative figure under whom the United Kingdom registered important progress on the national and international arena."
But in at least one corner of the world where Thatcher's legacy is particularly fraught, there was silence on official Twitter accounts.
'Like a tank barrel'
Elsewhere in the Twitter-verse, reactions were more raucous, mixing critiques and memories of the Iron Lady's towering personality.
"Asking Thatcher a q at a press conf was intimidating," remembered Australian journalist Mark Colvin (@Colvinius). "Her gaze swivelled on you like a tank-barrel."
He continued: "A friend of mine, interviewing Thatcher, asked her qs she didn't like. Just out of camera view, her press sec kicked him in the shins."
And one Canadian journalist weighed in to make sure a crucial aspect of the prime minister's legacy wasn't forgotten in the chatter. "Most of what Thatcher is claimed to have done is exaggerated," he wrote. "Except inventing soft ice cream - as a chemist in the '50s, she did that."
The empire tweets back
Meanwhile, across the British commonwealth, tweeters pondered the Thatcher legacy in their own backyard.
South Africans were less generous. "Apartheid supporter Margaret Thatcher dead at last," wrote a popular opinion writer. "Apartheid would've ended a little earlier had it not been for her," said another.
And Irish comedy writer Colm Tobin put a finger on his country's national pulse when it came to Thatcher's legacy: "Not a lot of love for Margaret Thatcher in Ireland. As an enemy of the state she sits somewhere between Oliver Cromwell & Thierry Henry."
Amid the global haste to weigh on on Thatcher's death, however, Twitter also provided reminders about the dangers of the digital age scramble to be the first to a story.
Thatcher detractors, for instance, gleefully circulated a BBC-based headline typo announcing that Thatcher had "died of a strike."
The text was quickly corrected, but not before it was immortalized on Twitter, a moment of clumsy reaction captured in Internet amber for all the world to see.
None of the Twitter reaction, however, came as a shock to British journalist Martin Belam. In December he tweeted a pie chart he'd created called, "What Twitter will look like on the day Thatcher dies."
At last, a Thatcher tweet no one can dispute.