Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel laconically tweeted in the early hours of Monday morning the single word, “Agreement.” Such brevity is indeed ironic in contrast to the marathon nature of this final Eurozone debate on Greece’s debt situation. Michel’s post was retweeted over 4,100 times and has become a social media bookend to intense weeks of conversation. Nevertheless, the ‘agreement,’ which maintained tough and austere economic policies upon the people of Greece was not without controversy.
— Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) July 13, 2015
Beginning at 18:00 GMT Sunday evening, the hashtag, #thisisacoup, went viral, peaking at 81,297 usages from 22:00-23:00 GMT Sunday, July 12th. As of Monday, July 13th at 16:00 GMT, the hashtag had been used a total of 476,232 times. This hashtag was in direct response to the terms of the agreement that Greece would have to accept if it were to remain a part of the Eurozone. The countries where this hashtag was used were as follows: Greece (54,347), United Kingdom (51,622), United States (39,474), Spain (33,800), France (17,130), Italy (12,635), and Germany (11,782).
In order to look more specifically into these conversations, we decided to focus on the two key countries in these talks: Greece and Germany. It is known that Germany, along with several other nations, has been less lenient than other nations, such as France, in terms of its posture on Greek debt and what the exact terms of repayment should be. Therefore, with the ForSight platform, we were able to examine the public perception of Germany’s stance on Greece and its debt using a sentiment monitor. What we found is that, beginning July 1st, only about 15% of comments mentioning Germany and Greece together were supportive of Germany’s debt proposals. In contrast, 57% of people expressed negative feelings toward the German political stance.
One popular theme among the negative tweets was in reference to Germany’s own debt forgiveness that it received following the World War II. Many tweets mentioned the war as well as the year 1953. The accusation is that a double standard is in effect. We ran our own analysis on Twitter and found overall tweets referencing WWII as well as German debt to be about ~225,000 for each of the last two weeks. In contrast, this number, for the most part, ranges from about 135,000 to 175,000 on any given week in 2015, clearly indicating a correlation between modern events and relatively recent European history. Even more negative is the fact that many old stereotypes of German hegemony are being brought back into vogue by these comments.
It’s a little rich of Germany to suggest no room for compromise for Greece’s debt repayment- don’t they still owe huge WWII debts to Greece?
— Tim Cruickshank (@twe_tim) July 10, 2015
Taking a step back, it is worth noting another word that has gained popularity over the last few years. This word would be “austerity.” We ran an analysis back to January 1, 2011 to understand how often this term was being used over the last 4.5 years. What we found is the following in terms of mentions:
2013: 1,298, 197
Beginning in 2012, we notice a steady decline in the usage of this term, most likely related to more optimistic growth signs in the global economy. 2015, a year that recently crossed its halfway point, already has accumulated 2,355,865 tweets of the word “austerity.” It is clear that this word has not, by any stretch of the imagination, gone out of style. And one can be sure that the recent events in Europe will not in any way expedite this term’s disappearance.
The agreement may indeed be in place but based on the vibrancy of social media, it seems that the conversation is far from over. As practical measures are put in place in the coming days, we wait to see what discussions will emerge. Will #thisisacoup continue to be used as it has been the past twenty four hours? Will historical stereotypes continue to be perpetuated? A political decision may have been made but it appears that this might only be the beginning of the dialogue.