An open letter to Tim Fenton

Left-wing blogger, Tim Fenton has accused The Commentator of buying Venezuelan Twitter followers. Here is the Editors' reply

by The Commentator on 18 July 2012 13:34

Dear Tim,

Sorry to rain on your parade but I'm afraid your shoot-from-the-hip style has landed one in your foot this time.

Your ‘exclusives’ this past week, on your blog Zelo Street, about Twitter activism have so far been on the money. Our Executive Editor himself, after trialing purchasing 500 followers, describes the process as "dishonest and ineffective."

But you can’t be right all of the time, Tim.

And your accusation that The Commentator has purchased Venezuelan Twitter followers (why would we choose Venezuela?) has proven just that. Allow us to take a few seconds to spell out just how very off the mark you are on this one.

First of all, The Commentator has a solid reputation for both breaking news and opinion on Venezuelan politics. (See some of our offerings here).

In particular, on the 27thApril this year, we broke an unusual story on the decision by Mercedes Benz to fire an anti-Chavez political activist. This was an exclusive to The Commentator and hence yielded a major reaction and subsequent Twitter follower drive.

The Venezuelans oppressed under Chavez are keen to take up the fight on Twitter and have rallied around us in this regard. But you seem to think there’s foul play afoot.

Here’s an image showing that on the date in question, our Google stats showed that we had more unique visitors from Venezuela than from our number one market, the United Kingdom!


Last year we also broke this revelation on high profile Chavista, Eva Golinger, and her participation in Occupy Wall Street.

This story was picked up by the Heritage Foundation and, in Spanish, by La Patilla who cited/linked to The Commentator and then translated the article in full.

It’s worth noting that La Patilla has a Twitter following of over 1.3 million and are the 15th most visited website in Venezuela (according to This is the precise equivalent of where The Guardian stands in the UK market. Perhaps that’ll help you understand the levels of traffic we’re talking about here.

The story on La Patilla was tweeted 1498 times – likely mainly by Spanish-speaking audiences who reciprocally may have visited The Commentator and decided to follow us on Twitter – does that follow to you?

La Patilla was not alone. picked it up too (as did several others) and, as you can see, cited us in the headline of their piece. RunRun is the 125thmost visited site in Venezuela. Their UK ranking equivalents include the likes of Mashable, the New York Times and British Airways. Again – you’ll appreciate the numbers.

We’re also honoured to have several high-profile writers and supporters linked to Venezuelan politics.

Joel Hirst (Fmr Fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations and current Fellow at the Bush Institute) is both a regular writer and ardent supporter of our work focused towards Venezuela.

Roger Noriega (Fmr Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under George W. Bush) is a regular “re-tweeter” and supporter of our work.

Ray Walser (a career Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State for 27 years before joining the Heritage Foundation in 2007 whose career based him in Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua) has written numerous articles for us under a cross-post arrangement with the Heritage Foundation.

Fabio Raphael Fiallo (a Dominican-born economist and a retired official of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) also regularly writes,  sharing his opinions on Chavez’s socialist revolution with The Commentator’s readers.

Finally, let us not forget our market-coverage in Venezuela itself…

1 in every 200 readers of The Commentator is based in Venezuela.

So there is the evidence, which we’re sure you’ll agree is fairly conclusively in our favour.

We’ve done the legwork to disprove your monkey business this time – but frankly after you’ve let your side down, we won’t be engaging again.

We think the best thing you can do now Tim is apologise, amend your blogpost (at the top, please) and inform your own following that you went a bit Caracas on this one.

Yours sincerely,

The Editors

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