Who #Stephen Harper follows on Twitter
Public figures often want to show 'a little bit of fun' in their Twitter accounts
Wading through the people Prime Minister Stephen Harper follows on his Twitter account is like going through a laundry list of Conservative members of Parliament.
All the familiar faces are there: Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
And then there's Springfield resident Homer J. Simpson.
Yes, nestled among the very select group of people whose Twitter activities have been deemed to be important to the prime minister is the famous patriarch from FOX TV's The Simpsons. (And, sorry prime minister, Homer doesn't follow you back.)
Whether Harper regularly checks in on Homer’s musings is anyone’s guess. Homer recently tweeted that he was "taking the family to the drive-in movies tonight. But first: an hour of trunk-cramming practice."
Who doesn't like a good Homerism?
Of course, Homer's inclusion among the 223 people Harper follows may just be an indication of the prime minister — or his staff — trying to appeal to a pop-culture savvy public or to his 489,000 Twitter followers.
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"You might say 'OK, Homer Simpson, that just seems odd,'" says Mark Blevis, an Ottawa-based digital public affairs analyst.
But public figures often want to show "a little bit of fun,” in their Twitter accounts, he says. "And who doesn’t like a good Homerism?"
As for print media on the prime minister's list, only Maclean's magazine and the National Post make the cut.
But the list of those he follows among world leaders is also interesting, perhaps particularly for those who aren't on it, including U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Indeed, some leaders who follow Harper, such as Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, aren’t followed back by the Canadian prime minister.
In fact, the only foreign politician who does seem to make Harper’s Twitter list is Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, (who also follows Harper), suggesting that Harper's recent harsh rhetoric against Moscow is not enough to sever the bonds of Twitter buddies.
"It’s really interesting that the G7 nations are not in his Twitter account," says Blevis. "It’s particularly interesting given that, especially these days, there’s a lot of talk about e-diplomacy.
"There’s a lot of stuff that's going on on a diplomatic track that takes place online. It would be an opportunity for him, when they make an announcement, to tweet with the other party. You could tweet with them and because you’re following them, it looks like you’re standing arm and arm."
While Harper's account is mostly a sea of blue, politically, former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe shows up.
And while the prime minister seems to want to keep tabs on the Toronto Blue Jays, the CFL and the Canadian Curling Association, the unabashed hockey fan does not follow the NHL or any NHL team.
But it's unlikely Harper has much to do with the choices of whom he follows. Blevis says he doesn't believe Harper is an active user of Twitter, but probably asks his staff to issue tweets on certain subjects.
"He may look at it every now and then for a lark, but I don't think that's his primary interest."
Harper also has the most followers among the federal party leaders (491,000), and follows the fewest number of people (223).
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has 402,000 followers, and follows 753. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has more than 72,000 followers and follows 1,196. None of the leaders follow each other.
Elizabeth May may be at the helm of the party with the fewest seats in the House of Commons, but the Green Party leader follows more people on Twitter than the other leaders do (5,500). And at 90,000-plus followers, May actually has more than the leader of the Official Opposition.
Bill Maher, Kiefer Sutherland among those followed by Trudeau
Mostly, Canada's political leaders follow members of their own party, journalists or associations.
Trudeau’s list includes more celebrities, such as author Stephen King, Politically Incorrect host Bill Maher, actress Ellen Page, actor Kiefer Sutherland, late-night host Stephen Colbert, magician Teller (but not Penn) and Star Trek icon George Takei.
Blevis notes that Trudeau used to be completely in control of his Twitter account, and he still believes he's responsible for the majority of what goes on there, although now, as leader of the party, he may have handed some Twitter duties to his staff.
Meanwhile, Mulcair's account is peppered mostly with reporters, politicians, labour organizations, activists, students and other organizations, although the NDP leader does follow Obama, as does Trudeau.
"I think they’re being cautious," Blevis says. "There’s probably a certain degree of PR only because there’s people out there looking to see who they’re following, and they don’t want to send the wrong message."