Sunday, April 26, 2009

Big Time, Baby!

I'm movin' on up, it appears. To illustrate a claimed "trend over the past few weeks" about "a tendency on the Left to dismiss Twitter both for its apparent limitations as well as its embrace by the political Right," conservative blogger and self-described Internet analyst William Beutler quoted part of a comment I posted on the forums. My comment was in response to one of the diavloggers, blogger Matt Lewis, who had asserted that conservatives "are dominating on Twitter." Here's the part William quoted:

Is this anything worth bragging about? What does it even mean, that there are more Republicans spewing out sound bites and ill-considered thoughtlets? … [G]iven the choice to “dominate” on Twitter compared to, say, the blogosphere, let alone actually getting people off their couches to go knock on doors, I know which one I’d pick.

But that's not the important part. The important part is that my words are sandwiched between references to John Cole and Markos Moulitsas.


From now on, I will be referring to myself as the number-three man in the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.

Or a #3, maybe.



As to William's thesis, well, meh. It's hard to agree with the idea that there is a recent trend, for one thing. It seems to me that "the Left" has been mocking "the Right" for their belief that Twitter is their new magic bullet since about three seconds after one of them first made this claim. Certainly the #dontgo "movement" was a target-rich environment for snark for a couple of weeks, way back when.

Wait, what was the #dontgo movement again?
My point exactly.

William also claims that this dismissiveness is more than just libtards being libtards …

We can’t ignore sour grapes — for the first time in a while, the Right is being recognized as doing something online better than the Left. It only makes sense the Left would want to minimize that, both to reassure themselves, discourage the Right and encourage skepticism among outside observers.

... to which I can only respond: sounds like a whine. (And nitpick that you can't say "both" and then list three things.)

But seriously, it is far from clear to me that "doing better" on Twitter is measurable or is even a meaningful concept. And who besides you, Matt Lewis, #TCOT co-founder Michael Leahy, and Erick W. Erickson is doing this recognizing?

(For those just joining in: #TCOT is a Twitter hashtag,
and it stands for Top Conservatives On Twitter.)

I might also raise an eyebrow about who is reassuring whose self, in light of a recent lament from your fellow #TCOT, Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo Yiannopoulos frets about liberals dominating on Twitter

Sweet raisins!


As to Twitter's importance -- or not -- overall, what I said in that forum post still applies. Here is some elaboration.

First, let's have some perspective. Here is a side-by-side comparison of screen shots taken a few minutes ago of the "followers" part of the respective Twitter screens for the #1 of all the #TCOTs and some random liberal, from Hollywood:

Gingrich and Kutcher Twitter followers compared

So, never mind orientation, left or right. There is, right off the bat, some reason to question the political significance of a Twitter presence at all.

I think Twitter is fine for what it is: handy for sharing jokes, quick thoughts, and links. It is potentially useful for coordinating meet-ups. Maybe, occasionally, it helps to build or sustain excitement for a short time about some event or talking point among a few people, although it seems to me that most such people are already interested and would just as willingly stay interested and in touch through some other technological channel. In particular, I do not think, as William seems to, that Twitter was a significant factor in boosting the much-ballyhooed teabagger rallies; I'd be strongly inclined instead to credit Fox News, conservative talk radio, and bulk emailing by corporate lobbying outfits for the turnout, such as it was, by anyone who wasn't already a committed conservative activist.

Twitter, it seems to me, is just another way to reinforce cocooning among like-minded people (e.g.), to allow politicians to spew more self-promotion, often to unintended comic effect (e.g.), to aggravate simpleminded divisiveness (e.g.), and to further encourage people to unleash their ids (e.g.).

Do I use Twitter? Sure, sometimes. But I don't kid myself that it's doing anything much to develop ideas or foster useful debate. The liberal in me is delighted that conservatives are wasting time obsessing over the latest shiny object rather than doing anything substantial to get themselves back into the game. On the other hand, the cynic in me realizes that the best thing that can be said about most Democratic politicians is that they are only slightly less worse than their Republican counterparts, so I'd like an intelligent check on them. The idealist in me wants those on the right to acknowledge the seriousness and depth of the problems we now face, and to think about how they could make substantive contributions, rather than clinging to their attitude of obstructionism and their belief in quick fixes.

So, depending on my mood, I find it either hilarious …

Right-wing dorks

... or depressing that so many conservatives activists are still prioritizing messaging over message, and message over ideas.


By the way, I came across this notice of my promotion to the big time mention of my name not by ego-surfing, believe it or not, but by happenstance: I followed a link from a fisking of William's post over at Whiskey Fire, one of my regular reads. You might be interested in what Thers has to say about this "the Right is winning on Twitter" business.

(dorks pic. source)


Righteous Bubba said...


bjkeefe said...

There is no need to diss our simian brethren like that.

WWB said...

Ummm. Thank you, I suppose? Also, you're welcome.