Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tweet heat.

The other day a little thing happened that I found big-ly significant. It involved Chris Cuomo, whose work for CNN I much admire (in contrast to the tendentious work of most of Cuomo's high-profile peers). He tweeted a reply to a nasty critic that I found concerning, because it sounded as if Chris were daring the guy to man up and "come for" him. I immediately tweeted back, reminding Chris that there are wackos out there who might take him at his word—and I added that unlike certain other careless tweeters of note, he lacks Secret Service protection. Although Chris remained his unflappable self, a number of his followers jumped on me, accusing me of being the wacko and of coyly threatening Chris. One guy even emailed me from an anonymous account, warning that he'd saved my tweet and would be "watching how you conduct yourself going forward." Thankfully Chris soon came to my defense, calling off his hounds, and the onslaught stopped.

To me this minor dust-up shows how how easily "triggered" we are in our tribalism. How paranoid in our polarity.

Everything is personal. There is no other side. An opposing idea is by is nature an ad hominem affront. A threat. Even if, as in the case at hand, you're trying to look out for someone else, people will sniff out a nuance or an overtone to be disturbed about.

I experienced this phenomenon on a daily basis throughout the closing months of Campaign 2016, when my tweets criticizing people in media for unfairly attacking Trump invited a torrent of rabid condemnation from those who assumed I was a mindless Trumper. In the beginning I took pains to remind people that attacking journalists who unethically attacked Trump is not the same as supporting Trump. I did not, I was clear, support Donald Trump. I just didn't want him savaged by an obviously partisan media. But I just couldn't seem to get through to the #WithHer crowd. After a while I stopped even trying to explain myself.

People...if we don't start looking to find points of agreement rather than points to ridicule (or worse), we are going to unravel as a society. The social contract will be no more. We're getting pretty damned close as it is.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Steve, please accept my belated response to this post. As you know, I recognize you for being an honest observer and someone who participates ethically in public forums. My reason for speaking out today is related to tweeting and yet the circumstance is different. A situation in San Bernadino currently being reported involves an elementary school "murder-suicide" and yet the news seems to be leaking out in unclear tweets. No fatalities have been reported, just injuries. But murder-suicide does mean at least two people died. In an elementary school. Children? The story will eventually come out but right now, judging from the "tweet heat" about it, nothing is clear. Twitter seems to be the place to find the most up-to-the-moment updates, though. I may be wrong. I guess my point is to mirror you in that I do see you using social media in an intelligent way and wish everyone else would smarten up, too.