Tag: Twitter

The Apocalypse Will Be Tweeted

OK, that headline is a bit over the top. But last night, our President — who constantly tells us he doesn’t watch TV — tweeted this out ten minutes after Fox News did a segment on North Korea’s nuclear button:

The reaction to the tweet has been, as the reaction to Trump’s tweets always is, a bit hysterical. He’s not about to plunge us into war. He doesn’t literally have a nuclear button nor is he likely to push it anytime soon. This is Trump being Trump: always having to be the center of attention, always having to tweet about something he sees on TV, always saying things partially in jest, partially in anger and partially because he can.

However, the continual childishness, pettiness and silliness of the President is something to be concerned about. It always has been. Julian Sanchez:

A lot of Trumpers are trying to make the case that the President has had a great first year because he cut taxes … eventually. And he got judges approved — although an unprecedented number have been rejected by his own Congress for being grossly unqualified. And he cut regulations — although many of those were actually cut by Obama. I can see that. But Trump hasn’t done anything really revolutionary. He’s basically adopted the Republican agenda. There are few Republicans out there who wouldn’t have signed off on a tax cut or appointed judges. And there are many who made have made the tax cut less fiscally reckless or had an actual health reform plan. But sure, fine, you got a tax cut. And the world hasn’t burned up. Yet.

But … here is my concern. I feel that over the last year, the President eroded many of the political, diplomatic and legal norms that hold our world together. There is a human tendency to take things for granted and to start nitpicking at the minor concerns of the things that keep us safe from major concerns. For example, anti-vaxxers fret about the possible side effects of the vaccines that protects us from diseases that have killed millions. Anti-NATO people worry about the cost of an alliance that has maintained the longest peace in Europe … ever. We become spoiled. We expect the world to just function without a continuous ongoing effort to maintain the status quo. We forget that the Four Horseman are always ready to ride and that barbarism is only a few weeks away at the best of times. Political, social and cultural norms can sometimes be wrong, misguided or unnecessary. But they do not spring from holes in the ground; they are the result of decades of trying to make the world work better.

At some point, Trump’s erosion of norms going to bite us in the ass very hard. At some point, we will need to alert the world to a serious geopolitical threat and they won’t listen to us. At some point, we may need to engage in military action and people will think it’s just Trump being a toddler. At some point, we will lean on those norms that hold our civilization together and, instead of propping us up, they will yield.

Just because we haven’t yet paid a price for having a President who spends half the day watching Fox News and rage-tweeting about it doesn’t mean that price won’t have to be paid.

All the President’s Tweets

This weekend, Puerto Rico was whomped by Hurricane Maria. The entire island is without power and a humanitarian disaster is unfolding. By yesterday, the internet was aghast because Trump, while sending out numerous tweets about his ongoing feud with two sports leagues, hadn’t tweeted about Puerto Rico. They claimed he was ignoring the problem.

He wasn’t:

Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico on Saturday, welcomed by local officials who praised the Trump administration’s response but called for the emergency loosening of rules long blamed for condemning the U.S. territory to second-class status.

In northwest Puerto Rico, people began returning to their homes after a spillway eased pressure on a dam that cracked after more than a foot of rain fell in the wake of the hurricane.

The opening of the island’s main port in the capital allowed 11 ships to bring in 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food. Dozens more shipments are expected in upcoming days.

Further reports detail that FEMA, the Coast Guard and they Navy are all on scene and helping as best they can. Congress needs to step up to the plate now by passing an aide package and waiving or repealing the Jones Act which drives up the price of goods on the island to benefit American shipbuilders.

So why was everyone on Trump about it? Because he hadn’t tweeted about it. Our political culture has become so engrossed in the 140-character emissions of our President while he is sitting on the can that we’ve lost the ability to look any further.

The President did eventually tweet about it, noting Puerto Rico’s bad infrastructure and debt problem. He got bashed for that too. I wouldn’t have said that but it crossed me less as “blaming Puerto Rico for their problems” and more of “explaining why the situation is so dire”. But I’m known to be generous in interpreting the words of Presidents because (a) I’m a bit outraged out and have been for about ten years; (b) I’m a bit of a contrarian at times.

Look, I don’t like the way the President tweets garbage. And I do think he should have used the medium to voice support for Puerto Rico and to call on people to donate to organizations helping out. But there’s a line to walk in how we respond to him. We can’t confuse Trump’s twitter feed with the government. Trump clearly sees Twitter, at least his personal account, as entertainment and a way to rile up his base (the official POTUS account tends to be more mundane and tweeted out support for Puerto Rico on the 20th). We’re going to exhaust ourselves if we continually flip out over what the President has tweeted about and what he hasn’t. And we really REALLY need to reign in this pathological need to assume the absolute worst about everything he says or does. There’s plenty of bad to go around. We don’t have to start inventing stuff.

I’ve been as bad as anyone about this. So I’m probably going to simply start ignoring Trump’s twitter feed. It is utterly devoid of substance and has no function beyond stirring up partisan bullshit. Knowing me, I probably won’t keep to that promise for very long. But this Twitter business is getting unhealthy.

All the President’s Tweets

It’s odd that I’m finding myself defending the Administration even as they spiral down, but .. there we are.

There’s a lawsuit right now alleging that Trump’s occasional use of Twitter’s block function is a violation of the First Amendment. According to the lawsuit, people have a Constitutional right to see his tweets and respond to them on the Twitter platform.

I am very dubious of this argument for a number of reasons. First, as Eugene Volokh points out, Trump’s RealDonaldTrump account could be considered a personal account, not a government one. Second, even a blocked user can see Trump’s tweets by logging out of Twitter and going to the page. And even if that option didn’t exist, it’s not like the media never cover Trump’s tweets. Third, Twitter is a private forum, not a public one.

There’s a fourth part, too. The more substantial part of their case is that a block prevents people from addressing the President. While that’s true, I don’t believe our right to free speech and petition require politicians to stand there and listen to us. That goes double when we’re tweeting cat memes at them. More importantly, there’s nothing Twitter does that stops you from addressing the President even if you are blocked. You can tweet, “Hey, Mr. Trump, your budget sucks” until the cows come home. You just can’t tweet at the President.

Here’s a real life example: I was blocked by Howard Dean for a fairly anodyne snark. I can’t tweet at him. But I can tweet about him just fine. See:

So no I don’t think this suit has merit. Let me be clear: I would prefer that the President not block people on Twitter. I don’t think politicians should block people at all since they’re in the public sphere. And Trump’s use of the block features seems rather random than arbitrary. But there is no Constitutional right to make the President listen to you.

Watch Your Tweets

Once again, I am so happy I live under the umbrella of the First Amendment:

Liam Stacey, a student who mocked footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed during a match, was jailed today for inciting racial hatred.

Stacey, 21, provoked revulsion with comments made while the Bolton Wanderers star still lay on the pitch.

The 23-year-old midfielder was left fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack during an FA Cup tie on March 17.

Horrified fans watched live on TV as he fell to the ground during the quarter-final clash at Tottenham Hotspur.

Police were inundated with complaints as members of the public reported the student’s comments.

Last week he admitted inciting racial hatred when he appeared briefly at Swansea Magistrates’ Court and today he was jailed for 56 days at the same court.

You can see his tweeets here. There’s not really a question that they are racist, sexist, offensive and stupid. However, “inciting racial hatred” is a stretch at best. No one was going to start a race riot over his tweets. They offended people. And while I noted last week that there is no universal right to not be offended, the government of Britain clearly thinks that there is.

(H/T: Poosh)

Massive riots? Blame Twitter

As I discussed in a previous post, scapegoating is nothing new, and despite repeatedly being told that Europeans are more enlightened than foolish Americans (and usually being told this by other foolish Americans), it seems to be a favorite activity over there.

Scapegoating is certainly nothing new in the UK. The sheer amount of petty laws they’ve passed and enforced maybe a couple of times is essentially a symptom of this… a sign of a society’s governing class that feels like it’s losing control over the big things, and thus tries to compensate by displaying as much control as it can over the little things. That’s how you get stuff like little old ladies being up on charges for selling a goldfish to a teenager (yes I’m serious), having to show your ID and be over a certain age to buy a fork, as many closed-circuit TV cameras as there are people, things like that.

And now these massive riots look like they’re only going to spread, and one has to wonder if the authorities haven’t already given up on stopping or containing them to a certain extent and are just hoping they exhaust themselves, because they’re already looking for that next scapegoat:

Police are scrutinising tweets and messages on internet forums and could press charges if they consider they amount to incitement to riot.

Now clearly, if the tweets and whatnot were saying “There’s a bunch of cops at 2nd and Briton! Charles, you come up behind them on 2nd, we’ll jump out from the alley!”, that’s one thing. But the tweets and other social media pieces they’re apparently referring to are things like:

A two-minute film of a police car being trashed by rioters was posted on YouTube to a rap soundtrack. The clip finished with the words: ‘The enemy isn’t your own people, the enemy is the police.’

Offensive? Almost certainly. Insensitive? Definitely. But clearly this is free speech protected by the first amendme-… oh, right. Whoops.

But the thing is, it’s pretty clear that the “incitement to riot” phrase is going to be seeing a looot of workout. No doubt they’ll catch people like the complete idiot at the start of the article who’s posting pictures and bragging about the stuff he stole, but there’s no way they’ll catch all or even the majority of people who started or participated in these riots, or even those who actively tried to coordinate them. (Here’s a hint: if they’re dedicated enough shit-stirrers that they’re actively coordinating riots, they’re probably dedicated enough to cover their tracks a fair bit.) But what’s to be done about a populace who is now more scared than ever, less confident in the government and authorities’ power to protect them than ever, and a country more simmering with tension than ever? Have some nice big public smack-on-the-wrist trials for “incitement to riot” because somebody posted a video with rap music and aggressive text overlaid. Sure, it’ll distract you from tracking down anyone who’s actually responsible… but it’ll also distract the citizenry from the fact that you’re incapable of doing so! So net win all around, eh Bobbies?

Again, it’s pretty clear some people were actually using social networking sites to coordinate crime… and these people need to be found. But at this point it seems like the authorities are aiming just as much focus on anyone who tweeted about the subject. Admittedly, at this point it’s just an assumption that they’ll target people who tweeted “Hell yeah! Fuck the po-lice!” as much as anyone, but it’s an assumption built off of prior behavior.

The fact of the matter is that riots happened long before twitter, simply because mob mentality is a powerful thing. Hell, spreading riots happened before phones. You could as easily blame the TV stations for reporting the story (and I imagine the thought of doing so passed through at least a couple of heads). Now, if people were in fact using twitter as more than a round of cheerleading, fine… but cracking down on the cheerleading? I’ve got news for these guys, if they’re going to try and hold trials for everyone with an anti-authoritarian state of mind and who’s willing to voice it, well, you may as well just start building the internment camps now, because there’s not a lot of other options for controlling a portion of the population of that size.

Is this the result of a dedication to multiculturalism? Possibly. I find it just as likely that it’s a result of a society that has become more and more dependent on a sense of entitlement. As much as the spread of rioting seems to have a definite anti-police slant, the focus of much of it has still been shopping centers and looting. This is the natural extension of people who have been raised in a society that sponsors cradle-to-the-grave care and that they’re owed more than they have… in their minds the things in those stores are rightfully theirs anyway, this is just finally their chance to get their hands on it. Much of the twitter “incitement” that will apparently be evaluated revolves around things like “I’m finally going to have a big-screen TV” and showing off all the video games they stole. It’s as much about “Finally, I’m able to take what should have been given to me in the first place” as anything else, if not more.

Ultimately, these riots are a sign that something is wrong with the UK as a society. Which is not, in itself, an indictment, in truth… there’s something wrong with just about every society. If there’s nothing wrong with your society, well, that’s impossible, because there’s something wrong with scooping out part of peoples’ brains to make them utterly compliant and satisfied, which is what you’d have to do to have a society without problems. But they are an indicator of what’s wrong with the UK as a society, as is the maintainers of that society’s response to it… a thinly-veiled (albeit currently only implied) crackdown on freedom of expression.

The story that keeps on changing – and keep off Twitter!

What am I talking about? Well, how the NYT reports Breibart carrying the story of how a poor democrat liberal congressman by the name of Weiner claims now that this is public that he had is Twitter account hacked and a picture of his wiener sent to some young college reporter:

Representative Anthony D. Weiner, one of the most prolific users of social media among politicians, said his Twitter account was hacked this weekend when someone sent out a lewd photograph under his name to a young woman in Seattle.

The episode unfolded Saturday night when it was reported on the Web site biggovernment.com, run by the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. It played out all day Sunday on the Internet, with Mr. Weiner, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn and Queens, addressing the matter on his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, and with bloggers from the left and the right arguing about whether this might be the start of a scandal or an example of how easy it is for political rivals to harm each other’s reputations using new technologies.

Neither Mr. Weiner, an outspoken defender of liberal positions, nor Mr. Breitbart returned messages requesting comment on Sunday night.

Representative Wiener also so far refuses to ask the FBI to investigate the hacking of not just his Twitter account but several others, to pull of this stunt or say if that’s Weiner’s wiener. The claim that his account was hacked shouldn’t bode well for Twitter and any of the other media involved. If this stuff is so easy to hack anyone on twitter can be compromised. It makes Twitter a serious hazard for its users. Still, so far, neither Twitter nor any of the other companies with technologies involved have given any indication that they are investigating what really happened. My guess is because Weiner told them not to. Such a high profile hack would not go ignored otherwise. The story doesn’t end there. The fact that a picture was loaded to his yfrog account, then deleted, is confirmed, despite Wiener’s claims that was not the case. Most of the MSM remains uninterested or in excuse making mode.

My guess is that it won’t be very long before the claims that this was a hack job completely fall apart and Weiner then proceeds to replace that lie with a new one where they lay all the blame on some staffer. Yeah right. Didn’t we go through a revelation, quickly dismissed by the MSM, followed by someone else getting out the facts that were so easy to get at, just like this story seems to be looking to develop, with John Edwards, just recently? Stay of the social media stuff guys. Either Twitter takes security to lightly, someone else can too easily pretend to be you on it, and make you look bad. And unless you are a democrat with a complacent MSM willing to shill for you, people are going to think you are a perv when the hacker or friend posts a picture of your boner to someone you shouldn’t be doing that with!

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