I originally wrote this for Hiar Learning without any intention of publishing it for a wider audience. But before I posted it I showed it to the editor of MIL, who decided to publish it–even though she described it as “self-indulgent.” Guilty as charged: I had fun with this one.
So maybe you don’t do the Twitter. Maybe it all seems rather silly to you: all the symbols and abbreviations and hash-tags–and especially the arbitrary 140-character length of a tweet. Before I began micro-blogging, I too was bothered by its lingo and limitations. But I’ve found a lot can be communicated within those restraints. Which brings me to my Twitter tale…
After reading an insightful (and frightening) post by James Pethokoukis, Reuter’s money and politics blogger, about why America’s unemployment rate may surpass 12% (summary: it’s a lagging indicator and GDP just moved into the black this quarter), I decided to follow him on Twitter.
I soon discovered that Pethokoukis’s politics are more conservative than mine, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If only there were more thoughtful Republicans and fewer teabaggers polluting American political discourse with their death panels and socialism scaremongering. But I was rather surprised to see him tweet his endorsement of one such scaremongerer:
I will let Team Sarah argue the pro-Palin position, but I think she has potential and mega-upside as a candidate
Like many Americas outside the Bible Belt, I was aghast when John McCain picked Sarah Palin, a first-term governor of Alaska, to be his running mate. Shortly after the her appointment, The Economist’s Lexington columnist noted that McCain’s decision to pick an “inexperienced and Bush-level incurious” running mate raised “more general worries about the Republican Party’s fitness for government.” Pethokoukis’s support for a hypothetical Palin 2012 presidential campaign raised similar questions about his fitness for political blogging. I decided to stop following his Twitter feed and thought I’d let my followers know why:
Why I no longer follow Reuter’s @JimPethokoukis: “I think [Sarah Palin] has potential and mega-upside as a candidate.”
Generally, that’s where the story ends in the Twitterverse. Someone says something you like or don’t like, and you retweet it—perhaps with some added value commentary if you’ve got a few characters to spare. Maybe someone retweets your retweet, but, more likely, it dies there like a sentence shouted into the vast darkness of cyberspace. Which is why I was so surprised when Pethokoukis responded to my announcement:
@CorbinHiar How can I win you back? Advocacy of a 90% tax rate? Detente with Al-Qaeda? I know there’s a way …
This exchange is an example of the gift and the curse of Twitter. In 140 characters there isn’t room for me to elaborate on the many reasons I am certain Sarah Palin would make a very bad president and supporting her makes for very poor punditry. Nor is there any better way for Pethokoukis to respond to my public decision to stop following him than with overstated humour. Twitter is a poor venue for any proper discussion of the issues, but it’s a great place to share quick insights. And, as Pethokoukis made clear, 140 characters are plenty enough to make a joke.