Politicians' Crippling Obsession With Twitter
Their preoccupation is a mockery of their offices.
Twitter is a distraction. It is for me, it is for most people who use it, and while I still contend that the platform serves as a great news and commentary aggregator (if you use it right), there is no rational defense of how much time and emotion individuals invest in it.
It would be one thing if the website truly was a pivotal battlefield in the culture war, as many are unfortunately convinced (thanks in large part to the political media). But it’s not, and contrary to popular partisan belief, its ownership isn’t the deciding point between tyranny and free speech. It’s just a social-media website, and a second-tier one at that. Popularity-wise, it barely ranks in the world’s top 15, putting it below Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and a bunch of other platforms you and I have never even heard of.
What sets it aside from the others is the disproportionately large number of political and media figures who are active on the site, including elected representatives at the top tiers of the U.S. government. And just like with so many other Twitter users, the platform and its management seem to have become a huge distraction for them.
Case in point:
Why on earth is a U.S. Senator focusing his efforts (with the threat of legal action) on a private company’s placement of a “blue check” icon on its own website? What business is it of his? Does Markey have any idea of how completely detached and ridiculous he sounds? Does our country not have enough legitimate challenges worthy of the Senate’s attention?
Also, case in point:
Why on earth is a U.S. Senator demanding explanations from private companies on how they choose to spend their own advertising budgets? What business is it of his? Does Cruz have any idea of how completely detached and ridiculous he sounds? Does our country not have enough legitimate challenges worthy of the Senate’s attention?
I have to believe that high-raking elected representatives like Markey and Cruz understand what their job is (and that this isn’t it), but you sure wouldn’t know that based on their public preoccupations.
Part of the problem is the populist “use government to punish my enemies” doctrine that has deeply infected both sides of the political aisle. It’s been tarnishing once highly-valued concepts like free enterprise and free markets in this country for some time, including among self-proclaimed conservatives like Cruz.
In this particular tribal dust-up, Elon Musk is the enemy of the left, because he doesn’t play by the rules progressives have grown comfortable with. And Musk’s detractors are the enemy of the right, because the right just loves Musk’s public displays of “lib owning.”
But again, Markey and Cruz aren’t supposed to be keyboard warriors. They’re supposed to be U.S. senators, and they (along with several of their colleagues) are routinely distracted by inconsequential crap on Twitter that has nothing to do with their public responsibility as legislators, nor warrants their intervention as such.
Constituents should expect and demand better. But as is the case with many of us, they’re pretty distracted too.
Cruz is obviously catering to the crazy right, aka Trump's base. I'm not sure about Markey. But I don't blame him for being miffed at someone impersonating him on twitter, if that's the case. I'm not on twitter. But if it came to my attention that someone was impersonating me there, I'd be miffed. And, unlike me, he's a congressman, with serious public responsibilities. I've heard that a lot of public figures are being impersonated on twitter. If this is true, it does present a problem. People do read twitter and do take it seriously. Even if the impersonator is saying benign things while pretending to be Markey, he could very well start saying stupid or false things pretending to be Markey.
The world's richest person can afford a $44B vanity hobby, which is what Musk's Twitter acquisition appears to be. I have been wondering if he is intentionally destroying Twitter, or at least "Twitter as we know it". And I am totally fine with that, in part for the reason you cite in your article.