The Addictive Unreality Of Twitter Politics


Ethan Bahar

The other day my mom posed a question to me: what social media platform do you use the most?  I did not have to contemplate.  That is because I am depressingly addicted to Twitter.  Though I have refused the latest update to my iPhone that would show me my usage (I luxuriate in my blissful ignorance), I know that I likely use Twitter more than all of my other apps combined.  Unfortunately, it’s a disgusting application that warps my perception of reality. 

For example, this past week, I have been closely following the story of the Covington Catholic high schoolers wearing Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats who allegedly harassed a Native American elder, who also happened to be a Vietnam War veteran.  The story first caught my attention when holier-than-thou left-wing pundits began retweeting videos of a high school junior staring into the eyes of an elderly Native American gentleman playing what seems to be a traditional drum at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.  The boy, surrounded by classmates and chaperones from the all-male Covington Catholic High School, was in Washington D.C., to attend the annual pro-life “March for Life” rally.  He, along with anyone else associated with Covington Catholic, were quickly called out for being disgusting racists who did not respect Native Americans.   

In chapter two of the Covington Catholic saga, angry right-wingers exacted their revenge on the bleeding hearts and proclaimed that the liberal media was knowingly spewing fake news and purposely ruining the lives of the boys in the video simply because they were wearing MAGA hats.  These conservatives claimed to have obtained legitimate evidence that the video was made by liberal scam artists to make MAGA-hat-wearing-conservatives look racist, and, in fact, it was the boys who were disrespected.  In a rare showing of “civility,” some liberals capitulated and acknowledged that they were too quick to draw drastic conclusions about high schoolers after simply watching a video.

In chapter three of the debacle, which is the chapter that I am currently seeing unfold (though as you read this I’m sure we will have moved on), the liberals have reclaimed the position that the Covington Catholic boys are filthy racists who love to exploit their white privilege, as after the video became viral, the boy’s rich parents apparently hired a PR firm linked to Senator Mitch McConnell to nefariously spin the story in his favor.  Moreover, a photograph is circulating that shows some Covington Catholic students at a basketball game in 2012 wearing blackface (of course, the students in the blackface would have graduated years ago and are likely older than the vast majority of Wake Forest undergrads).  Thus, that school clearly breeds racists.    

This story has completely taken ahold of Twitter.  It is seemingly all political talking heads will tweet about.  If a person only gleaned his news from tweets (many people do), he would think it is the most important story in the world right now.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter at all, and no matter how conclusive evidence may seem one way or another, both sides will claim victory and “prove” how evil the other one is.  All the while, all this meaningless affair has really done is taken important stories out of the news. 

America is currently in the midst of the longest government shutdown in its history, the president may have colluded with a foreign government to win his election and the earth is heating up at an overwhelmingly alarming rate.  Yet all we can talk about is these boys from a wealthy northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati.  We’re never going to definitively know which side is right, and quite frankly, we have bigger fish to fry.  Moreover, yelling at a racist on Twitter and telling him to stop being racist is not going to suddenly make him not racist.  The harassment will likely only drive him farther away from tolerance. 

Fortunately, we’re soon going to forget about Covington Catholic-gate, but without a doubt, the next story of the moment will rear its head, and it will be just as annoying and fruitless as this one.  It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle that, unfortunately, I feed into. And don’t expect Twitter to make any changes to improve the site’s content.   Ashley Feinberg, a Huffington Post reporter, who, coincidentally, I discovered on Twitter, interviewed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey a week ago.  Early in the interview she asked him, “If Trump tweeted out asking each of his followers to murder one journalist, would you remove him?”  Dorsey explained “That would be a violent threat. We’d definitely … You know we’re in constant communication with all governments around the world. So we’d certainly talk about it.”  Dorsey is literally admitting that the most powerful man in the world could order a murder on the platform that he runs and his removal wouldn’t be a certainty, despite claiming to adhere to guidelines that expressly ban violent threats.  The reality is that Twitter doesn’t care how virulent its content is, as long as people like me keep refreshing our feeds.