Leaving this up for a week as a pinned tweet before locking the account. It’s been a lovely little war, folks, and some good fun was had, But until this platform gets better and more honorable management, fuck it, no.
A long decade ago, my assistant, a millennial of course, explained to me that there was this sort of bulletin board, a tweeting, chirping sort of collective, where you post what you want to hype – a new season of television, an essay on your blog, a cute picture of your ferret. Okay, I said. You kids have fun with that.
But no, there came a second moment when I found myself misquoted on something – I can’t remember what — and I wrote a corrective, which sat on my blog like a stale bagel on the plate until Reena explained it again: You link what you write to the chirping thing, people find the chirp, and then find what you wrote.
So this odyssey began in simple utility. It ends this week with me assuring a daily helping of anonymous, racebaiting fucksquibs that no, as aggrieved white people, they are not being systemically victimized by the evil predations of other races and that for claiming such unevidenced they very much need to eat a sack of stale, unsalted penises.
And beyond that shitpile of gaping assholery, there is a second fresh, quotidian portion of Jew-haters whose complaints about my oven-dodging will have to wait because I need to go drink a fresh quart of baptized baby blood and then get to my globalist banking duties so as to e-transfer their life savings to the Israel Bonds campaign.
Then there are the luftmensch ideologues, extreme right and left, with their furious sloganeering and unending purity tests. And after that rabble, of course, there are the Russian bots and make-it-up pranksters, as well as the garden-variety trolls who simply want me to engage with them in an online version of the streetcorner Dozens. I oblige graciously by claiming to finger their relentless and properly paid mothers, after which they feign mock outrage because their sainted moms are dead, opening the door to me concluding that I no longer need to wonder why it took the nice lady so long to finish.
Then, with the rest of the day, I try to get some work done.
I know I’m being reductive about Twitter here – I’ve made friends on the site in the last ten years and been exposed not just to clever witticisms and savage humor, but to some genuinely insightful ideas. And sure, I’ve had my share of fanboy interactions with some notable folk that make me marvel at our new digital world: My god, Chuck Yeager once thanked me for a tweet. Chuck fucking Yeager.
In short, there will be a lot about Twitter to miss.
But what will not be missed is the asymmetrical warfare in which the most contemptible and abusive rhetoric is not only sustained but enhanced by its proximity to normal discourse. Or worse, and more lethal for our republic, there’s nothing to enjoy in the organized campaigns of disinformation that course through Twitter before the mainstream media can get its boots on.
Earlier regimes were ridiculously slow to understand the damage being done, and efforts to hold the worst and most dishonest players to any vetting or standard on the platform were halting and inconsistent at best. Yet there was some effort. The arrival of Elon Musk, and his bland assertions that all manner of speech should not only freely uttered, but freely platformed, gives fresh concern. Worse, his suggestion that I should continue to provide him with free content to help maintain and nurture that kind of hellsite is, for me, problematic. I won’t appear on Fox or write for a Murdoch publication; why in hell would I do anything to personally sustain any other social media outlet that platforms lies and hate? Or pay eight dollars or eight cents for the privilege?
Because here’s the guts of the problem:
The solution to the worst kinds of lying and racebaiting isn’t to accord such shit-talk its place in the national agora and then reply with a careful and reasoned counterargument. When a Goebbels or Streicher declares that Jews drink the blood of baptized children, the strategic defense against such is not to join the argument and say, no, actually, they do not, and then drone out an analysis of the Tsarist forgeries in which the claim originates. The solution is to call the lying motherfucker a taintsniffing shitmonger and send his tweet to digital oblivion. Mock, block and roll.
That’s what Twitter, in the end, taught me: The worst and most cancerous campaigns on the internet are not to be outreasoned or debated. Doing so grants credibility where none should exist. And Twitter has never truly come to terms with the asymmetrical dynamic.
Indeed, I was once suspended from the platform for telling some fecal-flecked wonder who claimed my friend Tony Bourdain was slain in a political assassination that he very much needed to fuck off and “die of boils.” Presumably, Twitter saw little wrong with transforming a real and personal tragedy into grist for submoronic conspiratorist horseshit. No, the platform saw my reply as a real threat that I could and would summon a non-lethal skin disorder to fell my enemies. So, agreeably, I deleted that tweet, then returned to the site and told @Jack — founder and CEO Jack Dorsey — that his understanding of what speech needed to be policed was nil, and that he should, well, die of boils. Suspended a second time, I refused to remove the second tweet and resolved to quit the platform; some days later, Twitter itself took it down and restored my account unilaterally. So hey, I had to stick it out a few years more.
But to credit Dorsey just a little bit, the fact remains that prior to the latest technobrat taking the helm, Twitter was at least struggling with the problem. Musk isn’t remotely capable of such; witness his own willing retweet of the organized slander of Paul Pelosi a couple weeks ago, followed by his quiet removal of the tweet absent the courage of any apology. Quite a shitpiece Mr. Sparky Car has turned out to be.
I know there are many who found neither decorum nor dignity in the blunt ugliness of what for me was very much a bit of decade-long performance art. There I was in the gutter, trading spit and flinging sewage. Well, yes, but it was fun. And if you came correct, we could argue, perhaps even laugh, as many new friends came to understand. But if you came to play, we played. I’m from Baltimore, where The Dozens are an American cultural artform like any other.
An aggrieved bystander once called the act graceless. I readily agreed:
“This is Twitter. There is no grace. None. Here in an orgy of organized disinformation and trollery, our republic has come to die. There is no teaching the fuckmooks and deplorati. Go down swinging. Use every cruel word. Invoke their mothers. Lather them with contempt. Enjoy.”
I still mean that, every word. For a decade, I took a bit of time every day – more when trapped on a film set amid lighting delays and actors late from the trailers – to urge some rancid bastards to remember me to their mothers and stop lifting my cash from their purse. It did little lasting good, sure, but it brought my blood pressure down, and at the worst, I tutored some folks in the greater scope and reach of American maledicta. Given where Musk is threatening to take twitter, they’re now better prepared to take a turn at the task. The internet, after all, needs to be mowed.