Gun Laws Policy & Law

More proof that twitter sucks. (Updated)

A new top to this, apparently:  A reader has informed me that Mr. Podhoretz has apologized for the mischaracterization of the quote.  That was manful, and direct.  So while this post remains as a means of reaffirming the actual intent of what I wrote, it should be acquired henceforth with the knowledge that Mr. Podhoretz appears to have been unaware of the full context when he tweeted.  Mr. Kurtz remains in the wind, but due respect to Mr. Podhoretz.

*       *       *

Willful stupidity or rank intellectual dishonesty?  With these two fellows and their output, there is really no third choice that can be legitimately considered:

             John Podhoretz ?@jpodhoretz1m

  1. David Simon says he would have thrown brick at courthouse if he were a person of color in FLA. Why shouldn’t he attack it as a white guy?

    HowardKurtz ?@HowardKurtz7m

  2. Ugh: Wire’s David Simon: If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.

    The Actual Statement:

    If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve.  I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.

    Yes, the complete statement is not an exhortation for anyone to riot.  It is instead a statement of admiration for the restraint and civic commitment that African-Americans are displaying in the wake of an appalling betrayal of their citizenship.

    By the time Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Podhoretz practice their intellectual reductions, they have achieved and propagated the opposite.  Perhaps the willingness to convert the skill set that used to be journalism and essaying to 140-character morsels breaks down the human brain.  Or perhaps, the process is readily suited for ideologues and paper-thin media gurus to simply manufacture a quote so simple and corrupted that they can actually wrestle with it.


  • “Those that do not (pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse), those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve.”

    David, you are applauding an historically aggrieved minority group for the restraint they have shown in not rioting. Leaving aside the patronizing nature of that “compliment” (Way to go, Blacks, for not bashing in the skulls of innocent white people! Hip hip hooray!!!…) according to you, violence by all rights OUGHT to be visited upon innocent Caucasians… for what else could you mean by “a stoic tolerance (in ‘somehow managing to resist violence’) is more than the rest of us deserve”?

    Seriously, David — a black teen dies under murky circumstances, 12 Flordians acquit his killer, and suddenly white people “deserve” bricks?

    David, this is madness.

    • Quote the whole of the statement. Rather silly for you to claim I am patronizing anyone when I admit that if it were my son being killed by SYG logic for walking while black, I would throw a brick. You can’t credibly claim that I am condescending to anyone when I concede that I have neither the tolerance nor stoicism to endure what others do.

      It is indeed madness. The SYG laws and the diminution of black life at the expense of America’s cult of the gun. Madness is exactly what this is.

  • I suppose I’ll begin with an apology for perhaps being a narrow-minded, trigger happy (not in reference to my personal stance on guns) lazy, etc., commenter to this thread. No, I didn’t go back and read every comment or reply to see if what I intended to write you, that you “personally feel has been “addressed”, because quite frankly, by the time I did that, my assumption is that the thread would be “closed” to additional comments. And perhaps I should apologize if I’ve posted my comment to this one, when (in your opinion) the details of my comment would be more appropriate in a different thread or posting. And I’ll even apologize if I missed YOUR specific reason or “point” for creating this post in the first place, because while sometimes Twitter sucks, it sucks no less than ANY other Social Media format out there, which includes “Blogs” such as the one you have chosen to create and use. “My” motivation to reply here is simply to address the “content” and word choices (of your complete statement in bold) and the follow-up concerning the two journalists “tweets”. Honestly, I have no problem with either of their interpretations, simply because of the actual content of your “complete” statement. Your own words tell the reader the following:
    You have the greatest respect and admiration for “Persons of Color” living in Florida, who have not, will not, (or at least have not “YET”) resorted to VIOLENCE… in protest of what YOU “feel”… is clearly an unjust and “Un-American” verdict in this trial. And the proof of your admiration for those people, is that YOU lack the stoic tolerance to that injustice, because YOU would have resorted to VIOLENCE if you were a person of color, living in Florida. After all, why take a brick to a protest, unless you PLANNED on using it on someone… or something… and that’s advocating VIOLENCE. No VALID reason to bring it otherwise. What was it you said?? …such a travesty for GZ to bring a gun to a fist-fight, but here YOU say it’s OK to bring a brink to a “peaceful” protest, and those that DON’T… stand taller than the “average” citizen???? Free speech and the ability to voice your “personal” opinion is indeed a right we have, and I served our nation to protect that right. But take responsibility for YOUR words, because the “content” was NOT mis-characterized. I too admire those citizens of this great country, White, Black, Hispanic, or “whatever” that in spite of their own opinions about the “verdict” in this case would NOT… and I repeat would NOT… even think to bring a brick, when exercising their Constitutional Right to assemble and engage in PEACEFUL protest, or for exercising their right NOT to.
    In previous posts you complain bitterly about the comments made when ALL the protestors were lumped in with the (I think your take was it was a very small number) protestors that vandalized property, assaulted INNOCENT people…and it was UNFAIR to include that group of people, and characterized the rest as THUGS… I agree with you, but your own words tell us that YOU (if you were a person of color in Florida) would be ONE of that group of THUGS.. After all, YOU would bring a brick, just like they did…

    Say what you mean, mean what you say, or keep your mouth shut. (or finger off of the keyboard.

    • I said exactly what I meant, and meant exactly what I said, and as I type this, my hands remain on the keys, much to your chagrin, I am sure. But your rationalizations about what you think I said or should have said are, to my mind, unnecessary to understanding what I actually did say, and why.

      • No Mr. Simon you are mistaken, incorrect, (yet again…) in your own word choices, as having you reply to my post was and as expected, which was to simply dismiss the entire content out of hand because I disagreed with you.
        I am not dismayed, disappointed, or humiliated (…much to your chagrin, I am sure….) with having posted my comments and then reading your reply. I too said what I meant. Have a great day!

        • Hey Jim,

          I think Mr. Simon was only kidding when he said “much to your chagrin.” Sarcasm is something that doesn’t translate well onto the internet as I’m sure we all know.

    • I don’t live in America, and I am fearful when I go there because of the gun laws. This blog post has shown me your courage, but at the same time confirmed my fears by reading all the other replies that have defended the death of this boy. The true meaning of bitter sweet.

  • Question: If SYG is the culprit, why wouldn’t you direct your hypothetical brick toward the Statehouse in Tallahassee instead of the Courthouse in Sanford?

    • What makes you think I haven’t been doing exactly that for a year? Did you read the linked article? I’ve actually been addressing the law all along and saying very little about the judge or jury. And the hypothetical brick is not only hypothetical, it’s symbolic, as is the courthouse in that sentence.

      • My question wasn’t intended as criticism. I understood from reading your post (which I found moving) and the linked article that your issue is with SYG. I agree with you. For that reason, I just thought the symbolic brick would be better directed at the Statehouse where, as you astutely observed, the legislators and governor have blood on their hands.

        I grew up near Sanford. I spent many summer hours at the old zoo across from the then new courthouse while my small town lawyer father attended hearings there. I left Florida a long time ago, but this case seems so personal and what it reveals about us makes me so sad.

        Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  • WAIT, WAIT, folks, strike everything I said below. Maybe social media is good for something: exposing the documented racism, sexism and violent criminal record of a recently acquitted child murderer:

    I’m soooo surprised that the media buried this detail over the last year or so. Given the cognitive dissonance of those that couldn’t fathom that a part-Latino man might have racial bias against a black teenager, I’m pretty sure him expressing racist sentiments towards a different sub-section of the Latino community might have caused heads to actually explode.

  • I used to really enjoy Twitter, but after a while, it started to feel like talking to myself in public. Not sure if that makes sense.

  • I use Twitter to see what people I am interested in, whose thoughts I value, are interested in. It isn’t a forum useful for intellectual discourse, and nor should it be. I do believe that condensing a thought to 140 characters is a bit of an art form, which at times forces me to use the vocabulary which I have to express what I want to express. I’d say it’s kinda like poetry, but nah, it isn’t. In a way, maybe.

    Mistah Kurtz, he dead. I used to have a modicum of respect for him, and believed he was trying to strike a balance between ideological extremes in his media criticism, but nope, he isn’t. His hooriness started to become more evident to me in the past couple of years, and my opinion of his descent into complete hoordom was cemented when he signed with Fox. I understand having to make a living, and trying to maintain the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed, but Fox? Really, Howard?

  • I doubt Howard Kurtz does his own tweets – or his own research anymore.

    Your statement was well written. That people would not took the time to read/comprehend your statement is, sadly, de rigeur for too many in our country – as is the startling reality that too many other folks are incapable of comprehending it.

  • Twitter is a Mecca for taking others’ comments out of context. People love the hyperbole and when something as vivid in its imagery as marching on a courthouse is mentioned, they stick on that point, even if the intent to riot wasn’t being expressed. And they do it in this 148 or so character format. How can any serious discourse even be applied when your ability to speak at any meaningful length is practically shanked? To even try usually ends up an exercise in futility.

    I don’t intend to presume as a non-journalist, but I would think any journalist worth his salt should know misquoting or misrepresenting someone’s words is one of the most dangerous things to do in the business, and, frankly, it rankles of journalistic dishonesty.

    I doubt it was so much willful stupidity as trying to fire some shots from the twitter geyser of bullshit. Best to stay away from that.

    • Cheeky? WTF?

      Said what I said and said what I meant to quote the good Doctor Suess. Did I think that 15 percent of readers would rumble through the stops and miss the flip on that rhetoric? I did. You always lose that fifteen percent. If I argue down to that level, I don’t land the idea hard enough with the rest. Did I think I would lose some of the grown-up professionals who make their living with words. No. I expect the Drudge Report or Fox or whoever to lose their shit at the first opportunity. Who can care? But you expect the grown-ups to focus, and if they don’t, that’s really on them.

      The alternative is to dumb down. Nah.

  • You’re an asshole…ashamed to be an American? You make me sick…leave…go to a better country then

    • No, think I’ll stay and piss you off.

      Dissent is the most American thing there is. Which makes you, right now, at this exchange, kind of a shitbag as a citizen.

      • Not much of a fan Mr. Simon and certainly don’t care for some of the choice of language used here but I must agree with your remark on dissent. I served in the USMC so people could dissent. Indeed dissent IS the most American thing there is!

  • Twitter? Whatever. Just another useful way to waste some time. My beef with Twitter (and social media in general) is how those in power are now using it to lord it over the rest of us. In my own profession, we have social media policy which basically prevents us from speaking our mind in case we lose our jobs. Welcome to the machine. The more I think about this world, the more I dislike it.

    Facebook is way worse. Facebook is a total disgrace. All those people carefully presenting their manicured lives. It is another exercise in deception, of those who partake, and those who watch. Madness. (Also, lets not forget the NSA have decided to “take it all”)

    Do I do it? Fucking no choice at the moment, I’m locked into the beast.

  • Well, he apologized, but here’s how he did it: “Simon takes himself far too seriously, as usual, but he’s right in this case, and I’m sorry.”

    Just apologizing sans the nasty just wouldn’t do, of course. Man’s got a reputation to protect.

    • Close enough for me. I’m looking not to be misrepresented. I’m not interested in a pound of anyone’s flesh.

  • My brother played in the NFL for eight years; three were in Miami. I remember him saying, particularly in Miami, guys would come up and try to pick fights with him all the time when he went out. They would insult him. They would insult his wife. At first he wanted to fight them all. Then my dad yelled at him, “You can’t fight every guy who takes a shot at you. If you fight one guy, there will be ten more lined up to make a name for themselves.” My brother asked back in so many words, “Then what do you suggest I do?” My dad’s advice: stay out of bars and dance halls…in other words avoid watering holes where strangers congregate…especially if the strangers are potentially inebriated.

    I do think you have a bit of the same problem. When people take a shot at you, and then you acknowledge them, they are “making a name for themselves.”

    Perhaps that is what you are doing by avoiding Twitter…avoiding the virtual watering hole. I don’t blame you one bit. If you did get on, you would have your fair share of provocateurs.

    All that said, right now you have a very nice existence on Twitter. People mostly just sing your praises and promote what you write and say. Do you search yourself? It seems to me it is mostly your fans spreading your messages.

    • You are right. I know that twitter is not a medium for me. It doesn’t convey what matters to me. It can’t.

      My frustration with it as a forum though is what happens not so much to me, but to my kids. And by kids, I mean the arguments that I want to send into the world, either to sustain themselves on the merits or to be trumped by some better idea or to morph organically into something better for grinding up against something substantive. It pisses me off to see a good argument wasted, particularly if I manage to get my shit together and undertake the effort at a point when the issue is topical. It’s like raising a kid and filling him up some interesting potentialities and then he goes off to school and he’s assigned to the slow class. The teacher doesn’t care, the disciplinary problems are taking up half the classtime, and the rest of the kids have no expectation at all.

      • Never wanted to post but read your commentary and the sad series of misquotes, out-of-context tweets and realize the idea of the restraint people of color show has been lost on some. Thank you for the post, have been feeling out of sorts past few days and couldn’t put my finger on it. Then realized talking with many friends that many EXPECTED this decision. Just feels like a sad day.

        Thank you for stirring the pot

  • I thought your original essay was perfectly on the mark, and really captured what many of us feel. Btw, about 20 or so years ago, I sat next to you at the bar in Regi’s in Federal Hill. I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation you were having with the barkeep, but I’ve always regretted not taking the opportunity to express my admiration for your work. IMHO, “Homicide” is still one of the best nonfiction crime books ever published.

    • Twitter is a huge water cooler. Before I realized this, it seemed completely useless. For a writer, it might be a venue for exercises in haiku. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of your work, and glad I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you.

          • This kind of stuff keeps me coming back to Twitter. There was a trending topic, #TamponGate and people were saying the funniest stuff — the best being all the lines about guns replaced with tampons (You’ll have to pry my tampon out of my cold, dead hands, etc). It was a raucous good time. Mine’s a little lame, but fun in the moment, and faithful to the 5-7-5 pattern. 🙂

            Phallic guns ok
            Tampons shall not pass these gates
            Separate, not equal

    • Though certainly, I am sure they would enjoy some of your fearmongering, dystopian descriptions of fierce young black men who scare you so on the streets of Washington. Subtlety of any sort is not your game, Mr. Majors. You’ve made that clear to everyone.

      • Yawn. I’ve had clients and myself threatened with rape by 13 year olds who then became confused and actually apologized when they realized one of the three people they were asking “do you like black cock?” was male under a down jacket and hood. (And I do, just older and more educated black cock.). I’ve had gangs of DC kids hit my car with a large rock as they apparently do to public buses from the posters up around town. Now it appears that part of the tragic brew in Sanford is that Ms. Jaentel suggested to Mr. Martin that a man following him as he wandered through a gated community was a “predatory” gay, and that there may have been an element of gay bashing — a monthly occurrence in DC, committed against people of all races, but committed like most crime here mainly by young blacks, the people must dehumanized by government schools, government economic policies, and the drug war. Pretending that cities are safe and that all teens are angels is a form of denial, I suspect occasioned by the deniers complicity in the causes of the underlying problems.

        I read a group has already assaulted a Hispanic man in Baltimore and said they were doing it “for Trayvon.”

        • Wow. I’ll bet you nearly got your pith helmet knocked off quite a few times, Bwanna.

          I spent two decades reporting in the Baltimore ghettoes, including a year spent with a shift of homicide detectives and another year on the corners of a drug-saturated neighborhood. You know who I encountered, Mr. Majors? Do you know who I experienced in the vast majority of cases?

          Human beings. Some of them under great duress, some of them wounded and self-defeating, some of them engaged in acts of great kindness and even heroism. It wasn’t Beirut. It wasn’t something out of Dante. It was an American city, and it contained people who were, despite their struggles, utterly and palpably human.

          Get the fuck over yourself. Your initial depiction and stereotyping of black teenagers as a means of using their less-than-human status to argue your political agenda is shameless and racist. You want to make a libertarian case against government, feel free. Do it without dehumanizing young black males as a means to your end. Christ.

          • Your experience of urban life doesn’t seem superior to or longer than mine. In fact it seems that your denial about so called “progressive” policies which are a major source of the dehumanization of poor people is what keeps you trapped in your construct where you think you are more racially enlightened than I am. I am simply not lying to people about urban teens being angels and cities being safe. And I am not funding candidates I support by selling black kids to “teacher’s” unions for my major source of donations, second only to those from bailed out banks.

            • If everything I ever believed politically was wrong, and everything you believe is correct, I would still stand easily on one simple premise: Folks that I encountered in my experiences, those that I came to know, people that I wrote of or depicted, whether fictionally or in fact, were acknowledged and understood to be human beings, not as political fodder or caricature. If you can’t see the problem in the purpose and tone of your initial post here, rest assured that others do.

              Keep marginalizing and demonizing the humanity of those you cite for political purposes, Mr. Majors. You’ll go far. American politics holds an honored place for that kind of soullessness.

            • Yeah, that’s the one thing I have noticed in all of Simon’s work: how he depicts all the black people, especially the young ones, as “angels,” and cities as being “safe.”

  • Would it be too far of a stretch to assume that the many every day American systems that enables to this day white privilege is so powerful and deep that it would attack with just as much force and anger a righteous (or just plain out right, as in correct and backed up by facts and logic) white man speaking cold hard ugly truths to powers and masses, as it would to those the systems are meant to dehumanize and exploit, amongst other things? When you have people with good ass jobs in powerful positions with so-called acclaim over decades put out a tweet so reckless and un-journalistic, one can only assume it was a hatchet job meant to discredit a credible white guy who would have the weight and gravitas to speak to those in the majority the truth. We all know that the truth has more of an effect for positive change when spoken from within the group or majority who is mostly afraid of or is resisting the truth and the change that can come from accepting it. Legendary Stevie Wonder boycotting Florida until SYG laws are changed: expected from a great man and talent who has always exhibited integrity. Could I expect Taylor Swift to do the same or Tom Brady to not play games in Florida, of coarse not (though I wouldn’t say they are of less integrity). Point is, the baseless attacks of David Simon by those who mischaracterize his words serve the purpose of having someone legitimate (aka white) from validating the truth and a stern warning to anyone else in the majority or power structure or beneficiaries of white privilege not to take moral stands by putting at minimum your name or more so your career or livelihood on the line, all in the name of righteousness. thank you

    • I’m not so conspiratorial as that.

      I think that rhetoric is a lost art at all points of the political compass. Fewer and fewer people are capable of or interested in arguing the nuts and bolts of an issue, or maintaining logic consistencies in a debate. There is too much instant gratification in the quick-and-dirty, in the ad hominem, in the hyperbolic rush to provocation for its own sake.

      There’s a lot of provocative shit to be said. A lot of argument to be had.

      But to what purpose? I get the feeling that the internet has democratized our national debate in some good ways, but it has marginalized actual ideas because they don’t lend themselves to either a sneer or a primal scream. I can understand it from non-professionals, but for those who have roots in the now-fallen church of prose journalism, it seems particularly graceless.

      I don’t feel particularly pilloried by anyone. Not more than anyone else venturing argument. I just wish what came back was a critique that I could take more seriously than carved-up quotes and pretend outrage. That’s not a purposed response on behalf of any oligarchial power structure; sadly, it’s just the best that too much of the commentariat today can do.

      • You are a better man than me for sure if you don’t flat out believe the tweet of Kurtz was purely meant to discredit you in some way or another. Correct me if I am wrong please, but would it be fair to assume that most corporations research departments are powerful as hell…their analytics game and how gathering information on people to determine their habits across the board as well as their RESPONSES is beyond thorough….Basically they know, if you are on the inside of a corporation that for instance, if you sent out the tweet Kurtz did that the average white person would be less likely to read or believe you and if they did read or comment on you, it would be negative in its intent and response, thus making your truth speaking less likely if at all able to resonate and help change things. When people have moved on and don’t care anymore, that is when he’ll give a correction. So yeah, call me conspiracy negro….

        • That would imply a plan. As I indicated from having watched Mr. Kurtz cover a news beat in a revolutionary time, I do not believe he plans beyond the day’s output.

  • I think that as more information leaks out, it becomes more and more apparent what a botch job the prosecution was and how unnecessary all the divisiveness is. The divisiveness only encourages those who think America need violent upheaval. They are not hiding. You can read the groups’ names at the bottoms of many protest signs. However, those who play on emotions and egg people on will not be the ones absorbing the batons and bullets. I am so disgusted with those professional incendiaries and the refusal of the news heads to report on all but a few.

    • I think this is dead wrong.

      You want to ignore the transformation in self-defense standards, but they have profoundly influenced this case throughout, from police investigation to jury instructions to the overall tenor of the legal contest. And there will be more bodies and more judicial travesties to come.

      Look to the systemic. Consider that there is a larger idea in play.

      SYG is legal lynching.

      • SYG was not argued in the case. You are correct that thete has been a change in societal standards for self-defense legal arguments. However, those standards have changed because of the crime experiences of people in FL and other states. As far as judicial and police travesties go, we will always have them, no matter how the criminal system is tinkered with. And the systemic (?) appears to have been influenced by government entities which should never have become involved.

        • SYG was directly given to the jury — by name — in the case. The standards of SYG were those that the judge asked jurors to consider. Check your facts.

  • I’ve twittterised your comment, and left out none of the intended meaning. I’ve taken out the weasel PC phrases. You can <a href="; title="thank me later "

    If I were in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward the courthouse in Sanford. Those who don’t are better than me.

    • No, you have not. You have failed. You have done so because what I said you are incapable of arguing intelligently against. But if you can find a way to be reductive, Mr. Truthseeker, you might just have an idea small enough for you wrestle with. Why do you need to twitterize a damn thing? Why not deal with the actual idea in full.

      Posts like this don’t add to the discussion here. They are reductive and an effort to eschew not only actual ideas, but to infantilize the rhetoric. I’m asking you to raise your game, please. I know that sounds condescending. You earn it with shit like that.

      • OK, time for a rant. I apologise but I’m on day 2 of an enforced no-smoking ban ‘cos I’ve run out of money to buy a pack of cigarettes, so I’m in NO MOOD for white liberal pussies.

        If I were a person of color in Florida, (Sick of the PC lingo. Hate it. Hate people who hide behind it. Hate people who use it to make themselves feel better about others they secretly despise and wish to control through their own rubber stamped propagandistic language. Hate how they have created a new lexicon of words and phrases they have decided are now acceptable, which they have decided must replace perfectly acceptable words in their quest for liberal domination. Hate how they want us all to blindly accept their fucked up lexicon without question. Who the fuck are these people who have put themselves in charge of the English language?

        Please bare in mind, I’m a student nurse wrestling with the uber PC concept of “cultural safety”. Do you have any idea how fucking annoying and pointless that is?

        Remove the PC and you’re left with “if I were a person in Florida”.

        We go on….

        I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.

        (This seems clear enough to me, it conveys exactly what it intended to do, however, since the first part is meaningless speculation, the get out of jail card, it’s akin to saying if I had a bomb I would blow up the Whitehouse, it’s idle speculation which means less than nothing – tough talk, but no action, exactly what I expect from a white liberal living deep in the suburbs with an affinity for the black man living in the ghetto).

        Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence…

        Jesus! The betrayal? What fucking betrayal? That the court system found a brother from another mother innocent? It angers me to suggest there was any betrayal..

        — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve.

        True enough as far as it goes. However, tying up the first par with the last par ” I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.”

        Essential meaning – if I had the fucking guts to do what I’d secretly like others to do I would do it, but since I’m a coward, I won’t. I’ll write some shit worded in a way where a great number of people will get my secret message, but allow me enough wriggle room to retain my own cowardness by arguing obliquely about the real message.. Man , you should write policy for the Obama regime

        • Let’s leave all that stand, shall we? On snide and half-assed drugstore psychiatry alone, it’s quite an artifact.

  • I never really got into twitter and deactivated my account some time ago. I signed back up once and immediately got into a colorful argument with a moron who was celebrating the anniversary of the Birmingham bombings. My account was suspended by twitter, affirming my idea that it isn’t for me.

    I signed up again last week as part of a campaign to hassle our fine governor (OH) over the mandatory ultrasound language added into our budget bill. The more I read on there, the more depressing it got. This post is yet another reminder about why I hate Twitter, so I deleted it again.

    Of course the point has been made that the technology itself is neutral. Of course it is, but I agree that it does nothing but add to our problems of lack of discourse and incivility. Maybe it’s my interaction only, but I haven’t seen much else over the years. It’s the equivalent of running into a crowded room, shouting something and running back out again.

      • Yep. As a lesson of what could happen if the election didn’t turn out in his favor. Charming, indeed. I used a lot of bad words in my reply and had my account suspended automatically. There was no one to call or email to discuss this. The only way I’d be allowed back in would be to click a box agreeing to behave myself. Insane.

  • I’m a twitter fan. I appreciate that 140 characters does limit the amount of quality information that can be contained in a single tweet but this doesn’t mean that the medium sucks. It’s an excellent way of sharing links to information and expressing a succinct opinion.

    I doubt if we read a blog post for full page of newspaper by Howard Kurtz or John Podhoretz it would be likely to contain any better quality of information. I’m surprised that 24 hour news channels haven’t taken and distorted your comments yet.

    Twitter can encourage hot headed, information-weak and under-informed noise, but some people could generalise that about the Internet as a whole. I’ve seen people on twitter learn, grow and apologise (surely the exception, not the rule). There’s good along with the bad.

    • Twitter suffers from the very real problem of NOT being an effective medium for communication, as it’s quite literally impossible, in most cases, to have a succinct opinion that is actually informed and informative. It’s the most appropriately named service I think I’ve ever seen, as it’s users are literally tweeting nonsense, not unlike a cockatiel making friends with it’s mirror reflection.

      It is, inherently, afflicted by a lack of theory of mind.

      The following quote is often misattributed to Mark Twain:

      “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.” This quote is by the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal (1623-62), written in a letter to a friend.

  • I agree with your points about twitter, but I’m not sure it’s fair to be so upset that you are being misunderstood. Your original statement is less than clear, especially for someone as good at writing as yourself.

    The colloquialism “if I were _______ then I would _______” is not usually used in the way you used it. It is usually used to imply “there is a different course of action that should be taken by the person or group I’m talking about.” Like, “If I were Mike Woodson I would have played Shumpert a lot more in the final game against the Pacers.” That implies Shumpert should’ve been played more. If I want a setup to explain that Woodson’s choice was ultimately a good one, that’s not the structure I would use.

    When you say the stoic tolerance is more than we deserve, you are saying we deserve riots (by grammatical logic, not intent). I fully understand what you were trying to say, and agree with it, but again, I think it’s a little intellectually dishonest of yourself to be so up in arms about this misunderstanding. Could you really not have written that paragraph in a clearer, more direct way?

    • Clear enough I think if you can understand a compound thought.

      I am saying we deserve riots. Just as we as a nation deserved rioting in 1968. Just as that rioting, however destructive and tragic in the immediate act, resulted in the transformation of American urban policy and a racial dynamic in which African-Americans made it clear, finally, that they would not accept second-class citizenship.

      I meant every word. If I were African-American, if my son wasn’t safe to walk the streets of a residential neighborhood without being profiled by race, if his slaying would most certainly result in no sanction whatsoever because of his race, then I would rebel against a rigged game. I would see little reason, after that legal manslaughter under the mechanism of SYG, to believe that I shared the same citizenship as others. That’s me. That’s my limitation, freely confessed. It is not a call for rioting, or an encouragement to riot; but neither is it anything other than a statement that civil unrest, if it came to this society now, after such a hallmark verdict, would not be an irrational act or an undeserved outcome.

      And then I acknowledge my admiration for the fact that African-American citizens are indeed still waiting for their rightful place in this society — a level of patience and dignity that I find astonishing. My language, in total, says what I mean. It does not say more than what it does. For that you need to omit some of it or mangle it, as is the case here. But neither does it mean less. I chose my words with considered care, and frankly, these two fellows and those who take their hook in their mouths are, I believe, omitting some of those key words with equal care. There is a reason the second sentence is eschewed entirely and that reason is not confusion.

      • Interesting reply, I think I am understanding what you are saying more. Ok – so maybe dumb question but if the society deserves it why not call for rioting? Rational self interest? Maybe I am getting into semantics here, but it seems like “deserves” is a fairly reasonable proxy for “should happen.” Should we riot, or do we just deserve it?

        • Think of it this way:

          That passage is written for white and other-race citizens who are content with this verdict. It is saying to them: If you reap what you have sown here, do not profess surprise or believe that the ensuing tragedy will be unwarranted. And the same passage says to African-Americans: Thank you for persevering.

          The sociopolitical results of civil disturbances are not necessarily all negative. American history argues otherwise, going all the way back to the Haymarket, for example. But neither are they the optimal or least tragic path to change. Innocent people are harmed, property is destroyed, psychic wounds are inflicted on racial or class comity. There is a cost that we would all rather not pay. Optimally, more Americans take a hard look at this verdict, at SYG laws, at the denigration of African-American citizenship that results from such outcomes and turns away from this path before the inevitable violence. But that’s on all of us, isn’t it?

        • Just speaking for myself — I’d go with, let’s not riot, but if people do, they can hardly be blamed. The fact that the vast majority of protests thus far have been peaceful is a testimony to the dignity and endurance of the American people and their respect for Trayvon’s memory.

          But when we live in a society that has proven itself to be unjust and unequal, what level of law & order have we got a right to expect?

          • Let me recommend a novel to everyone: “Hard Revolution,” by George Pelecanos.

            Food for thought if you believe that change in America is always possible through the political infrastructure or through benign and non-violent dissent. MLK was essential for the non-violent promise inherent in the advancement of civil rights. But so was Malcom X in asserting for the inevitable costs of continuing to ignore the necessary work of making African-Americans full citizens. And when MLK was murdered, “by any means necessary” was an obligatory voice that mattered more than the message of non-violence. Carrot and stick, because some people and some institutions will never respond to only one.

            I am glad to see this much overall restraint from African-Americans thus far. I hope for the best. But I understand the legitimacy of the worst if there is no change in this barbaric dynamic that ended Mr. Martin’s life and is ending others. I wrote what I did in the hope of making others understand it. I stand by it entirely.

          • I get it.. I do. I want to burn shit down as well. But when the embers fade, you’re left with? It’s like the occupy movement – replace capitalism with? “Uhm, no fucking idea, dude, I just like living in a tent – here smoke this!”

            Remember that kid at school who always had a furry pencil case stashed with ten different rulers, and fifty different pens? And yet that bastard wouldn’t lend you one if you forgot your own? That man is now in charge.

            I honestly believe we need a revolution but we need to know what to put in in place of the current system of dehumanisation. And since we’re all fucking idiots, would it make any difference at all? Whatever we come up with is doomed to fail. Hopefully, the aliens who cloned us will come down and rescue us. Soon.

  • …I’m getting the impression that Twitter is called Twitter because it’s used by twits? A hammer can build a house or bash-in a head…it’s not the fault of the hammer. As for the brevity of twitters, my writing improved greatly when I restricted myself to papers upon which I could only write 100 words or 200 words: a “book” like Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy can be reduced to that few words or expounded in that few first before being expanded into the final manuscript…fewer words can lead to each word being golden. Last; why should Twitter display more cogent language than normal drivel conversation? I’ve never used Twitter so what do I know from nuttin?

    • Agree.

      Some media reward brevity. Other detailed discussions require more exposition. It’s when the wrong medium is put to the wrong task, I suppose.

  • If these two (twitterites?) or any others have a problem with what David Simon says, then why don’t they come here where there is no word-limit on their intellectual discourse and say it?

    My guess is that fear plays a large part in their absence and a recognition on their part that they are no match for David Simon.

    Actually, that’s more than a guess. 🙂

  • Twittering thoughts about complex ideas like the interactions of race and violence in modern America is like performing heart surgery with a sledgehammer.

    Like others have noted, Podhoretz and Kurtz are using the wrong tool for the job, which might have something to say about these particular tool users.

  • twitter…facebook…instagram…I don’t get any of it. But, then again, I’m not a self-obsessed sixteen year old that thinks the world revolves around me and desperately craves my every waking action and thought, so what do I know…

    • I get it. I understand the utility perfect well.

      And I am entirely aware of the intellectual limitations.

      • But again, lots of things have intellectual limitations. Television, I’m sure you will agree, is but one example. And yet I don’t see you denouncing it as a medium. Surely you don’t, because while it has the capacity to dumb the public down, it can also educate and enlighten. It all depends on the programming, right? Same with Twitter. In fact, you have a lot more control there. Whereas with television, you purchase a bundle of channels and you’re stuck with them, on Twitter you can select the individuals and organizations that you want to follow. Thus your feed can be made up entirely of information you are interested in and people with whom it’s possible to have intellectually stimulating discussions with.

          • To be fair, I know you’ve railed against strictures there too as in the fact that it’s difficult to get an audience for a show like The Wire. That your shows are novelistic and therefore not great on TV. So it would seem you dislike brevity in all its incarnations. I somewhat share this view. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I think enough people are raising children who know how to read longform writing and discuss complex ideas in complete sentences. I think we’ll make it as a species despite Twitter.

            • I concede that I worry more about global warming and nuclear proliferation, species-wise.

              Twitter is a distant third.

              Again, I kid.

              • This is an aside, but I wonder if the next David Simon TV series would be served well at a place like Netflix, given their new business model and the option for customers to binge-watch an entire show. That could enhance the novelistic approach to storytelling. I’m sure a hundred people have already suggested this, though, and I sincerely hope I don’t come off as obnoxious for mentioning it. I’d just love to see shows like Treme in that format versus Orange Is The New Black (which has gone out of its way to embellish the memoir on which it was based).

    • Facebook I get. I can keep in touch with far flung friends and see baby pictures and such. You can also make groups on there with like minded people for actual discussions. Sometimes, unfortunately, I have to endure pictures of my 40 something friends wearing too little clothing and making duck faces. So it has its ups and downs.

  • John Podhoretz is a well-known moron.

    ?”I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.” — John Stuart Mill in a Parliamentary debate with the Conservative MP, John Pakington (May 31, 1866)

    • Conservatism can reach certain heights, make no mistake. There are some ideas in there.

      You would think, if you’ve read Mr. Podhoretz’s father, that he would be a more substantive presence in his own cause. It’s a little remarkable how far from tree.

      • Just going through the comments here, and this is kinda off topic (but I can’t help myself here) but Norman Podhoretz’s book “Making It” really is an appalling exercise in self-exaltation. I’m Chinese myself and tried to read it to understand American Jewry. I’m convinced that it was a distorted introduction. I think honest conservatives like Benjamin Wiker or Robert P. George are worth a thousand Podhoretzes–even though I can’t say I agree much with either of them.

        Growing up in the post-9/11 era, “conservatism” (superficially, at least) always seemed to mean “ignorant” (no doubt wholly connected to George Bush and his rhetoric/actions). That is, the type of thinking that animates pro-Stand-Your-Ground thinking.

        This is of course not true. The American oligarchy (for lack of a better term) that has overlooked he rise of the American national security state doesn’t deserve to be called “conservative.”

        • I don’t find much to agree with when it comes to the older Podhoretz. I’m adverse to his values. But he could sustain whole paragraphs and draw on some grand sense of the 20th Century and the geopolitical stakes and at the end of a column or essay you felt that he was trying to shape a big idea or two.

          To see his progeny reduced to twitter bursts of unfunny snark is just surprising to me. I would have thought the younger Mr. Podhoretz would have retained or even magnified his father’s ambitions when it comes to a big idea or two. But no.

          But hey, your mileage may vary.

          I’ve read some George. Wiker, I will investigate. Thx.

          As for American Jewry, at this point we cut a wide swath. The old political stereotypes are just that, and whatever else you think of the elder Podhoretz, he struck out on his own at a time when it was not easy to buck the entrenched liberalism of American Jews, especially in New York. It isn’t a trail that beckons to me, but hey, he blazed one.

          • Thanks for the reply.

            It’s a fascinating topic to me as an immigrant (I’m in Canada) who knows little about the topic.

            Full disclosure: I come to the Jewish diaspora in North America through guys like Norman Finkelstein (“The Holocaust Industry”). Norman’s actually a friend of mine and the most divisive Jew I know (also one of the most unusual human beings I’ve ever met in my life; I admire him tremendously). His experience as an American Jew is fascinating to me.

            I agree on Podhoretz (both of them). On “bucking the trend,” American Jews like Chomsky (who’s less of an ideologue than most people say he is I think) and Finkelstein are the best examples I think. I have to say that the current Jewish establishment (and institutions) is not an accurate representation of the wide range of American Jewry.

            I actually just got out of J-school. I’m afraid Twitter is being emphasized as the primary weapon of the “citizen journalist.” A pox on both their houses (J-school and Twitter, that is)!

            @stevenzzhou88 😀 😀

            • Godspeed if your bliss leads you to prose journalism. I do think that the revenue stream will eventually solve itself and that high-end journalism will endure. It is a grand way to learn something of the world.

              • Thanks. Off topic: By good fortune, I had a chance to spend about an hour with Robert Fisk once at a bar. I’m not sure how well you know Benjamin Busch, but the next time you see Mr. Busch (or speak to him), tell him Fisk says that his book “‘Dust to Dust’ reads like Conrad–only better.” I immediately bought it the next day.

  • For meaningful, thoughtful, and nuanced twitter-dialogue, I recommend reading Joyce Carol Oates’ feed.

      • It’s also quite good for comedy. Lots of comedians have fun twitter feeds that they use for short, often one-off jokes. Pretty much everyone I follow on twitter is a comedian, and the medium works well for amusement.

        • Agree. If only the American political dialectic was being played for mere laughs, we’d be fine.

  • I can’t emphasize this enough: Twitter is, without a doubt, damaging human intelligence and discourse. Don’t read it. Don’t promote it. Don’t use it. I’m horrified to think of what it’s doing to still-developing minds, who will probably never be able to write a decent college essay, let alone a journal article, or a book.

    It is impossible for any statement of any meaning to be contained in 140 characters. The site’s sole positive purpose is in getting out small soundbites of news or pictures from countries where the media has been completely politically suppressed. The rest is all people commenting on their own bowel movements, literally or metaphorically. (Including the two you quoted here!)

    • Using Twitter is in no way incompatible with the ability to write, think, etc. Like any other medium, you can use the Internet to get smarter or dumber. What people choose to do is a reflection on them, not the medium.

      We use tools. They do not use us.

      • It has a function, and a relevant one to the modern communication model. It is actually destructive to substantial discourse to use it as a medium for even the most casual debate or argument. At its worst, it destroys intelligent argument.

      • Okay, but here is what I’m saying — imagine that no book, no journal article, no political or other speech, no play, etc., could be longer than 140 characters. Whatever a person had to say would have to be kept to that limit. Imagine, indeed, that we could only speak to each other in sentences of no longer than that length.

        Furthermore, imagine that nothing of even this brief length could even be heard or seen by someone not already subscribing to that author, journal, etc.

        Would that not cripple discourse and intelligence? I submit that it would.

        As for it being a tool, I agree, but why use a pin-hole camera to observe the world when we have telescopes? Or a fortune-cookie strip to comment on it, when we have books?

        • Of course, if twitter sends you back to actual content, it performs an elemental service. If it supplants the actual comment, it is simply destructive to any dialectic. Notice that neither gentleman included a cite of the original post in their tweet. That would undo the inherent lie, of course.

          • I’ve been told by passionate Twitter-ers that I don’t understand the medium and that people frequently link to more substantial content and so on — but frankly, I doubt that users ever click through or read carefully even if links are provided. I suspect the medium itself encourages a short attention span. Besides which, if you take an hour or two to actually read up on the subject, the “trending” topic (still gagging on the verbiage here) will be gone.

            I’d be curious to know if there was ever a subject that held Twitter’s collective interest, as a topic of conversation, for more than half a day. Not being sarcastic here — if anyone can think of an example, I’d be interested.

            • In all seriousness, have you read the studies in which the pronounced trend toward the internet and social media is changing the human brain and modes of cognition? There are behaviorists who believe we are less and less capable of absorbing, processing and addressing complex thought.

              I hope they’re wrong. The damage I just did to myself over the weekend. Damn.

              • Yeah, I’ve read some of those studies. And I believe them. I don’t use Twitter, but in using other forms of social media, you can almost feel your brain contracting down into soundbites — thinking of quick snappy sentences that will get attention and a laugh. “TL; DR” (too long, didn’t read) is a plague on our culture. When did it become uncool to have something to say?

                Social-media thinking is a certain skill akin to stand-up comedy, but it doesn’t have much to do with reasoned intellectual debate, which has to be fleshed out with examples, historical background, etc.

                I expect this and various forms of social-media anxiety to show up in the next DSM (well, if it doesn’t take them another 14 years to revise, in which case we’ll all be living as virtual entities in the cloud by then anyway, or whatever).

                • With regard to Mr. Kurtz, I followed his coverage of the media beat at the time that newspapers were beginning their decades-long implosion. In short, he had been handed a revolution on his beat and ought to have seized a big idea or two and addressed such. Instead, he was merely prolific. This conflict-of-interest here by this reporter, this layoff there, this journalistic bitch-fight across the way.

                  He never got around to addressing what Wall Street managed to do to the industry with its contempt of the product and its quest for short-term profit, or what chain journalism did to the role of American journalism in the civic life of most cities, or the corruptions of the prize culture, or the ridiculous failure of the entire industry to recognize that there was no online future without a revenue stream that had to include paywalls. He was late for the entire revolution.

                  But he sure wrote a lot of morsels. I almost believe he was headed for the twittering world even before it existed.

                  • True, Kurtz is a hack. Everyone in journalism knows this. There’s far too much coverage of the industry and far too little criticism in general. I was actually told in my previous job that my role was to be a reporter and not a media critic. I had posted a snarky comment about a competing publication on, yes, Twitter. Thing is, this guy and everyone else knew I would say the same aboit my paper and had in the past. But no, my job wasn’t to be a critic. I left that job for many reasons, but that was one of them. Who better than people who work in the field to criticize it when warranted? But because there are so few jobs, journalists have become lapdogs instead of guard dogs. It’s sickening.

                  • He never got around to addressing what Wall Street managed to do..Do you ever stop and think maybe his bosses wouldn’t let him hit those topics? Maybe you need to cut the guy some slack , Mr Institutions corrupt.

  • Dan has hit the nail on the head.

    Twitter isn’t the problem, In this case, Podhoretz and Kurtz are. Any medium can be used for good or ill, just like any law enforcement asset, right David? 🙂

    • You have to admit, though, that the medium has some serious inherent limitations. A person’s breadth of influence on Twitter only extends to their “followers” — an odious concept in title alone — whom must be curried, the first step towards people dampening their true, deeper, more-nuanced thoughts. Celebrities have all the more cachet there than elsewhere for this reason, as a “retweet” from a celeb is the quickest way to gain more followers. It doesn’t take much for an Ashton Kutcher or a Kim Kardashian (nothing against them as people) to have more influence on Twitter than anyone else.

      What it leads to is an insular community that’s incapable of carrying on an extended, meaningful conversation, despite being plugged in 24/7. If you sign off to attend a lecture or movie or play, or read a book, or just live life in general, the conversation will have moved on entirely, not that it ever got very deep. Provocative yet inaccurate statements are the order of the day. It’s all about attention. Truth is irrelevant. (Witness how quickly and easily fake death or other news rumors run rampant on Twitter before being shut down.)

      A quick perusal of the trending topics (“trending”, again an odious concept — this is a site built around popularity and rehashing, based on the very linguistic terms it uses) on any given day will show the collective intelligence, and it’s never very impressive.

      Not bagging on anyone that uses the medium! It is a powerful community in some ways, and it is a good way of getting a few bits of minimal news or pictures out in emergency circumstances, as I said in my other post. I’m just saying that there are very serious flaws built into its structure, in terms of encouraging intelligent discourse. Would that it goes the way of the passenger pigeon and the smoke signal sooner rather than later.

      • (Sorry if I’m being too harsh about this subject, btw! I’ve hated Twitter since it debuted and can rant about it to the high heavens all day long, possibly with a bit too much energy. I know I’m swimming against the tide of society on this one.)

      • If Twitter was a news stand and the best-selling magazines were celebrity rags, would you say the entire news stand is useless? There’s your response to the celebrity issue.

        As far as inaccuracies spreading, I offer this:

        And as for extended, meaningful conversations, I have carried them out more than once on Twitter. More than a dozen times. More than two dozen times. I’m not the only one doing it. Is it an ideal medium for these types of conversations? No, of course not. but who said it has to be? That is an unfair demand to make of the medium. It’s like saying you hate sand and then complaining about it being everywhere when you go to the beach. But is it possible to avoid the sand and still have a good time? Most assuredly.

        Trending topics: I don’t have the time now to go into this. Of course they are usually idiotic. Again, what would you expect here? What would you expect in any forum where everyone has equal access to entry and equal ability to publish their 140-character posts? Let me be clear that I don’t consider those things to be negatives, or the end of civilization or any other hyperbolic statement people make about the fact that the Internet has leveled the playing field. Back to my point… if you went to a crowded supermarket (or bar or coffeehouse) in an average town in an average state and walked around and eavesdropped, what do you think you would find people talking about? The vast majority would be inane, banal chatter about nothing of consequence. Sound familiar? Out of 100 people, maybe 5 would be having an intelligent discussion or debate about a complex topic. Twitter is simply a reflection of human nature. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • I think we’re kind of getting towards the same point here — if I don’t like celebrity domination, or chaotically-reported, inaccurate news, or banal short-form conversation, I should stay off Twitter. Fair enough, as that’s what I’m doing…

          I don’t know about it being a reflection of human nature, necessarily, though. Human nature does tend to conform itself to its circumstances and surroundings. If there are sections of our brain we’re not using because of the dominant media we use to express ourselves, those sections will wither. Much as our appendices withered once we started eating cooked food, and our pinky toes are shriveling away because we wear shoes.

          I’m just saying I don’t want to end up like one of those plugged-in floating blobs in WALL-E that forgot how to walk, is all.

      • I would submit that “community” is also the wrong way to think about it. The more I winnow the accounts I follow, the more I favor institutional (mainly media) accounts, and people who tend to mostly post links. Twitter is basically useless for anything else – certainly for debate or discussion of any kind.

        As a real-time news feed, it’s actually pretty great, but you have to shape it to be that, and avoid following the weenies, yammerers, flamethrowers, narcissists, and obsessives. And you can never *totally* escape them.

        • I can see it being useful as a news feed, but for my own reasons, I refuse to be plugged in 24/7 — not saying anyone should feel the same. I just personally feel that thoughtful commentary on or understanding of any news story is only possible after a period of study, investigation and reflection, so I’m resistant to using Twitter for that purpose.

          Hell, I already stopped watching television news ten years ago, because they’d turned news into a 24-hour cycle — Twitter’s turned it into a 1-hour cycle!

          • Right. But my point is that Twitter can *lead you* to thoughtful treatments. It has led me to many such that I otherwise would never have seen. The problem is that it’s also polluted with nonsense, which you have to wade through. You can minimize it, but not eliminate it.

            One big problem is the Twitter fundamentalists, one of several flavors of techno-fundamentalism. I just wrote this today:


  • Twitter, with a few talented and honorable exceptions, doesn’t do nuance. I’ve been a pro writer for 30+ years, and I seldom try anything nuanced there. (Even simple irony often gets lost in the packet switching.) It’s the last place on the Internetz where I’d try to critique a complex piece, or even a complex paragraph. That both Podhoretz and Kurtz tried merely illustrates Dan Mitchell’s observation about them.

  • I think number two is more likely. i would posit that all of their thoughts could be easily reduced to 140 characters with no loss of intent.

  • I have big problems with how people use Twitter – especially the Twitter obsessives and flame-warriors who have basically wrecked the thing. I have written extensively about it (I’m in the middle of doing so at this moment, in fact.) But both Podhoretz and Kurtz were odious creatures long before Twitter came along, and if they had expanded at any length on these limbic responses, they wouldn’t have made any more sense.

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