We read an article recently in Colorado Politics that caught our eye. It was about Ready Colorado, a conservative reform group that advocates for school choice – “public, private, charter, traditional, magnet, virtual or home school.”
We are open to anyone with ideas for fixing education, especially if they are not spending more with no tangible improvement in sight. We want a vigorous debate where the best ideas rise.
The Ready Colorado article was about a new hire, “Veteran political consultant and Twitter warrior Tyler Sandberg,” who has been named Ready Colorado’s vice president. “Sandberg has cultivated a reputation as a pugnacious and sometimes truculent Twitter user,” it said, “and tells Colorado Politics his ‘vigorous approach’ won’t be restrained in his new position.”
This is not the kind of vigor we have in mind.
We have seen a new member of the U.S. House quickly amass more Twitter followers than Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While the platform is hostile to the substance of policy and debate, it is a remarkable tool for building a political brand, something President Donald Trump was quick to discover.
We still want the substance to occur somewhere, however.
Our qualms about Twitter were unallayed after the flap with boys from a Kentucky Catholic high school who had a misadventure near the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. a few weeks ago, leaving part of the nation inflamed and divided again.
It was The Smirk heard ’round the internet. Or was it?
Had you been on the mall that day, it is possible you would not have seen anything remarkable. What occurred when Nathan Phillips beat his drum by Nicholas Sandmann was a virtual event, largely on Twitter, in which a snippet of video, and even more, the mere thumbnail of the video, drove outrage and condemnation one way on one day, slipping the surly bonds of social media and becoming hot-take mainstream news; and then, after facts emerged and there was time for reflection, less than 24 hours later, reflection was itself attacked by people who insisted the hot take was the true take and anything else was gaslighting.
News media were wallowing in “a ruinous glut of certainty,” said Bob Garfield, a host of the public radio program On The Media. “It was as if the press ... were not just feeding on Twitter but turning into Twitter – which is to say, reflexive, emotional, careless and shallow.”
Katie Herzog, a staff writer at the left-leaning Seattle weekly The Stranger, reflecting on this, said that Twitter – “with no space for context and a reward system that encourages viral outrage – brings out all our worst instincts, my own included. Twitter feels to me like a battleground, like every time I log on, I’m ready to stab someone in the neck ...
“Something must change. Twitter drama is taking up too much space in the media and too much space in our culture at large.”
We are not naive enough to wish Twitter gone simply because we know it makes no difference: It will be with us as long as the rush works or until something even more enticing takes its place. This is true of social media generally. They do some fine things and they also cater to fallen angels.
Humans have had the Roman Coliseum, town criers, the telegraph, professional wrestling, CB radio, local access cable, fiber-optic cable, the Sims and iPhones, Reddit and Alexa, but nothing has supplied such a nest of malice and twigs.
Other than that, we wish Tyler Sandberg well in his new job.