Is Twitter ruining American politics?

Relax, birdie, it's not all your fault

No, I'm not talking about tax breaks.

Our pals at Calbuzz, who are never dull, argue that the 140-word-ization of journalism is, well, screwing everything up.

Three reasons:

It makes everything as important as everything else. For political reporting, the mega-tweet eternal motion stream devalues perspective, judgment and reflection, enabling every 23-year old knucklehead with an iPhone to distort and drive a campaign narrative that favors the trivial over the substantive – Santorum’s wearing a sweater vest! — the immediate over the consequential – Trump’s endorsing Romney! – and events over ideas – Newt and Mitt are both headed to Tommy’s Ham House!

The result: a second-by-second, self-contained and self-referential closed feedback loop.


It enables the spread of bad information. Nothing in the 2012 campaign illustrates the dark side of Twitter as much as the sensational story of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley getting indicted for tax fraud. Except she didn’t.


It makes people stupid. Exhibit A: See Weiner, A.

Twitter magnifies all our most asinine urges by eliminating the possibility for any sort of subtlety. In 140 characters, you can’t accomplish anything particularly wonderful.

I agree with the premise. But it's not Twitter's fault; Twitter's just a tool. It's the idea that everyone should report and re-report every trivial thing that happens (or maybe does't happen) in a mad rush to be the first with it and get all the traffic. I'm guilty of that and so is everyone else. The 24-hour news cycle is now an 86,400-second news cycle (did I get that math right? If I'm wrong, ya better Tweet it quick).

You can't blame technology or the applications it creates for turning us in the news business into a bunch of attention-starved maniacs who put stuff out there without checking the facts. That's happened for years: In the old days when there was real newspaper competition in big cities, and papers like the New York Post and Daily News put out half a dozen editions a day -- and sometime's "EXTRAS" with blaring headlines, the pressure to be first with the news, any news, was intense. It slowed down a little in the 1980s and 1990s when daily paper competition pretty much vanished, and TV news was still a 30-minute network thing, and nobody had to work as hard because the news cycle was whatever the local daily said it was.

Oh, and if the local daily didn't write about you, you didn't exist. I don't long for those good old day, not for a second.

But at some point in the furor of old-fashioned competition, some editors at some places adopted the old NY Times adage: Get It First, But First Get It Right.

The problem of our modern techno-world is that it's so easy for one mistake to be amplified a million times before anyone has the chance to catch up to the story and fix it -- and as anyone in politics knows, the denial (or correction) doesn't always undo the damage. Which is why digital journalists need to remember that they're still journalists -- and take a deep breath and call for confirmation before you blog and re-tweet.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that one.