It's time to talk about what matters in 2020: My Twitter mentions
The United States is teetering on the edge of a shooting war with Iran, climate change is laying waste to entire continents, the president is a two-bit crook, and the recent Trump tax cuts stuffed some $32 billion directly into the pockets of Wall Street. Clearly the America of 2020 is a land of contrasts.
Sadly, all that pales in comparison with one issue that lords over all others: the toxic state of my Twitter mentions. Nary a day goes by without the deranged partisans of one candidate or another heaping undeserved abuse on my head. It's a disgraceful indicator of the decline of civility and decorum in modern politics.
As an important political reporter, I rely on Twitter to keep my thumb on the pulse of voters around the country. (I assure you, I could quit anytime.) I need to know the thoughts of the soccer moms in the suburbs of Atlanta, the lacrosse stepmoms of Westchester County, and the marching band dads of Indianapolis — not to mention which candidate is dominating the wine track, the beer track, the raw milk track, the colloidal silver track, and the half-a-gallon-of-Carlo-Rossi-at-2-p.m. track. How am I supposed to understand the fears and frustrations of regular Americans without the wise comments of @MAGAmom1488? Talk to a taxi driver?
Yet these valuable nuggets of Americana gold are now buried under a veritable landslide of incomprehensible ad hominem attacks. The Biden Brigade is on my case like Marshal Soult on the Austrians in 1805. The Warren Wing is dive-bombing my account like Douglas SBD Dauntless planes on the Akagi in 1942. The #YangGang is launching bayonet charges on my mentions tab like the 20th Maine at Gettysburg in 1863. And I can't even take a bath without six or seven Bernie Bros jumping in with me.
Now, some argue that the internet is full to bursting with vile abuse, that all candidates with any significant number of supporters will necessarily have some stratum of genuinely horrible jerks (plus an unknown quantity of Nazi trolls deliberately trying to stir up conflict), and that verified journalists like myself are conflating the very real problem of online harassment with ordinary intemperate political debate. But this is nonsense. These strategic mentions-bombing campaigns are clearly coordinated by each candidate personally from their bunker headquarters under a mountain in Wyoming. They send out their kamikaze accounts in waves, losing dozens to the Twitter moderators, to silence my incisive questions and penetrating insight.
Yet I will not be daunted. I will continue to press these candidates to answer the questions the American people are begging to hear, like "What about your gaffes?" and "What's an app on your phone that you have that might surprise people?"
Nevertheless, I must admit all the maize-based attacks have left shreds of flesh drooping pitifully from my online body. So in keeping with my brave stand for accountability, I demand that all the candidates take personal responsibility for each and every person online who claims to be a supporter of theirs. (Unfortunately, my private letters to DNC Chairman Tom Perez asking the candidates to dinner have gone unanswered.) Only when each candidate has apologized personally to me, preferably in writing, will civility be restored, and we can bring back some of the hero journalists whose accounts were casualties of the posting wars.
Luckily, Twitter recently announced it was adding a new feature that would restore some of the pre-internet status quo — a mechanism whereby I don't have to see people disagreeing with me. That would go some distance towards removing the hanging nooses of the digital lynch mob from Twitter's public square.
I envision a brighter future, where political discussion can happen in the respectful, old-fashioned way — by falsely implying one's opponent has an illegitimate black child, or publishing racist opposition research implying one's opponent is a Muslim, or secretly sabotaging peace negotiations with Vietnam, or perhaps even the good old broadsword duel. But that can only happen when everyone realizes the most important thing about politics is one and only one thing — me and my social media accounts.
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