I do not know a lot about Twitter. I really only just began to use it. I think I just got into my first Twitter skirmish, and it was informative.
Like all good stories, this one begins with “so there I was”. I posted a piece on James McPherson and the 1619 Project controversy and I noticed that a person with Ph.D. behind their name (honestly who does that on Twitter), posted a comment about how disappointing and sad it was that McPherson and other historians would criticize the project, and that “the way we do our work is important”. This person is a professor of history at a major university, criticizing another historian, an accepted expert on the subject at hand, and stated it was “sad and disappointing” that McPherson would find fault in this project.
I am no fan of McPherson, but he has written a lot on the subject of slavery, and this other person I have never heard of.
I commented essentially that if they were sad about McPherson’s critique and could not see the error themselves that spoke more to their qualifications than his and that good methodology was a friend. Ok, yes, perhaps provocative, but at the time I thought it appropriate. Their original post was a provocative attack as I read it.
The first reply I received was that my post was “embarrassing because I had obviously not looked at the person’s bio”. A blatant appeal to authority, a clear fallacy. I replied that I had noticed but it did not matter to me and my assessment stood as written.
What was most interesting was what followed. A trove of lemmings chimed in. Some said I could not comment on the issue because I am a white guy (who says that out loud). Others that I was mansplaining because the Ph.D. in question is a woman, or that I am a misogynist, etc. etc. ad nauseum. They conjured all of that from a few simple words from me, amazing.
As I said, perhaps I do not know a lot about Twitter. Perhaps a new guy with no followers ought not to call out someone with 2K drones following their words, ready to pounce. Maybe real Twitter wars happen when one guy with a bunch of lemmings says something to another guy and then their little ducklings fight it out.
This entire thing reminded me of a forum I followed years ago. Every once in awhile controversy and disagreement would break out. There was one camp on the boards that followed a guy called Jeff. Jeff appealed to authority all the time, he claimed to have been there and done it and that alone was enough to make his opinion better than others. He had a following that bought into his story no matter how banal his opinions at times. When disagreements would break out between the various factions, and Jeff was not online, there would be 20 posts from his followers with a variation of “wait to Jeff gets online and squares you away”.
Jeff would eventually post, usually to personally attack the credibility of the person making a counter-argument with one post. That would be followed by twenty or thirty “jeff told you, enough said” posts. It was insane.
I believe that is what Twitter might be. Echo chamber insanity, appeals to authority, bandwagoning, confirmation bias and a slew of other fallacies.
I have read that Milinials primarily get their news from Twitter. That is a bit troubling and not a small bit confusing. We have lost the ability to talk to anybody that does not agree with us, 100%, I perhaps count myself in that number as well. Without dialogue, a republic cannot long stand.
Update: Soon after posting this I had a dialogue with a socialist, a man that pointed out that Critical Theory was opposed by true socialist, who knew. Perhaps there is some use for Twitter. This man and I would never have spoken otherwise, me a paleoconservative and he a socialist, I would have happily proceeded to conflate the progressive and socialist ideologies together lock-step. It seems it is possible to actually talk on Twitter, and to learn something.