It's all downhill for Twitter, politics from here

It's all downhill for Twitter, politics from here

Summary: This week, "tax protesters" gathered across America to dump bagged tea into symbolic bodies of non-potable water and Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a Twitter follower showdown. I admire anyone who takes to the streets for their ideas and recognize the power of media, even when it is lowered to the level of counting masses of followers.


This week, "tax protesters" gathered across America to dump bagged tea into symbolic bodies of non-potable water and Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a Twitter follower showdown. I admire anyone who takes to the streets for their ideas and recognize the power of media, even when it is lowered to the level of counting masses of followers. Oprah followed me today. I have no idea why she did, other than to get followers, and that demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about social media.

First, the "teabaggers." These folks are protesting taxes in the nation with the lowest taxes in the developed world. They are mimicking the actions of their forebears, who were protesting taxation without representation—less than six months after the most participated-in election in at least a generation. They are not idealists, nor do they have any idea what they are talking about, but talk away they should so that someone might engage them in discourse and collectively we learn something.

Ultimately, it costs more money to reinvest in a developed economy than in a growing first-generation industrial economy. That's why we have taxes. The problem with our taxes is that, for the past 30 years they have been invested in the wealthy, which is why the United States and Great Britain, the forebears of Reagan-Thatcher top-down economic planning now suffer the largest wealth differentials between the average citizen and the richest one-percent of the population of any developed countries in the world. Instead of protesting taxes, these people should be protesting the indifference toward the middle class of the past 30 years and demanding even greater investment in schools, basic science and other seedings of future prosperity than the Obama Administration has imagined. That doesn't mean lots more taxes—we could do the same by simply cutting wasteful stupid spending returning half-way to the old top-income taxes of the past—it only means the priority becomes investment in the people, not a class that will save the people.

As for Mr. Kutcher, he seems like a nice enough guy. As a celebrity, he strikes me as the perfect attention zombie, stumbling through our screens to eat our brains. But the fact a television news network even bothered to compete with a B-grade actor over their popularity is a sign of how low we will stoop to conquer anything that can be defined as "high ground." Now, with Oprah glomming on to Twitter, we are seeing spamming by celebrities desperate to retain their mass-media reputations. Oprah touts more than 100,000 followers in less than a day because so many people auto-follow, whether using a program to do so or simply because they are flattered by Oprah's follow—that's a spammer strategy.

In both cases, teabaggers and Twitter follower races, we're seeing the aping of past behaviors, the Boston Tea Party and the popularity contests of high school and Entertainment Tonight!, turned into events that supposedly enact meaning, but are merely empty gestures. Tea baggers aren't patriots, they are people convinced they are paying too much in taxes (just about the only obligation this country asks of its citizens), when the debate should be about how taxes are spent, what to cut and, if more money is needed to make the world a better place for our children, who among the current beneficiaries of that system should pay higher taxes.

Oprah, Ashton and Ev (Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter), I will not be following anyone who for all intents and purposes is a celebrity bot seeking to claw some of my attention away for themselves. I am sure that today marks Twitter's high-water mark. Oprah's endorsement is like being on the cover of Fortune, which, surely, Twitter and Mr. Williams will soon be.

The utility of a social ecosystem is destroyed by false followers and other aggressive species that suck the air away from the genuine exchanges of ideas and information by individual members.

Topics: Banking, Government, Government US, Social Enterprise

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  • Close-mindedness of a Child

    I'm amazed you can sum of the Tea Party protesters in such a quick summary that none of them know what they are talking about. Since I will glance over your name and smirk instead of clicking your rants from now on I find this a fitting end to reading your mind farts. I always take my political leanings from technology consultants, I know they know just as much as movie celebrities. This article would have been so better served to explain the phenomenon of Twitter protest rallies (good or bad) then trying to subject your absolute truth opinion on people. Awesome fail.
    • Fine, goodbye.

      As the story makes clear: Popularity does not signify clear or correct
      thinking. I'm happy to alienate you if I am being truthful about my
      opinions. That's patriotism, too, to suffer the consequences of using
      my rights to disagree. It would be patriotic to tolerate the difference
      of opinion, but you resort to ad hominem insults. I said explicitly that
      the the protesters should feel free to speak out, even though they are
      wrong. Your message suggests I stop expressing myself. Feel free to
      continue saying I am an idiot, but be ready with more than "awesome
      fail" and "mind farts" as a counter-argument.

      With regard to the correctness of my opinions about the "Tea Party"
      protesters, I explained, albeit briefly, why I think they are a wrong-
      headed bunch. They did not in any way reiterate the Boston Tea
      Party's message, but came across more like a beer hall putsch. I will
      add that, after hearing all about liberal treason for all these years
      liberals toiled to win an election, the immediate and widespread call
      for "revolution," secession and other nonsense spouting from the far
      right now is the most disgusting hypocrisy yet.

      I think the two events, Ashton v. CNN and TeaBaggers, so close in
      time, speaks amply to the mindlessness of the times. Here we are in a
      real crisis of capitalism, which we must save to maintain freedom, and
      you stoop to name-calling in response to substantive criticism.
      "Awesome fail" is the language of a child, because it speaks to no grey
      areas at all amidst immensely complex times.

      Twitter protest rallies are interesting but not related to this posting,
      which has a lot more to do with the uselessness of CNN as a source of
      meaningful news than you recognized.

      As for your daft comment about my work and the viability of my
      opinions, apparently you think that no one with any profession other
      than politician should comment on public policy. Everyone, regardless
      of their smirks, is a citizen. This blog has long covered the media and
      technology, which are deeply intermingled with the political, social
      and cultural. I'd rather stand alone than go along with the crowd.

      Good riddance.....
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • You Are Right to Be Worried, Wrong to Expect More

        One of the most aware and intelligent postings I have seen in a long time. Still, you are wrong to expect more from your reading public (if indeed you do) since we all know what's happened with education in the past two decades.
        In discerning a behaviour pattern linking CNN, Ashton Kucher, Oprah and the Tea-baggers you expose a trend that few want to acknowledge - that America has itself come round to gagging on the cheap, uninformed, unintelligent crap its been serving the world for decades. Might I suggest that you should perhaps have structured your arguments around the 3 themes that can be discerned: 1) the power of ALL media to shape opinion and create/impact moments, 2) the inherent danger of a fractured and fragmented mediascape in a liberal democracy (you can substitute mediascape with "auto industry", "finance industry", etc.), and 3) the herd mentality that ensues when action is not preceded by deep reflection (a 21st Century American condition).
        I would like to see you write about the Role of New Media (such as Twitter) in Managing the Turbulence in American Culture!
    • I Disagree

      Twitter is nothing more that the flavour of the moment(I won't waste my time even debating it). The "Teabaggers" are using a pinnicle moment in US history and comparing it to their objections to the recent issues. The two do not event compare. While I understand and agree with their objections, it is not about democratic freedom. It is actually quite the opposite. They are concerned with the uncontrolled abilities of the financial insitutions and how they are attracting the criminal element. It has moved beyond freedom. It is about something more basic: truthfulness and responsibility. it used to be that a captain of industry would at very least have the honour to want their companies to succeed. "C" level (i.e. CEO) workers no longer have this. They are all about the money for themselves. Rules did not need to exist for these people previously because they respected their employees and were about progress. Now however, they are out for only themselves. These are not the same people that ran industry previously. These are the snake oil salesmen that have discovered a new way.

      Now if you want to ignore articles, Dana Blankenhorn's postings are a waste of time....
  • RE: It's all downhill for Twitter, politics from here

    that you dont know what you are talking about
  • I just cannot see the correlation

    THe tea baggers did not organize via Twitter as did Moldavia, for instance.
    The tea baggers were failed astroturf from Fox despite the denial on every Fox report filed noting that only Fox was covering tea bagging.
    The ridicule from some gay activists should have been expected. I guess they weren't looking towards left field.
    • Here's the correlation

      Empty-headed protest and mindless celebrity following on Twitter both
      help make people pawns for other people's ambition. When a news
      network joins in, that's a recipe for cultural and political domination by
      the owners of media.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • My take.....

        Do you people know who started the Tea parties? It was a CNBC reporter Rick Santelli that called for the tea parties at the Chicago Mercentile Exchange back in Jan '09. I don't think people really get the gist of why this is happening. Most people are upset, including myself with the one party big government system we have today. Republicans and Democrats each think that money will solve the nations problems and its the farthest thing from the truth. We believe that government should be run with more efficiency and targeted results, which as we all know is no where to be seen.

        We spend so much money on the wrong things it makes people sick, espcially those that have to work hard every day to make a living while taking care of their families and paying taxes. Sure people need help, and I support giving them help in a form that does not encourage abuse of the system and truely helps those get back on their feet. Throwing money at people will not help them succeed, it only gives them a quick buck to repeat the same old. I say the government be in the business of training and rehab that truley gives people the tools to succeed and not just a piece of paper with a president on it. I am living proof that money doesn't help you succeed, but that the tools acquired by education and working hard are the real keys to self sustained success.

        I do not support bank, auto, media or any other kind of bailout. I think our nation has lost its principals and has coward to everyone and everything. This should not be how our government is run and our nation's founders stated on many occassions the dangers of such actions. We should invest heavily in education first, Science, and protection of the people(and not financial protection, more like people gonna bomb you protection). All these federal programs of financial assistance and whatever else should be done at state levels and controlled on a local level. All we have now is this big huge tanker of a Fed, just breathing down everything and everyone. I believe in the system that was created by our founders and call me whatever, but I think that is why people are outraged and to be honest Obama just made people do a double take with his budgets and stimulus that people actually are stepping up. Its not about racism or who is in control at any given time, but for me its been a long time coming for the end to the big giant in Washington DC.
  • RE: It's all downhill for Twitter, politics from here

    For being a veteran journalist, he either has his head
    in the clouds....or the sand. He is clearly not attuned to facts and interprets the truth in the way
    he wants it understood!
  • Twitterers and Teabaggers

    My friend and I were talking about the ability of the new social media networks to allow people's voices to be heard. But the ease of access just allows too many voices to be heard, and in the end, we often just go back to the same names and brands that are familiar to us in "traditional" circumstances. isn't the best e-commerce site in the world, but it still manages to attract beaucoup traffic because of the brand it carries.

    So it is with Ashton Kutcher and Oprah, Britney Spears and Shaq. Do they have more interesting posts than the masses that follow them? Probably not. But it allows a new degree of celebrity voyeurism, the same kind that mades Entertainment Tonight or Star magazine a hit, but this time without the middleman.

    As far as the teabaggers, I don't understand the protests myself, and I'm not even sure all the protesters are protesting the same things. But I think a lot of the vitriol that was on display at GOP rallies this summer has carried over into a lot of sour grapes with the left controlling the White House and Capitol Hill. Hopefully it doesn't detract from a lot of the rational dialogue that needs to take place.
  • Look in the mirror see the real problem here. When you read about the stunning increases in the national debt, did the magnitude of the increase take your breath away? No? Then I suggest talking about things you may know something about.

    Not everyone thinks it's cool to pay $20 for a loaf of bread a few years down the road. A revolution is brewing, and you're laughing at what idiots these teabaggers are...
    • There may be a revolution

      but the teabaggers aren't its center, it's intellectual driving force or it's
      moral center. Empty-headed protest and mindless celebrity following
      on Twitter both help make people pawns for other people's ambition.
      When a news network joins in, that's a recipe for cultural and political
      domination by the owners of media.

      The debt soared under the previous administration and we're still
      feeling that administration's impact fiscally, because TARP came from
      the Bush Treasury. Yet, the protests were aimed at Obama, who is
      lowering taxes for 95% of Americans and a plan to, at least, reverse
      course on the deficits over the course of his administration.
      Everything about the protests shows that unfocused anger is out
      there, but taxes without representation aren't the problem.

      The price of bread may go up because of hyperinflation and shortages
      globally, but investments in fundamental sciences could change that.
      That's why a "mixed" capital economy with progressive taxation and
      strong but reasonable regulation are useful and less likely to lead to
      the collapse of unrestricted self-interest. That ways lies Bernie
      Maddoff, billion-dollar bonuses at investment banks and greater
      inequality of opportunity, the place we are today.

      I am not laughing at the teabaggers. They are wrong. I disagree with
      their argument and said they should continue to protest to drive
      dialogue that could teach us all something. But you're telling me to
      shut up, that I don't know anything without providing any counter-
      arguments to what I wrote. Unless you have something to add other
      that I am the problem, let's not waste one another's time. Because I do
      know what I mean to say and will happily debate anyone who wants to
      proceed without simply dismissing all dissent from their own point of

      Mitch Ratcliffe