Twitter Helps Divide Politically-Aligned People

TwitterBack in September of last year, I wrote, Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders? Really?! It was about Clinton’s new book and the chapter where she complains that she lost because of Bernie Sanders. I think it’s well established that Clinton lost by such a small amount that almost anything you could mention changing would have put her in the White House.

But the truth of the matter is that Bernie Sanders was a very good surrogate for her. And in the end, as many Sanders supporters voted for her in 2016 as Clinton supporters voted for Obama in 2008. So to blame her defeat on Sanders is outrageous and makes her look small. Even though I’ve always been a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’ve also been a supporter of Hillary Clinton. And I’ve written a great deal about how from a practical standpoint — from the standpoint of getting laws actually passed — there wasn’t much difference between them.

Thoughtless Twitter Responses

But every time I publish an article, it automatically gets posted to my Twitter account. And I was none too pleased to see that I got this reply:

My Great Twitter Critic

It is true that I mentioned Hillary Clinton’s authenticity. But I mentioned it in the same way I mentioned it regarding Al Gore. These candidates have all their advisors telling them not to be the liberals who they actually are. I was not making the argument this twitter critic thinks I was: that Sanders was the authentic liberal and Clinton was not. What’s more, that whole point was a sidenote. It wasn’t what the article was about. Vastly more time was spent ridiculing people who think they must be politically pure.

The Article Was Against Purity and Authenticity

I even wrote:

My biggest concern about Bernie Sanders winning the primary was always that the Democratic Party establishment would be more interested in tanking his campaign than in winning the election. You can look at George McGovern in this country or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In the petty world of politics, the only things worse than your stated enemies are the people in your own party who don’t quite agree with you. Let’s call it the People’s Front of Judea theory of politics: the Republicans may be awful, but not as awful as people who disagree with you about how to provide universal healthcare.

That’s an attack on both sides: the true socialists like myself who won’t vote for the Democratic Party, and the conservative Democrats who won’t vote for a Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders.

Most Twitter Users Don’t Read the Articles Linked

My conclusion is that the twitter critic didn’t even read my article. (I will shortly publish an article explaining in some depth based on what I know from being an internet professional and knowing the research on how people “read” things online.) But that’s between her and her conscience. I’m more interested in what she thinks she’s accomplishing. I am a strong supporter of the Democratic Party. But she just labels me “a white male” as though that means anything. That’s just an ad hominem attack that doesn’t engage at all with what I wrote about.

Is Hillary Clinton right to complain about Sanders when he was a good surrogate for her? Is she right to complain about Sanders supporters when they voted for her as much as her voters voted for Obama in 2008? The answer is clearly no.

The Deeper Issue: Political Consensus

But there is a deeper issue that I made pretty clear: Democrats should be fighting Republicans, not Democrats they disagree with slightly on the issues. And it clearly isn’t just Clinton because this twitter critic thinks it’s most important to insult me as “a white man” as if that’s going to help the liberal cause any more than Hillary Clinton is going to help it by attacking a man beloved by the vast majority of American liberals.

The truth is, I’d probably like this twitter critic, and it would probably reciprocate. But Twitter makes it so much easier to dismiss and insult me than it does to engage in a discussion. But there was a lot of discussion in the comments on the article. But comments push people to think what they want to say. And Twitter let’s you act like a teen yelling out of a passing car.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

11 thoughts on “Twitter Helps Divide Politically-Aligned People

  1. I was exploring Errol Morris’s website today; I’d just finished watching his “Wormwood,” and while I had some criticisms, it’s an amazing piece of work. Like every documentary he makes.

    Well, he was a big Kerry supporter. And made a very apt analysis of Kerry’s campaign after he lost. Not that Kerry was inauthentic. But he seemed that way. Because Kerry spent most of the campaign hiding from his anti-war past. Instead, Morris wrote, Kerry should have embraced his ability to change his mind. He fought for the war; he realized it was wrong; he protested against it. Kerry’s campaign wizards argued against using this compelling story, and so we were left with Bush’s story. Onetime slob, saved by Jesus, now great wartime leader. Kerry’s campaign story was a muddle, and so was Hillary’s. A shame, because their losses harmed us all.

    I’ve had several people lately tell me I should be on Twitter. I can make the occasional funny joke. It just seems counterproductive to me. Having people “follow” you for a constant stream of (hopefully) witty putdowns, pithy opinions, etc. And I’m not interested in arguing with anyone. What does that ever accomplish? A respectful conversation between people with different points of view can make others seem more sympathetic, although it’s not likely to make you agree with them. An argument makes others seem more worthy of scorn. And e-communication is much better at conveying scorn than respect.

    Anyhoo, some Morris quotes you might like:

    “I wanted to do what I had defined as “the Ken Burns series from hell” for public broadcasting on the history of self-help. Of course I love self-help. What could be more inveterately hopeless and depressing?”

    “I’ve been horribly depressed, which, as you know, can be terribly time-consuming. I mean, if you’re going to do it right, that is.”

    “I remember, when I was a teen-ager, thinking there was no point in going on, but then I realized that life is just an endless series of embarrassments and I’d hate to miss out on all that.”

    • “I wanted to do what I had defined as “the Ken Burns series from hell” for public broadcasting on the history of self-help.”

      I’d definitely watch that series.

      • I love Morris so much. He’s the best interviewer in the history of documentary film. His movies are hit-and-miss because of this; we’re all interested in different kinds of people, and some of the people Morris is interested in won’t be interesting to the particular viewer.

        But, good Lord, does he get them all to open up on camera. It’s an amazing gift.

  2. What basis do you have for saying that Gore and Clinton are liberals of a type they did not show in the campaign trail? Did you argue for this somewhere?

    Why do you think that the Democratic party consists in people who disagree on how to provide universal healthcare? I see the dominant, moneyed wing as having been strongly against it until recently. Obamacare is not universal.

    What’s more, and I don’t know if you realize this, it is far more complicated and expensive than the healthcare plans in every other country. It’s not something reasonable people who really really want universal care would agree on. It’s a gift to Democratic Party donors – it’s like the tax bill.

    Why do you persist in that irrelevant Judean Front comparison? It’s not very apt. The groups parodied therein are virtually identical in their rhetoric and aims. The social-democratic wing, the right-wing liberals, different aims, different rhetoric. The one wing wants s a massive expansion in public property. The other doesn’t. That isn’t having basically the same beliefs and aims.

    The lady that irrationally attacked you – she sounds like a right-wing troll. The most parsimonious explanation is that she is in fact a right-wing troll.

    Oh, and with those Judean groups, the hatred is reciprocated, the same on both sides. with the social-democratic wing vs. the right-wing liberals, the irrational hatred has been 99-1 by the Clintonistas. One side gave arguments; the other side gave insults and accusations of racism and sexism, in most cases with literally zero evidence. There are exceptions to everything, but the difference is stark and obvious.

    Was there a campaign to convince Americans that ‘ClintonSistas’ just opposed Sanders because he’s Jewish? As to ‘BernieBros’ – in a nation in which a non-negligible percentage believe they were abducted by aliens, surely they exist somewhere. However, I literally have spoken and interacted with zero guys with a settled commitment to leftism and who would not support a female candidate. Every single leftist I’ve ever met wants greater female representation. I rarely assent to any proposition with such near-universal scope, so I hope you can see the force of what I am saying.

    Also as to the Judean groups – both are of very limited power and influence. Not the same for the social-democratic and right-wing liberal wings. One side had powerful support within some of the richest people in the world. The other didn’t.

    I’m prepared to be proved wrong, as always. But until something changes, use of the word ‘BernieBro’ is similar to use of the n-word (I guess we should call it the ‘b-word’ from now on). And the lady who attacked you – well, she’s probably less likely to support a candidate who will enact racist policies than a Trump supporter, but on the intellectual level, she’s the same as the cuck-pointers.

    The point isn’t hatred, our regard for individuals. It’s nice to be friendly and loving with the people you work with. But a) the Clintonistas chose hatred in a very public and slimy way, and b) ultimately what matters is getting justice. So, leftists are advised to turn the other cheek. Don’t hate back. But let’s be realistic. Large swathes of the right-wing liberals hate you, same as the Trump supporters. It’s not like the Judean groups. It’s like if one of them was a lot more influential than the other and delivered 99% of the hatred given.

    In my party at the federal level, there was a member’s revolt after an embarrassing electoral loss. Easier, since the NDP once was an explicitly left-wing party. Our new leader, though…I keep getting emails about how wonderful he is, far fewer and perhaps zero as to what his plans are.

    • I don’t recall saying that about Gore. For 2000, Gore was pretty liberal, but when he ran in 1988, he was way more conservative than Dukakis, who was hardly all that liberal.

      I’ve answered your (and others’) question about Hillary Clinton. You all just don’t like or what to accept my answer. And note, I didn’t say she was a closet super-liberal. I said that on a practical level, whether she or Sanders were president wouldn’t matter that much because the Democratic Party is still the Democratic Party. Yes, I think Sanders would have been better. And idealistically, he is far better. But I’m not much interested in talking about “idealistically” because it’s the practical that matters. It’s the practical that kills poor people.

      I’m really not much interested in having these conversations, which is what this article is all about. We have a man in the White House who could well get us in a nuclear war and we’re talking about whether Clinton is liberal enough or I’m just a stupid old white guy who doesn’t see that Clinton is the very perfection of humanity.

      If Bernie runs again, I probably won’t vote for him because of his age. But I’d love to vote for Sherrod Brown or Elizabeth Warren. It is interesting that many Clinton supporters claimed Sanders’ supporters were sexist when we were the very people begging Warren to run. But I still think that Clinton as president would have been very much like Obama: about as good a president as this country can seem to elect.

      • Maybe a touch hard on RJ? Not my call.

        I doubt Trump will start a nuclear war. He’s too dumb. A president capable of grasping Kissinger-ish “realism” might ramp up international tensions to preserve US diplomatic supremacy, the way Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Donald’s too much of a dipshit. He probably assumes anybody he insults will back down, and the minute they don’t, he’ll completely freak out. He’ll assume Korean missiles can kill him, when in fact any missile North Korea aims at DC would probably land well short, in someplace like Saint Paul.

      • I got you before, when you said that the legislation that either President Sanders or President Clinton would have advanced likely would have been the same in practice. I don’t agree with this, but I can take it seriously – it’s a reasonable view. And this has nothing to do with my post or the contents of your post.

        Whether you intended to or not, you strongly implied that deep down, Obama, Clinton, etc., are closet super-liberals, by the phrase ‘the liberals who they actually are’. If you did not mean this, maybe say what you did mean.

        The point is that I disagree with your key thesis, and I think it flies in the face of the evidence. The various branches of the Democratic Party do not disagree ‘slightly’ on the issues. You want to be practical, great. Face reality then.

        The points I`m raising have nothing (specifically) to do with my or your regard or disregard for Sanders and Clinton. I agree with you 100% on trying to get away from the sniping and narrative-driven, unproductive discussion.

        But if you want to reform the Democratic Party, you`ll need to understand the Party as it exists, not as you wish it was. I sincerely wish you good fortune in such an endeavor.

    • Via Avedon Carol, a music video for our times:
      As Avedon mentions, 2016 apparently birthed some quality populist material that I wasn’t even aware of. Despite its corporate DNA, YouTube is a modern wonder.

      I second pretty much everything RJ had to say, Frank. You are making a lot of familiar assertions. Some seem just lifted from the scripted propaganda of the major media. I think others are valid but completely disagree with the conclusions you draw. As long as people cling to the sort of short-term-thinking, don’t-rock-the-boat lesser evilism that has nearly a half-century record of failure, toads like Obama or the Clintons will indeed be “about as good a president as this country can seem to elect”. In light of this, I can’t see that sticking with such an approach is “practical” in the least. This is a much more important issue than endless circle-jerks about exactly how bad Trump really is. However I too have little interest anymore in arguing the point, being one of the “poor people” who are likely to die early due to the concrete results of that philosophy. Probably should have just posted the sadly amusing video link and called it good. I’ve chosen not to post a great many comments I’ve written during the past few months.

      “For 2000, Gore was pretty liberal”…
      No he wasn’t. If he had been I’d have voted for him. Gore, like the Clintons, was of course one of the actual founders of the neolib “Third Way” Dem faction, which stunk like a week old fish right from the start. As RJ stated, that faction shares neither an ideology nor crucial political goals with the Bernie wing. Ralph Nader in 2000 was in reality “pretty liberal” as was Jerry Brown in 1992 (at least compared to Bill Clinton).

      Frank, you’ve often claimed that politicians usually keep their campaign promises. It’s deeply ironic that such only seems to really be true of the GOP, who always strive to be the worst they can be. It was just as wrenching to see clearly demonstrated in 2016 the proposition that the GOP primaries are actually more democratic than their Dem counterparts. The masks are off now, and no amount of Red baiting can paper it over.

      • I suspect you, Frank, and RJ are very close to being on the same page, and would probably get along well over a good beer or two. Always remember how truly rotten e-communications are at conveying nuance, and accordingly are so easy to misinterpret.

        As for Trump’s ongoing saga of Stupid … I try not to follow it, I really do. It’s just so deranged, I have a hard time not paying attention.

        I worked with adults who suffer from brain injuries for 20 years. And a constant question in that job is “Why is this person acting oddly? Is it because of existing brain damage, or is it something new we need to be concerned about?” That’s not an idle question. Getting the answer right can mean the difference between catching a disease when it’s still treatable, and finding out what disease it is too late to help. I’ve done both.

        So Trump is just professionallly fascinating to me — it’s amazingly hard to tell if he’s suffering from dementia or was really always like this. If you read old interviews he gave 30 years ago, he had huge mental health problems back then. I can’t tell if he’s slipping now or not.

  3. “That’s an attack on both sides: the true socialists like myself who won’t vote for the Democratic Party…”

    Say what? I assume this is just badly worded, because you’ve clearly stated that you do vote for Democrats.

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