By Eddie Whitlock
Twitter eluded me. I never got it.
My daughter told me I should join to promote my books, so I did. I felt like the whole platform was me telling about my books to people who were there to tell me about their books. I came up with the clever comment that “If you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss will try to sell you its first book in a series.”
The fun part of Twitter was its limit. You only had 140 spaces in which to be witty, profound, or thought-provoking. I liked that. It was a challenge that encouraged you to be succinct. Then they doubled the number of characters to 280, making it less challenging. On the bright side, it made it unnecessary for users to abbreviate common words. I try to avoid abbreviations unless I’m being intentionally delicate as when posting “SaBoD” on right wing Facebook posts. (Note: If you think Ashli Babbitt was a martyr, SaBoD.)
This is about Twitter, though. Let me get back to that.
There was one doofus who got a lot of attention for tweeting. “Tweeting” is what they call the writing of things on the Twitter platform. I’m not sure why he got so much attention, but he did. His posts were not witty, profound, or thought-provoking. Mostly, they were humorless, hateful, and mind-numbing. The guy got famous for them. Hell, he got elected President.
He had a huge amount of media at his disposal, but he stuck with Twitter. I guess it was the old “Dance with the one what brung ya’,” but it seems like a big waste of more legitimate options. So he danced. It made his reactions to everything immediate. That might seem like a good thing, but my daddy used to say, “Put your mind in gear before you put your mouth in motion.” Pausing and reflecting before reacting is a good thing.
For four years this guy does this. It wasn’t chaos. It wasn’t the slow decline of the Republic. It was the fall of the Roman Empire on speed. It was like that time you drove your mom’s car and realized the brakes weren’t just “soft,” they were nonexistent.
For my part, I would forget to tweet for weeks or months at a time. Something would remind me – usually reading something stupid that the idiot had tweeted – and I would post something that I thought was funny or insightful. Sometimes I tweet insults about the idiot. I regret that. I regret it not because he didn’t deserve insults. He did. I regret it because I should have stuck with witty, profound, or thought-provoking.
“When they go low, we go high.” Dang, Michelle, that’s hard. “Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that.” Man, Dr. King. You were right, but – well – it sure is hard to live up to those words.
I backed off as much as I could, which wasn’t that hard because – like I said – I would generally forget about Twitter for long stretches. The election of 2020 was a relief. His tweets kept coming and moved from meanness to insanity. I worried, but I didn’t worry enough.
January 6, 2021, happened. I was at work and caught snippets of what was going on when I would go in my office to check email. My friend Mr. Maxey and I worried. We’re both old and have seen things, but we’d never seen an attempted coup of the United States of America. We literally left work that afternoon unsure of where there would be a legitimate national government by the time we got home. The tweets that I had thought were insane had found their audience. The vile, the evil, the angry. They actually were foolhardy enough to do what the idiot told them to do.
As a result, law enforcement officers died. Sacred American sites were violated. A tinpot despot had his day. He reveled in the power he seemed to have. Oddly, the attempted overthrow of our government led Twitter to remove the idiot from their platform. The attempted overthrow was such a shock that for a few days, Republican leaders grew (what turned out to be temporary) spines.
A new, legitimate and sane President was sworn in later that month. It was not a peaceful transfer of power. It was a delicate extraction of power from a madman.
We dodged a bullet.
To be sure, it was a bullet fired at Liberty formed when we failed to be vigilant in its protection. The idiot had used Twitter as a platform for firing his verbal bullets over and over and over. We had laughed at his poor grammar skills, his misuse of language, his absence of correct punctuation. We were laughing while his words were nourishing the vile, the evil, the angry.
Two years later finds us in different places.
The idiot is finally facing some rejection by his party’s leaders. It’s not because of the attempted overthrow of the government. They still argue that it didn’t really happen. No, it’s because he recently indulged in a too obvious grift, selling the make-believe product called a non-fungible token, or NFT.Overthrow democracy all you want, the Republicans seem to say, but don’t go selling things that don’t exist to the masses. Leave that to Wall Street!
Twitter, in the meantime, was bought by another idiot. This idiot thought he could become more famous and richer by doing this. I am of the understanding that this has not worked out for him. He’s even invited the idiot back to tweet, but the idiot started his own platform. I am of the understanding that it has the same value as his NFTs.
Me? I quit Twitter when the second idiot invited the bigger idiot back. Both can avail themselves of my invitation to SaBoD. I realize I’m not doing very well with this column in trying to live up to the admonitions from Michelle Obama or from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For what it’s worth, I do not hate the fellow who bought Twitter. His foolishness has brought its own punishment.
As for the idiot who tried to overthrow the government, well. I don’t hate him either. In an ideal world, he would do some self-reflection and realize what a negative figure he has been and change his ways.
That’s about as likely to happen as my using Twitter to turn my next book into a bestseller.
Eddie Whitlock is a Georgia native, a graduate of UGA, and wannabe writer. He retired in 2021 from the Athens-Clarke County Library, where he worked as coordinator of volunteers, community service supervisor, and vending machine scapegoat.