The Tediousness of Online Political Outrage

If you spend a lot of time getting angry at others for nothing angry enough, take a break

I’ll often find someone saying, “Twitter used to be…”

Folks, Twitter is the same as it always was. Perhaps at one time, early on, it was short status updates such as, “Heading to the office!” or “Heading home from the office!” But it didn’t take very long for it to turn into a medium for people to yell at each other over any topic.

Don’t get me wrong. Twitter worked as a networking tool a whole hell of a lot better than LinkedIn (note: When you work at a small business, LI recruiters couldn’t care less about your experience. Work at a Fortune 50 company, and they’ll come out of the woodwork with opportunities). That said, I’ve dialed back my Twitter usage a whole hell of a lot in the last year or two. The filters are strong, and iPhone/iPad notifications are entirely off.

Yes, Twitter can still be fun at times, and it’s the best platform I use for sharing stuff I write. I deleted my Facebook account, and I only use Instagram for posting photos (weird, right?). Still, I have found that dialing back Twitter usage has been good for various reasons.

One significant reason is the ramping up of hall monitoring. This is the phenomenon in which Twitter users monitor others’ tweets and “call out” those not sufficiently upset, angry, sad — whatever — about a particular issue or person. The tweets are typically framed this way:

“Oh, you had time to tweet _______ about ______, but you couldn’t find the time to say shit about _______?! Typical!”

Now, I am not sure how prevalent this is on the left as I don’t have time to monitor the monitors, but where I typically see it is on the right. I know because I’ve been the target of that ridiculousness at times, getting asked why I haven’t commented on this or that or didn’t bother writing about something.

When I get that criticism on a Thursday, I genuinely laugh. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve been up since 5:30 a.m., edited 10,000-12,000 words, edited a podcast, and started updating the magazine landing page. I am so sorry I did not prioritize my time around the schedule you’ve created for me.”

Yes, during the day, I might jump on Twitter and take a quick look, reply to someone, retweet something I see that’s interesting or tweet something out. But that’s because it’s Twitter. It’s easy to do that without getting into the weeds over every issue. And yes, there are times when I get so busy with other things — like real life — that I’m not attuned to every outrage taking place in the world and running to Twitter to offer up my viewpoint.

There is a reason I chose to only do this newsletter once a week instead of treating it like a blog and offering up 300 words every time something struck a chord. The newsletter has shifted focus over time. I used to write about several different topics but slowly shifted it to one main theme, which has worked out well for me. You, the audience, seem to like it. I don’t have tens of thousands of subscribers and don’t have a crapload of Twitter followers (yes, 34,000 is not a little, but to have ten times that makes for a bigger platform). I do it because I enjoy it, and it keeps the writing chops going, especially when most of my time throughout the week is spent editing.

But when it comes to topics, I choose. Yes, I am always open to suggestions. I appreciate them, and it sometimes gives me ideas. But ultimately, the decision is mine. The same goes for my Twitter feed. I tweet what I want and when I want. The idea that I have some ulterior motive for not hitting the RAGE TWEET button every ten minutes is ridiculous.

Sadly, the motive is what’s become the go-to accusation on the right, whether it’s Trump leg humpers, frothing anti-Trump people, anti-anti Trump, anti-anti-anti Trump, or whatever silo one finds themselves in. Ironically, the assumed motives are pretty much the same. Some don’t say why. They just leave it out there. Stephen Miller, aka @redsteeze on Twitter, was dunking on Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch because the latter wasn’t hyperbolic enough (nor, according to the critics, did Goldberg react fast enough) when discussing a ridiculous “fact check” by The Washington Post about South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

I am friends with both of them, so this is not some attempt by me to stir the pot or pick sides. That said, when I see tweets like this, it strikes me as of way for Stephen to “raise questions:”

Won’t forgive? Forgive what? It’s not out of bounds to say that DeSantis’s primary campaign in 2018 was nothing more than a kneel-down-before-Trump display of absurdity. Charles Cooke of National Review says it was ridiculous (Charlie lives in Florida). But opinions can change with whatever a person does while in office (Cooke is now a big supporter of DeSantis). And DeSantis (prepare my brother, Matt, for the triggering) has governed a whole hell of a lot differently than he ran — and effectively, which is why his latest approval rating has him at 53%. And here is something:

But unlike Gaetz (and, frankly, Trump), DeSantis actually knows how to govern effectively.

Politically, the key difference between DeSantis and Gaetz is that Gaetz garners media attention by making an ass of himself, while DeSantis makes the media look asinine when it tries to make him out to be nothing more than a Trump wannabe.

The fact is, DeSantis did better with the public than Trump during the worst times of the COVID-19 pandemic and handled the pandemic better than many Democratic governors. Before the pandemic, his governing agenda earned him a 62 percent approval rating. In this case, his critics won’t gain much traction by tarring him as another Florida weirdo. In fact, outlandishly unfair attacks, like CBS’s recent “60 Minutes” report on DeSantis, are likely to gain him more support.

Guess who wrote that? Jonah Goldberg.

So what are the supposed motives?

  • Trying to keep favoritism with “The Establishment.”

  • Currying favor with mainstream media (TV hits!)

  • The opportunity for book deals and other frivolities

Now, I don’t get what Jonah is supposedly trying to preserve by not going nuclear on Glenn Kessler. I know Jonah has referred to him as a “fact-checker” in the past (quotes his, not mine). Goldberg already authored three books and is a Fox News contributor.

So if there is a reason why he didn’t go to 11 with Kessler’s stupid “fact check," what is it? Maybe Miller can answer the question he asked because I’d like to know.

Guessing motives is a funny thing. My buddy Tom Nichols, the author of The Death of Expertise, would often claim he knew what I “wanted” whenever the subject of me not voting straight-ticket Democrat came up. Now, I am surely not an expert in, well…most things, but I am pretty sure I am an expert when it comes to my motives.

There is a cable news host that I’ve become friends with over the last several years. We have an unwritten rule (hell, it wasn’t even a spoken rule — it managed to work itself out) that if we have a serious disagreement with each other on something, we don’t “call out” the other on Twitter. We’ll talk about it privately.

Now, some might guess my motives have to do with getting on this person’s show. Please. I’ve done plenty of television, and yes, I like doing it because it’s fun. But if I don’t get tv hits, it’s fine with me. I think the last time I was on television was last fall.

The point I am making is that life is more complicated than what we see on Twitter. The reasons people do A or B don’t necessarily have an ulterior motive that comes with media or financial benefit. When I get that accusation leveled at me (and it happens more often than I ever would have thought, which always seems weird to me), I laugh. I left a corporate job with a great salary, stock, bonuses, and amazing benefits to working in journalism at a time when the industry is contracting. I do it because I love the work. I find it more fulfilling than preparing a secondary distribution center to help deliver patio sets in the spring or creating PowerPoint presentations outlining whether the basis points for house and vendor direct shipments were hitting their targets (bored yet?).

Here’s an idea: Instead of going off the rails when someone doesn’t react to an issue the way you think they should, why not ask that person? Send them an email. Send a direct message. If you know them well enough and have their phone number, text them. Or give them a call.

Is that so hard? Maybe if you ask, you’ll be satisfied with why they did or did not do what you expected of them. Maybe you won’t. The point is when you go on Twitter and make unfounded accusations, it’s all based on assumption. And you do know what happens when you assume, correct? I’ll let Felix Unger tell you:

Anyway, that’s a lot of words for this week. Again, my point here is not to cast aspersions on anyone (I’ll happily cast aspersions on Eric Boehlert, who I think is a bad-faith actor and a hack who should go back to writing about pro wrestling as he used to). I’m merely saying that before you compose that tweet, preparing to blast someone, while at the same time telling the target you know their motive for doing or not doing something, pause for a moment — and then ask. You’d be surprised to find most people are willing to engage.

Enjoy the rest of your week!