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Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor: Join the Twitter mob!

Paul Kengor
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A Jan. 18 image made from video provided by the Survival Media Agency shows Covington Catholic High School teenagers at the March for Life in Washington.

“You’ve got to get on Twitter!” a former student told me recently. “It’s where everything is happening.”

Well, I’m not on Twitter. I do, however, have a Twitter account. I don’t know what it is, where it is or how to access it. I want nothing to do with it.

Why, then, do I have a Twitter account? Because a publicist for one of my books insisted.

“I’m creating a Twitter account for you,” she cheerfully announced.

“No,” I replied.

“Yes,” she responded.

“Hell, no,” I retorted.

“Oh, come on,” was her response. “You’ll love it!”

I explained that I already get 300-400 emails per day that I can’t respond to. To “do” Twitter every day, hour, minute, I would need a microchip surgically implanted in my brain. Sure, just run a cord from my phone into my right ear, and let the blinking and twitching begin.

“Why this addiction to every new technology?” I pleaded to my publicist, brandishing my Luddite predilections. “Can’t we just say ‘no’ sometimes?”

My publicist explained that Twitter is great for promoting a book, which is undeniably true. Still, I’d rather not sell my soul for a few pieces of silver.

The whole thing reared its head again a few weeks ago. I was at a studio to record Mark Levin’s TV show. The engineer called me over to review the taglines they planned to display for me on the screen. One of them listed my Twitter name.

“Whoa,” I told him. “Delete that. I don’t use that.”

“You don’t use your own Twitter account?” he responded incredulously.

“Nope,” I informed him. “I don’t look at it.”

I said to the engineer what I want to say emphatically here: The thing I hate most about Twitter is the mob mentality. It’s
the closest we get in 21st-century America to a frenzied mob of Jacobin rabble in 18th-century Paris storming the streets looking for someone’s scalp. It feeds kneejerk-ism. It thrives on and foments emotionality. It’s like a thousand children in a packed room shouting petulant insults, with no one taking the time to step back, cool down and wait another day for more information and a more sober and thoughtful response.

Someone says something about someone at noon — who knows whether it’s accurate — and by 2 p.m.
a lynch mob is gathering for the poor sucker, who by 3 p.m. is begging for mercy. My advice to the sorry sack: Ignore it. No one will remember by the next day at noon. You’ll be old news — boooooring. No longer trending! The mob will move to the next victim it’s ginned up about.

The latest example is the incident that occurred with a group of boys from Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School. They were quickly accused of mocking a Native American man. The incident went viral, with a gazillion judge-and-jury experts chiming in with snap verdicts.

“Off with their heads!” shouted the mob. Until, that is, more video appeared and revealed other sides to the story.

It was classic. It’s what happens every day with this ridiculous technology that makes us worse, not better.

Oh, and if you disagree, just send me a “tweet.” I won’t see it, but others will surely surface to engage in a nasty argument with you. Cheers!

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His column appears twice a month.