I am a golden god!
Sadly for me, and perhaps happily for this blog (which seems to have been doing fine in my absence), I have to announce that I am no longer employed at Twitchy.com. One could say that I was cashiered over creative differences, insofar as I was let go for not grokking the comprehensive vision of Twitchy, posting instead what I believed to be emerging stories. Some of this, I believe, though my former boss does not, has to do with the nature of the shift into which I was inserted, running from 3 am Eastern to 10 am Eastern. It’s a bit of a bare-bones time to search for “twittercentric” stories, such as emergent hashtags. Arising at 3 am and surveying the Twitter scene is a little bit like engaging in conversation with the people in the next booth at an all-night diner at bar time, though if you do see interesting emergent hashtags at 5 am, or outlandish celebrity tweets, please let me know.
I had hoped that by focusing on stories that were breaking in the overseas press, I’d be contributing by slapping them up online for further review and aggregation of Tweets, but that’s not how it turned out. I was told as a for-instance that I should have been on top of the Geraldo hoodie kerfuffle earlier, though if one reviews Twitchy’s stories on Trayvon Martin, one discovers that in fact I twitched the first two posts on the subject. Yesterday, I posted Jake Tapper’s tweet and accompanying ABC piece on Obama’s hot mic gaffe with Medvedev over how much easier it would be to give in to Russian requests on missiles after he was re-elected, and it languished in obscurity for most of the day, until my canning conversation with the boss, who hadn’t noticed the story till then but promoted it with a shot at Drudge for being tardy on its posting.
Am I bitter? Perhaps. To be truthful, I think that the biggest issue there was that I had become an irritant by doing too much, and perhaps due to a fundamental clash of personalities. I really am grateful for the opportunity, and I wish them the best of success. The Malkins are a delightful family, and I continue friends, I hope, with the other members in good standing of the Twitchy Team. Yesterday, I would have posted, certainly, even after hours (as often I did) on Trayvon’s mother’s move to trademark a couple of slogans built around his name, and I would have posted on the Pussy Ass Cracker t-shirts being flogged in Miami as a part of that, a PAC that nobody in the Obama administration seems too unhappy about, as well as Jesse Jackson’s convenient unawareness of the New Black Panther bounty on George Zimmerman’s head. As my short time there wore on, I got the distinct impression that I was the focus of increasing animus and particular criticism, almost to the point of daring me to be insubordinate. That was my impression, though I made substantial efforts to make myself understood. Are we interested at all in drawing eyeballs from the world-wide Anglosphere? Perhaps it might be a good idea to post on issues Canadian, or British, or Australian. They might not pull a whole lot of eyeballs at this very moment, but in the long run . . . well, I won’t be around.
The question of what constitutes or does not constitute a twittercentric story has a certain plasticity. Yesterday morning, I was greeted by a stern email enjoining all of staff to avoid materials originated in major media outlets, such as, inter alia, The Los Angeles Times, and also those at the larger aggregation sites. The fact is that while there are some stories that break on Twitter, such as Geraldo’s tweets, most of which do not emerge in the wee hours, most of the time people are reacting to what’s been posted at media websites. Many of us have observed, for example, that UK papers such as the Telegraph and Daily Mail serve up US news that our own MSM would rather not touch—or if they do touch, try to present in the most denatured, homogenized, blase and whitewashed fashion possible. It is possible to cover such stories by covering the tracks, as though they emerged first and only on Twitter, but that’s not an accurate depiction of the beast. News stories (and though I firehose over 4500 feeds on Twitter that are geared mainly towards news and commentary) drive much of the most interesting non-recipe and non-what are you drinking? commentary on Twitter. The news, in other words, is a pretext to tweets that help to shape the memetic direction of the stories, pointing out the biases, reformulating the meaning of the facts at hand. The Trayvon Martin case is excellently on point in this regard. The Daily Caller managed to get hold of the tweets that the slain schoolkid posted on his swiftly nuked account, and whether one believes them relevant to what happened on the night he was shot and killed or not, they round out our understanding of the personality that on Sunday a notable race-baiter referred to as a ‘martyr.’ The stories, then, are a pretext to the text that is posted at Twitchy, and that in turn becomes a pretext for other texts built on top of it. But it is envious and inaccurate to say that the stories per se are being generated in the Twitter medium, as much as we might like that to be true, except in peculiar cases such as Tahrir Square in Cairo.
That’s not to say that the work that is done with that material on Twitter isn’t important. Twitter is a line of first response to the narratives of events handed down by the MSM. It is a place where, collectively, people question, rearrange and scrutinize the raw ‘facts’ as presented in the MSM, shaping it into line with their own values and observations, recasting it in accordance with their own perspectives and sense of verisimilitude, connecting it with material deemed too tangential or inconvenient for the narratives as presented by the MSM. And although I received cold-comfort kudos for my work ethic and my eye for news, I think that at bottom this is the fundamental philosophical disagreement. I say this, in part, because I have observed other Twitchy staff referencing the sources and kinds of sources that I did in their own posts, which seem to be less controversial somehow. Perhaps what I see as an intervention they see as an origination, but the conversations have been going on forever, and all we do in reality is capture a slice of them, more or less illuminating, in the topical context of the moment.
The myth of origination infests the blogosphere. Everyone wants to be seen as having first presented a certain topic, or penetrating formulation of that topic. Google ‘broccoli’ and ‘Supreme Court’ to see what I mean. T.S. Eliot characterized this phenomenon as “the anxiety of influence,” and speculated on how literary figures and critics both try to obscure their own borrowings in order to seem more of genius inspired. There are people online who have more humility than others, and who happily reveal their inspirations as coming less from the muse and more from others who have already said, but those people are not the likeliest to become celebrated for their commentary. When Keats, a generous spirit, alludes to Shakespeare, he foregrounds the fact, and draws energy from the resonances, whether euphonious or cacaphonous, depending on whether he agrees or disagrees with the pretext. Would there were more honest laborers who acknowledged their debts.
Having said all of that, the simplest and most accurate account I can give is . . . it didn’t work out. And that sometimes just happens to happen. Yesterday, my announcement on Twitter that I was no longer employed at Twitchy gave rise to a certain amount of carping from people who don’t ‘believe’ in the concept (I once had a friend tell me she didn’t ‘believe in’ umbrellas). Had I not, I never would have signed on. But I just don’t think that Twitter is as much a site of ideational origination as perhaps my boss does. Every tweet is an event, undoubtedly, for the person who formulates it, whether that formulation actually is read and grasped by another tweeter or not, but not all of them are archive-worthy, and whether stupidities on the part of Geraldo (though others disagree, at least in part) constitute a point of lasting interest rather than mere confirmation that many of our MSM celebs are doofuses, is a question worth asking. The democratization of speech that Twitter offers at its best argues that the important thing is instead the reaction of people who previously did not have much of a voice. Every text on Twitter is a potential pretext, but those pretexts themselves have pretexts. The only question is, what shall we make of them?
One of the posts that I did yesterday that was moved to the trash was on Twitter Fight Club, a site where notable twitterers square off in debate and insult against one another. One might imagine that that was somewhat twittercentric, in the way that Twitchy aspires to be twittercentric, but one would be wrong. So, my boss was right: I just don’t get it. But I hope you do, and that you will make Twitchy part of your daily rounds.