I suppose I might have seen this delightful image of humans’ best friends learning a life-enhancing skill for the people they’ll soon assist somewhere else, but I saw it on Twitter.
And it was enriched by the exuberant comment from actress, singer, dancer Bebe Neuwirth.
I didn’t know Bebe Neuwirth was on Twitter, and I never would have thought to look for her. But Andrew Weissmann follows her, and I do follow him. Weissmann is a law professor, media commentator, and former Mueller investigation prosecutor. I appreciate his timely, often brilliant insights about goings on with justice in the US–especially with regard to the abundance of litigation moving inexorably toward the former guy.
Weissmann also seems to be an animal lover with a puckish sense of humor. He retweeted Bebe Neuwirth’s above tweet with his own comment about the doggie audience: “I think they were seeing Cats…”
Both Neuwirth and Weissmann are still on Twitter, as are a number of other public figures whose views I value.
Some time ago, I wrote about the Twitter community. In fact, there are many communities within Twitter that remain active. A man in the UK whose baby has cystic fibrosis posted photos of the tiny bandaged infant when he was seriously ill after his birth. Like many others, I was immediately drawn in by the father’s brave and wry comments. Four months later, this baby is doing great and has one of those mischievous light-up-the-room smiles.
I know there’s a community of people with cancer who provide practical, emotional, and medical support for one another. There are also medical professionals and researchers with diverse expertise, such as with Covid, who link to scientific papers of interest.
Many people going through health crises of their own or with loved ones seek solace from strangers, and they clearly are uplifted by what they receive. I’ve seen enough of this phenomenon to find it compelling–one of the good aspects of social media that to date hasn’t been tarnished by Elon Musk.
Speaking of Musk, the strongest driver that holds me on Twitter is the determination of like-minded politically oriented people to stay as long as possible. It seems worth the effort not to cede this vast international entity to the haters, who have either been emboldened by Musk’s takeover or have joined recently to revel in it. (Though Musk gleefully invited Trump back, the former guy has yet to make an appearance; some say he doesn’t want to dilute his already failing Truth Social platform by offering his precious insights on Twitter for free.)
Although I openly express my political views, I’m aware that my modest presence probably protects me from becoming a target. When I find a tweet repugnant, I simply block that person.
Others have felt and documented the ugliness. Election law champion Marc Elias, whose firm was instrumental in defeating Trump in all those phony court cases following his 2020 loss–and who just won Georgia voters the right to vote this past Saturday–shared a tweet recently in which someone questioned why he still has kneecaps.
Elias, who’s Jewish, received another tweet with a photo showing a dreadful stereotypical image of a wild-looking Jewish man, followed by some nonsense about “a synagogue of Satan.”
Neither tweet apparently violated the Muskian redrawn “moderation policies.”
There’s an understandable tendency on Twitter to grouse about Musk, but I’m more inclined toward the sentiments of Simon Rosenberg, the Democratic strategist who–with his colleague Tom Bonior–kept me optimistic with their thinking and early data prior to the election. They were two of the very few observers who got things essentially right.
Rosenberg has said:
“We need to stop talking about Elon. Truly. Watch, learn, understand, yes–but our time together should be far more about our good works than jumping up and down about their depravity. It’s what he wants. Don’t give it to him.”
Rosenberg is updating his presentation “With Democrats Things Get Better,” which I excerpted here previously.
I am grateful that Twitter affords me the opportunity to see what Ukrainian President Zelensky has to say each day, and now, thanks to Rosenberg, I’m also receiving insights about China’s turmoil from James Crabtree, the Singapore-based Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia.
Closer to home, I watch for tweets from Victor Shu, the Gen Z spokesperson, who’s giving updates about the Georgia Senatorial race. After so much excitement about the high turnout of young voters the first day, I was concerned when Gabe Sterling, the conservative Republican chief operating officer in the Georgia Secretary of State office, for some reason felt the need to point out that the youth cohort was the third highest to turn out in Fulton County, following voters aged 50-54 and 55-60. (He’s been tweeting about turnout generally, but I was puzzled why he included this very specific demographic information so early in the process. Nothing like it has appeared since.)
Victor Shu provided some perspective: there’s been a campaign encouraging families to go to the polls together, and it’s reasonable to assume that the parents of Gen Z are in the 50- to 60-year range.
Many public figures are hedging their bets about Twitter’s future: remaining on the site while joining other burgeoning social platforms. They’re aware of the potential chaos ahead, but hoping somehow it can be avoided.
As I was pondering how to conclude this post, I read an eloquent, even touching opinion piece in The New York Times by Chris Hayes, host of “The Chris Hayes Show” on MSNBC. The Times headline read “Why I Want Twitter to Live.”
Twitter, Hayes wrote,
“came closest [among social media] to executing on the core vision of what the global town square could look like.”
He points to the ideals of the early Internet visionaries for “a place where people across every line of difference and place could find one another to build community, to talk and debate and to pursue common interests.”
The problem, as many have stressed, was the creation of this “commercial juggernaut.”
“In the hands of clever engineers and ambitious entrepreneurs, the ability to capture our attention was maximized, commodified and monetized to give us…a world of infinite scrolling and constant notifications, a slot machine in our pocket…
“Whatever happens to Twitter, watching Mr. Musk’s reign over it should force us to rebuild the dream of the internet’s founders of a digital commons. Because we’ve had it before, we know we can make a place to connect and learn and argue that no one person owns. We can create a collective digital life that doesn’t depend on mining every nanosecond of our attention for profit.”
Hayes had noted earlier that Musk appeared at Twitter on his first day carrying a kitchen sink. According to Hayes, that was probably a gibe at a supposedly liberal user who’d post about something “appalling but also banal,” and then say “Let that sink in.”
“The world’s most successful capitalist, by at least one measure, has made the most definitive case for rejecting private ownership of the public sphere that we’ve seen in a very long time.
“Let that sink in.”
In this context, the phrase seems neither appalling nor banal. I find it not only witty, but also revelatory–and true. I hope–somehow–Twitter survives Elon Musk and his crass, weird, abominable, unbusinesslike ownership.
And then we just need some creative folks who are dedicated enough to the global public square to do some CPR on the Bird and breathe new life into it.