Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Are Trump Supporters Having Second Thoughts?

The headline for Alfred Ng's Tech Culture article on CNET felt like a faint glimmer of good news: "Most Americans wish Trump would stop tweeting so much." Admittedly, 69% is a bit narrow for the adjective "most;" and, more to the point, it is unclear to what extent 1000 constitutes a representative sample, particularly in the absence of any information as to just how those polled were selected. Nevertheless, a faint glimmer is probably better than total darkness, which may be what we shall get should Trump decide that the best way to respond to this article is with a Tweet.

More disconcerting is the Trump quote from his 60 Minutes interview justifying his heavy use of Twitter:
When you give me a bad story or when you give me an inaccurate story...I have a method of fighting back.
To be fair, anyone who thinks that politics is not adversarial has to be living in some idealistic alternative universe. Nevertheless, having an argument need not be treated as a matter of going into combat. Indeed, Carl von Clausewitz' famous aphorism about war being diplomacy by other means seems to suggest that combat is what one resorts to when the cooler reasoning of argumentation no longer yields mutually beneficial results.

It goes without saying that Twitter was not conceived to be a medium for argumentation, and trying to use it that way is bound to be frustrating. To the contrary, the whole raison d'être behind Twitter is that it would provide a medium for spontaneous impressions. It would not surprise me to learn that those who first conceived of it saw it as a way to use words when a simple emoticon would not do. The "better angels" of the Internet may even still see it that way; but the Internet is an entropic environment that devours better angels. Donald Trump's use of Twitter has become an object lesson that demonstrates where such entropy will lead.

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