What is it with much of the media nowadays? Are editors and journalists becoming lazy? I'm referring here to the the overuse of tweets in articles and news pieces. Indeed non-entities' tweets seem to feature in far too many pieces. And it's not just that tweets are featured – tweets often become the news! For example, according to the Guardian, one media outlet published a piece which contained 150 tweets!
Ironically, there has also been many pieces about the media's (yes, very self-referential!) obsession with Donald Trump's tweets. It seems that parts of the media only realised the negative aspects of Twitter when they sourly noted that Trump was taking full political advantage of it. Take the British newspaper, the Independent. It published an article which had the words 'Trump, the Twitter President' in the title. Yet in the very same edition there were pieces – all entirely unrelated - which featured tweets extensively.
Yes, it's really the media's own obsession with anyone's and everybody's tweets that's the problem. And this is tweets from a teenager politico in his bedroom to Oprah Winfrey posting from her mansion.
There's also the problem that many journalists themselves live their lives in Twitter World. They therefore see Twitter as being far more important than it actually is. Either that, or they see it as being an easy way of filling space in their pieces.
Using other people's tweets is also cheap. Media outlets can publish them without paying the tweeter. They can also exploit the convenience of getting tweeters to express their own controversial views without facing any consequences themselves.
As for the content of the tweets.
It's been said that within Western philosophy every position under the sun has been expressed. And if that's true of philosophy, then it's ever truer of Twitter World. Do we really care about what Twitter addicts and Twitter activists have to say about X or Y?
Of course not all published tweets are from nobodies. Sometimes politicians and celebrities tweet too. And these tweets feature even more in media outlets. Yet even in this case the politicians or “celebs” concerned might have been drunk when they tweeted. Perhaps they didn't think through what they were writing. Perhaps the tweets were off-the-cuff remarks. Perhaps they were commenting on something they knew next-to-nothing about.
In this respect, have you ever posted something on Twitter or Facebook without thinking too deeply about what it? Have you ever posted something when drunk and later regretted it? I suppose the argument here will be that politicians should be more careful with their tweets. Yet they're still human beings and therefore likely to make mistakes or post bullshit.
Imagine if all our private thoughts were posted on Facebook or Twitter. We'd be destroyed. The same goes for politicians of all persuasions. Twitter is almost like that. And then newspapers salivate when they publish those private thoughts. Yes, I'm talking about private thoughts which are then posted and published. But why should the media publish these mindless ejaculations for public consumption in the first place? Because they fill space? Because they titillate? Because they're a easy and cheap substitute for reasoned political debate?
I must confess, however, that I too have used screenshots of tweets in my pieces. (I've used them in this piece!) Though I've done so very rarely. And the tweets I used were only additions to the pieces. In parts of the media, on the other hand, the tweets (as already stated) become the news – quite literally!
One very bad offender is the British online tabloid, Metro. Many - or even most - of its pieces feature tweets. Many of these tweets are from nobodies and were probably written when drunk or stoned. Others are mindless and with zero political content. The tweeters, I suppose, are gaining their fifteen minutes of fame... thanks to Metro.
Metro's latest example (Friday the 13th of July, 2018) is a published a tweet from C4 News Factcheck about the British MP, Michael Fabricant. Channel 4 (like a secret police interrogator) asked Fabricant this question:
“... what is this flag on your mantelpiece?”
Then Metro tells us that Fabricant had a “apartheid-era South Africa [flag] on his mantelpiece”. Fabricant replied:
“Also on the same mantelpiece is an old communist USSR flag. They are from some of the countries where I had work visits in the 1980s.”
Now this is very odd because it can clearly be seen that he's got what looks like a European Union flag there too. And, in response to this mindlessness, Fabricant informed Channel 4 that he collects flags. However, Metro, rather pompously, still “contacted the Tory party for comment”!
Another serial offender is the Huffington Post; though right-wing newspapers – such as the Daily Mail – seem to love tweets too.
Here's a tweet published by Huffington Post. It reads as follows:
“Didn't expect to catch comrade Trump and his filthy motorcade by Camden Sainsbo's bus stop today. Here's a London welcome for an orange wasteman. #Fuck Trump #MAGA.”
As you can see, it offers its readers some profound political insights. And in the very same HuffPost piece there were four more tweets of equal penetrative wisdom.
Parts of the media big up tweets as if they're of supreme political importance. They aren't. They're often simply the ramblings of Twitter addicts and Twitter activists. They're rarely reasoned responses to political affairs or current news – although, sure, they sometimes can be. In fact the media often chooses particular tweets precisely because they aren't reasoned or informative. In other words, the more titillating the tweets are, the more likely they'll be published.