When nuclear war breaks out, blame Twitter

by Bill Ralston / 28 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Twitter

US President Donald Trump. Photo/Getty Images

Once a place of banter, Twitter has become a humourless repository for rancour and bile – and nuclear threats.

When nuclear war breaks out, blame Twitter. The social media platform has become distinctly antisocial. It is not just Donald Trump’s ranting, although he provides the rancid flavour of the site. Recently, he tweeted in fewer than 280 characters a warning to the President of Iran never to threaten the security of the United States or Hassan Rouhani would “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE”. His capitals seem to imply an atomic bellow from the White House.

It might not be effective, as Twitter is banned in Iran. A cynic may suggest his Twitter-rattling to Iran was merely an attempted diversion from the Mueller inquiry and the Putin fiasco, and certainly New Zealand is not worried about an outbreak of thermo-nuclear war. Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has declared he does not believe the President actually writes his own tweets and says he will fire anyone in the public service who follows Trump on Twitter. Peters, by the way, does not write his own tweets. I believe he still uses parchment and a quill.

Great-power diplomacy aside, much of Twitter has become a cesspit. New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman recently quit the social media app, writing, “The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.”

The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said in an interview she no longer reads comments about herself online and is thinking of giving up social media altogether. This from someone who pioneered the broadcaster’s foray online to push its news coverage.

Some of the problem stems from the fact that extreme-right and hard-left sites and tweeters whip up a frenzy against people they disagree with and a Twitter “pile on” ensues, leaving the person at the bottom of the heap bloodied and bruised.

I mainly follow journalists and public figures but also a handful of the rank and file from each side of the political divide, in a bid to keep tabs on the public mood. I tend to stalk the feed and seldom tweet myself. Why make yourself a target?

In the New Zealand Twitter world, the advent of the Labour-led government created a festering ferment among those on the right that I follow, with a corresponding rise in the smugness levels of those on the left. Humour is declining, which is sad, because Twitter was once a place of banter.

I suspect the Twitter population is a rapidly ageing one, as millennials and younger people have wisely wandered off to other, gentler social media that we don’t know about because we are too ancient.

Older people are more dyspeptic and, to quote The Simpsons, like to yell at clouds, which is why Twitter is as it is. Twitter is like talkback radio but without a host who can hit the kill button and take the maddest callers off air before they cause too much offence.

I have little idea what Facebook is like these days as I accidentally cut off my feed, but I have no desire to return to it as I suspect it, too, is tinged with Twitter-like rancour.

Perhaps I should simply go onto Instagram, the more benign photo and video-sharing site, which at least will give us a beautiful colour shot of the mushroom cloud when it explodes.

This article was first published in the August 4, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity for curling
96697 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Sport

Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity …

by Guy Frederick

Weather conditions have to be perfect for an outdoor curling match – last winter, for the first time in seven years, Naseby delivered.

Read more
Students walk out of Hamilton high school over principal's truancy comments
96723 2018-09-24 14:06:35Z Education

Students walk out of Hamilton high school over pri…

by RNZ

More than 100 students walked out of a Hamilton high school in protest after the principal said truants are more likely to wind up being a rape victim

Read more
Colin Craig drops damages claim against former press secretary
96717 2018-09-24 13:10:01Z Politics

Colin Craig drops damages claim against former pre…

by RNZ

Colin Craig has withdrawn his claims for damages against his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor but is still suing her for defamation.

Read more
PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on lifting children from poverty
96691 2018-09-24 07:54:36Z Politics

PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on l…

by Chris Bramwell

Jacinda Ardern has used her first speech in the US to recommit the government to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

Read more
Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speeches to life
96352 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z History

Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speech…

by Noted

Famous Kiwi women read the powerful words of Kate Sheppard, who fought for the right for women to vote.

Read more
Ladies in Black – movie review
96686 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Ladies in Black – movie review

by Russell Baillie

This nicely nostalgic female coming-of-age tale set in a Sydney department store almost sings.

Read more
A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing hops
95518 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Small business

A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing ho…

by Mike White

Nelson and Motueka are well known for their hops but Garston hops are starting to be noticed by brewers.

Read more
How to lower your exposure to potentially toxic household products
96525 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Health

How to lower your exposure to potentially toxic ho…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Alexx Stuart advocates changing one thing a week. With personal-care items, she says the place to start is body lotion.

Read more