No judgment here.
But last night Twitter was a curious place to be as we watched clusters of journalists needle one another and, in some cases, go for the throat without real just cause. Sharpened nerves. An inability to piece together what happened. Heightened tensions in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
They were primed to fight. For example, since when do retweets really mean endorsements? Really never, except for last night when anything could spark a feud.
So much for the wise and largely unheeded advice from Ruth Graham, contributing writer to The Boston Globe‘s ideas section; freelancer for Slate and The Atlantic: “Guys, if you see a tweet that pisses you off today because it’s rude or dumb or political, maybe consider just ignoring it?”
What, and ignore the chance to take your frayed nerves out on someone else like a rabid dog? We’re vaguely reminded of Glenn Close in the bloody bathtub scene of “Fatal Attraction” and her chilling remark, “I mean, I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.”
Among the two big clusters of brawls was another “Glenn.” This one, Politico‘s Glenn Thrush, who attempted to school CNN’s Chris Cuomo on proper bomb coverage. Cuomo wrote, 1. “#Boston – latest. Two bombs exploded. A 3rd pkg was blown up by auth’s. As many as 3 other possible devices being investigated.” 2. “#Boston authorities still searching. Two crude bombs with ball bearings or shrapnel went off. Other pkgs found may have been non-explosive.” 3. “Being told at this point not ruling out one actor theory.”
Thrush lashed out. “Wait–so how did one guy plant the 8 bombs u told us about earlier? …Not being a wise ass — asking u to think before u press send,” Thrush wrote to Cuomo. The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg promptly backed Thrush: “Now on Twitter, Glenn Thrush is teaching Chris Cuomo about journalism. …Just to be clear, I was complimenting Glenn Thrush for teaching Chris Cuomo about the dangers of spreading unconfirmed information.” Cuomo ignored his critics and didn’t respond to any of them.
The other snarl was Politico‘s Dylan Byers versus ClearChannel‘s Colby Hall and BuzzFeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski. Byers, who’s usually pretty mild-mannered on Twitter, and Kaczynski, who occasionally enjoys subtle antagonizing, eventually seemed to warm back up to each other, but not without a few blistering moments when BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief and Twitter father figure Ben Smith, who at different points hired them both, dove in to effectively say, ‘You’re both right.’ Come on Ben, in a good Twitter fight, opposing sides are never both right! But this morning he declared to some involved parties: “No haters.” But life on Twitter is not always so civilized.
Some more spiritual healing ignored by all: “A crisis depletes your emotions,” wrote megachurch pastor Rick Warren, whose popularly isn’t exactly soaring in the gay community. “You must intentionally replenish them. Make a list of what restores you and do those things.”
Restore? How about a brawl on what the real meaning of “retweet” is. Is it a ringing endorsement or sharing facts or innocently presenting a contrasting viewpoint? If you’re Politico‘s Byers, it’s the latter as he shared a diary piece from the conservative RedState; if you’re ClearChannel‘s Hall it’s the former and it appeared to seriously piss him off. And then Byers used profanity and the whole thing got U.G.L.Y.
Colby Hall: “Why promote some random wacko consipiracy [sic] theory?”
Dylan Byers: “Because it’s indicative of what some on far-right are thinking. will matter later.”
Colby Hall: “Or you are just promoting the acceptance of a half-baked theory that is better left ignored.”
Dylan Byers: “Or you are full of shit.”
Colby Hall: “Whoa!”
Dylan Byers: “I’m not promoting anything. I’m showing parameters of conversation.”
Colby Hall: “Now who’s full of shit?”
Dylan Byers: “You think I’m endorsing fringe speculation because I take note of it? I doubt that.”
Colby Hall: But you didn’t just “take note of it”…you brought attention to it by linking to it. so yeah, you promoted it.
Dylan Byers: “Providing link to an article you don’t necessarily agree with is not promoting it. It’s referencing it.”
Colby Hall: “But editorial judgment isn’t just what you link — it’s what you chose not to link to.”
This is about when Andrew Kaczynski jumped into the fray:
Andrew Kaczynski: “Linking to a random diary on Red State is like linking to a random diary on the Daily Kos.”
Dylan Byers: “What’s your point?”
Ben Smith: “I didn’t link! Andrew’s right that it was a blog comment, in effect. Dylan’s right too…”
Dylan Byers: “It’s worthwhile to note parameters of this conversation, on far-right and far-left… I did so with context.”
Andrew Kaczynski: “Context would be mentioning what I said too.”
Midway through the evening, another piece of unexpected advice rolled in from Politicalwire‘s Taegan Goddard: “Folks, just turn off the TV. No one knows much of anything yet and they’re just going to make you crazy.”
Crazy. Who’s crazy?