Bret Stephens “Forswears” Twitter for All the Wrong Reasons

 

Bret Stephens doesn’t like Twitter, so he decided that you shouldn’t either.

His reasoning is lax, but the New York Times columnist blames the social media platform for “pornifying” politics. “Twitter is the political pornography of our time,” Stephens claims, “revealing but distorting, exciting but dulling, debasing to its users, and, well, ejaculatory. It’s bad for the soul and, as Donald Trump proves daily, bad for the country.”

As someone who spends too much time on Twitter, I couldn’t disagree more. Twitter — as with books, television, podcasts, or any other medium — is what you make of it. You can visit the library to check out Dostoyevsky or Danielle Steele. Go on YouTube for the BBC’s “Civilisation” documentaries or to see skateboarders getting popped in their yam bags. Download podcasts from Ricochet, or from some horrible, lesser audio network.

More Stephens:

Short-form writing can be informative, aphoristic and funny. Twitter is terrific when tailored as a personalized wire service and can be a useful way to communicate with readers. And where would our literary culture be without @WtfRenaissance or @LosFelizDaycare?

But Twitter’s degrading uses tend to overwhelm its elevating one. If pornography is about the naked, grunting body, Twitter is about the naked, grunting brain. It’s whatever pops out. And what pops out is altogether too revealing.

Bigotry flourishes on Twitter, since it offers the bigot the benefits of anonymity along with instantaneous, uncensored self-publication. It’s the place where their political minds can be as foul as they want to be — without the expense or reputational risk of showing their face at a Richard Spencer rally.

Stephens admits that there is good on Twitter, so it’s odd that he condemns it all. I too use the social media site for breaking news, entertainment, and sharing quick thoughts. And yes, there’s a dark side, but you can find bigotry and “grunting” anywhere in a free society. That’s no reason to avoid the public square.

More oddly, Stephens says he’s forswearing Twitter but “I’ll keep my Twitter handle, and hopefully my followers… I’ll intercede only to say nice things about the writing I admire, the people I like and the music I love.” Which is precisely what the service is for.

You control your Twitter experience by following the accounts you enjoy, muting the annoyances, and blocking the abusers. And if the back and forth gets too angry or tedious, you can step away and do something else.

If Stephens doesn’t find value in Twitter, that’s fine. But to insist that no one else should is silly.

There are 35 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: “Twitter is the political pornography of our time,” Stephens claims, “revealing but distorting, exciting but dulling, debasing to its users, and, well, ejaculatory. It’s bad for the soul and, as Donald Trump proves daily, bad for the country.”

    I was waiting for Donald Trump to appear in that barrage of perverse sexual innuendo. I didn’t have to wait long. Bret Stephens has jumped the shark unfortunately. In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators. David Brooks can be his new BFF.

    • #1
  2. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    If he wants real Twitter porn that exists, too. Even when you don’t go looking for it. Sports Illustrated, which like ESPN is becoming less and less about sports, have tweeted out some very explicit pictures for their swimsuit issue – except there are no swimsuits involved. I didn’t even know vajazzled was a word.

    While the anonymity of Twitter may contribute to the nastiness, it is certainly more the overall coarseness of the culture. Everyone is looking for that “edge.” Keep pushing towards the edge and eventually you’ll fall off.

    Mankind has always been base and crude. Twitter is like life. It’s who you hang out with. I may be seen as disreputable because I choose to tweet baseball smack with @Casey and @whiskeysam.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I don’t have a Twitter account. By the time Twitter came along, I had seen enough of the dark side of humanity on the news sites I visited on the Internet. I was not interested in seeking out more. What was bothering me more than the vulgarity was the hatred. It was scary to see how fast people rushed to judgment and then condemnation of people. All it took was for someone to be accused of something, and seconds later everyone had an opinion on the person’s guilt or innocence, and very rarely was it defending someone’s innocence.

    That’s why I love Ricochet. It is a haven in the midst of the madness out there.

     

    • #3
  4. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Jason Whitlock has the freshest take ok twitter I’ve seen. He’d be a great podcast guest.

    • #4
  5. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I will not judge people outside of a real trial with real evidence. Even then, some evidence is questionable.

    Is Hodgkinson guilty?

     

    • #5
  6. BD1 Member
    BD1
    @
    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I will not judge people outside of a real trial with real evidence. Even then, some evidence is questionable.

    Is Hodgkinson guilty?

    :)

    The case that tested my resolve was the former NFL player Hernandez case in Boston. If he really did carry out the crime and cover-up the way it was reported in the local press, he had to have been brain damaged. It was completely irrational for him to build a multi-million-dollar new home and then carry out the murder and cover-up the way it was reported. The whole story was bizarre. My first thought was to wonder about brain damage. And I guess I wasn’t the only one: after he killed himself, his brain was ferried over to the brain research department of Boston University for study.

    Even in the most seemingly obvious cases, there can be unknown factors in play.

    • #7
  8. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Even in the most seemingly obvious cases, there can be unknown factors in play.

    What does that even mean? That Hernandez may not have committed the crime, but His brain may have made Him do it?

    • #8
  9. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Bret Stephens seems to have entered into a “let them eat cake, and also how dare they engage in such gauche le’majeste?!” stage.  Let us pray he eventually recovers his senses.

    • #9
  10. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    I was recently watching a Daily Wire youtube Election Day video where Ben Shapiro said that said that Bret Stephens hated Ted Cruz about the same amount as Donald Trump.

    I think Cruz and Rick Santorum had the best immigration scores from NumbersUSA (even higher than Trump, A versus A-), but Cruz supposedly supported LEGAL immigration more than any other candidate.  That at least seemed like a good compromise — keep the criminals out and let the good people in, but I guess even that was the highest sin possible for the always ILLEGAL-friendly Wall Street Journal writers.

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I don’t go into Twitter much anymore. I almost never tweet, or even retweet. There as been a bit of trimming back in whom I follow, too.

    • #11
  12. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Even in the most seemingly obvious cases, there can be unknown factors in play.

    Never underestimate the ability of a man to construct a flawed chain of reasoning.

    • #12
  13. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Percival (View Comment):
    I don’t go into Twitter much anymore. I almost never tweet, or even retweet. There as been a bit of trimming back in whom I follow, too.

    I get a thrill, small but nonetheless a thrill, when I block or mute someone.

    As Sister Charles always told us, “simple things for simple minds”.

     

    • #13
  14. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Download podcasts from Ricochet, or from some horrible, lesser audio network.

    I insist on a hostile takeover of the Panoply Network.

    There can be only one!

     

    • #14
  15. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    Sometimes I wonder what the Great Communicator, Ronaldus Magnus, would have been able to accomplish, if social media had been available in the 1980s. He was known for taking his case directly to the people, but he still had to rely on the dinosaur media for distribution.

    • #15
  16. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    “Twitter is the political pornography of our time,” Stephens claims, “revealing but distorting, exciting but dulling, debasing to its users, and,…bad for the soul”

    Well said.  FaceBook is just as bad.  Why do people waste their time on this crap?

    • #16
  17. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    cdor (View Comment):
    In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators.

    I would argue that most conservative commentators are really like this, they are just good at hiding it when they are at conservative publications. I bet a lot of people at NRO are just the same.

    • #17
  18. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    A high profile member of the twitter trust and safety council, known hoaxer of harassment, known liar, known fraud, UN representative, sexist, racist, and abuser and harasser on social media used her speaking position to harass and target abuse towards a member of the audience at the Youtube convention.  I have it on strong authority that normally twitter tends to frown on that sort of conduct.

    Since she hasn’t be deverified and banned, the only logical explanation is that Twitter hates the gays.  Obvi.

     

    The victim requests that we not contact the abusive bigoted hatespewing monster Anita Sarkesian.

     

    Given Twitters hate for the gays, Bret Stephens may be fundamentally wise to not patronize such a firm of low character.

    • #18
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    If Stephens doesn’t find value in Twitter, that’s fine. But to insist that no one else should is silly.

    I suppose that Stephens could have used his pulpit to draw finer distinctions about Twitter, but I’m just happy that someone with a “voice” finally said something approaching what a fair amount of people already think.  Is there “value” in Twitter?  I suppose, particularly if one is in a business where pontificating and accumulating followers has a benefit or where one is promoting a brand.  Is the ratio of dreck to value extraordinarily high?  In my book, without a doubt.  Sure, one can “control” one’s personal experience to a large extent, but that doesn’t make Twitter a good thing from a larger, cultural perspective.

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Even in the most seemingly obvious cases, there can be unknown factors in play.

    What does that even mean? That Hernandez may not have committed the crime, but His brain may have made Him do it?

    No, but from what I read about the case, it seemed to me that he was not thinking rationally.  And I know that doctors look for concussion when people behave erratically. I’m just saying he may have had some brain damage somewhere, and I’m not the only person wondering about that.

    • #20
  21. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    Bret Stephens seems to have entered into a “let them eat cake, and also how dare they engage in such gauche le’majeste?!” stage. Let us pray he eventually recovers his senses.

    Indeed. I will never forget the dark days of the Second Intifada, when Bret Stephens was the finest, most courageous, most literate editor-in-chief the generally soggy expat Jerusalem Post ever had.

    If, as the Talmud says, there are some who gain their eternal reward in a single hour, that was Stephens’. Hard to say what happened after that.

    • #21
  22. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators.

    I would argue that most conservative commentators are really like this, they are just good at hiding it when they are at conservative publications. I bet a lot of people at NRO are just the same.

    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    • #22
  23. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators.

    I would argue that most conservative commentators are really like this, they are just good at hiding it when they are at conservative publications. I bet a lot of people at NRO are just the same.

    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    Hello to @podkayneofisrael, hoping all is well. You probably are referencing outlaws6688 comment, but from my point of view, NRO has a number of excellent folks writing. I don’t follow it as much, however, after they came out with an entire issue against Trump during the campaign. Then David French ran, with the support of Bill Kristol, a silly campaign for President, after Trump had secured the nomination. That campaign was designed , as far as I could tell, to only prevent Trump from winning, thus giving the election to Hillary. But I think they are warming to the idea that Trump, not being an ideological conservative, has still accomplished many things that are conservative by their nature. Personally I see Trump as a practical conservative. So if there was an inquisition, don’t you see NRO as having some culpability?

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    cdor (View Comment):
    practical conservative

    I love this term.

    • #24
  25. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    MarciN (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    practical conservative

    I love this term.

    How about pragmatic conservative, Marci? I think pragmatic is worth 25 cents more than practical.

    • #25
  26. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    cdor (View Comment):

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators.

    I would argue that most conservative commentators are really like this, they are just good at hiding it when they are at conservative publications. I bet a lot of people at NRO are just the same.

    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    Hello to @podkayneofisrael, hoping all is well. You probably are referencing outlaws6688 comment, but from my point of view, NRO has a number of excellent folks writing. I don’t follow it as much, however, after they came out with an entire issue against Trump during the campaign. Then David French ran, with the support of Bill Kristol, a silly campaign for President, after Trump had secured the nomination. That campaign was designed , as far as I could tell, to only prevent Trump from winning, thus giving the election to Hillary. But I think they are warming to the idea that Trump, not being an ideological conservative, has still accomplished many things that are conservative by their nature. Personally I see Trump as a practical conservative. So if there was an inquisition, don’t you see NRO as having some culpability?

    “Culpability”? I reject that word with regard to supporting/not supporting political leaders. They are our servants, we are not theirs. If they don’t get us the results we want, we can fire them and elect others.

    You say you don’t follow NR. I do. It seems to me that their writer have concluded that “Never Trump” is not an issue now that the election is over. If Trump does something they agree with, they say so. If not, not.

    • #26
  27. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    In doing so he has migrated to the NY Times cemetary for former bright conservative commentators.

    I would argue that most conservative commentators are really like this, they are just good at hiding it when they are at conservative publications. I bet a lot of people at NRO are just the same.

    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    Hello to @podkayneofisrael, hoping all is well. You probably are referencing outlaws6688 comment, but from my point of view, NRO has a number of excellent folks writing. I don’t follow it as much, however, after they came out with an entire issue against Trump during the campaign. Then David French ran, with the support of Bill Kristol, a silly campaign for President, after Trump had secured the nomination. That campaign was designed , as far as I could tell, to only prevent Trump from winning, thus giving the election to Hillary. But I think they are warming to the idea that Trump, not being an ideological conservative, has still accomplished many things that are conservative by their nature. Personally I see Trump as a practical conservative. So if there was an inquisition, don’t you see NRO as having some culpability?

    “Culpability”? I reject that word with regard to supporting/not supporting political leaders. They are our servants, we are not theirs. If they don’t get us the results we want, we can fire them and elect others.

    You say you don’t follow NR. I do. It seems to me that their writer have concluded that “Never Trump” is not an issue now that the election is over. If Trump does something they agree with, they say so. If not, not.

    OK I don’t want to argue @podkayneofisrael, but actually “culpability” was introduced by me in connection with your terminology of ” inquisition ” by Trump supporters, not with regard to political campaigns. Also I didn’t say that I don’t follow NRO. I said I don’t follow it as much. And finally if NR has concluded that NeverTrump is no longer an issue, I can’t say I totally agree with them, but I’ll take their word as regards to their own motives. Thanks, and be well.

    • #27
  28. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):
    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    What is it some of you people have against Rush Limbaugh? The Never Trump faction has a real Spanish side.

    • #28
  29. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):
    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    What is it some of you people have against Rush Limbaugh? The Never Trump faction has a real Spanish side.

    Who said anything about Limbaugh?

    • #29
  30. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):
    What is it some of you people have against NRO? The Trump faction has a real Inquisitorial streak.

    What is it some of you people have against Rush Limbaugh? The Never Trump faction has a real Spanish side.

    Who said anything about Limbaugh?

    Maybe not you, but many from your faction want to destroy him. So I think its only fair NRO gets the same treatment.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.