For anyone to lay claim to having glorified Twitter as a “great town square,” only to be disgusted by its descent into tribalism, political vengeance, ethnic and religious hatred, and rhetorical bloodlust, is to ignore the past, distort the present and exaggerate the future.
The image of a conventional town square, the sort of patriotic kitsch available (by check or credit card) from the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont, with plates bearing the late artist’s tributes to such storied concepts and characters as “Freedom of Speech,” “Uncle Sam Takes Wings,” “Knowledge Is Power,” “The Stock Exchange” and “The Postal Worker,” is to eat from the dinnerware of the common man; these mythologized illustrations of American culture, and the republican ideals of unalienable rights and popular sovereignty, are collectibles that venerate the works of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams and James Monroe.
Even our most robust town square, Times Square, is a benign symbol of Midwestern familiarity — with chain restaurants sporting the iconography of the suburbs, from the oversized red crustacean (for the seafood lover in you) to the double-arched golden “M” of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun — this stylized version of New York City, further homogenized by the Disney Store and Hershey’s Chocolate World, is a far cry from the physical domain of Twitter; a destination inflated by more artifice than a traveler will ever find, while walking through the flashing neon, white noise and dense fog of automotive exhaust in Midtown Manhattan.
The town square of Twitter is Egypt’s Tahrir Square.
With its false paeans to peace, and through the overthrow of an aged authoritarian and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, followed by the displacement of clerical rule with martial law — the events of the so-called “Arab Spring” now look more like the nuclear holocaust foretold by physicists from many decades ago, where, instead of drought and famine, the currents of the Nile quicken with the blood of Coptic Christians; innocents murdered for their devotion to the Prince of Peace, as Islamists seek to undo the long continuity of charity and Christlike devotion of an ancient people by severing the cross with the power of the sword.
This is the town square of Twitter.
It was — and is — the platform for cyber shouting, in 140 characters or less.
Twitter is also a recruiting tool for ISIS . . . and a feed, so to speak, for the drivers (and the followers of these drivers) of food trucks.
Try selling that business model — jihad with fries — to any value investor or media overlord.
By mimicking the technology of the 19th century, minus the clicking sounds of the flow of electromagnetic current and the movement of an armature connected to a telegraph, and by attracting the “lights of perverted science,” as well as the nativism, militarism, sexism and sectarian extremism of the 20th century, Twitter gives a 21st century veneer of progress to the most retrograde collection of fascists, terrorists and barbarians imaginable.
Twitter’s business model may or may not be dead, but the behavior it elicits and “the war of all against all” it encourages, makes the town square an enlarged cell for the enemies of freedom, a public putsch for partisan gangsters and a digital meeting place for fifth columnists and fellow travelers from Baghdad to Basra and Cairo to the pregnant caliphate of Shi’ite kidnappers and Sunni killers.
Welcome to the world of social media.