The Twitter fallacy that’s good for democracy

Today the Denver Post gifts us with a gee-whiz article about a gee-whiz phenomenon: Politicians are using Twitter!

Yes, they are. And they have been for half a year. Even that public relations ticking time bomb state Sen. Dave Schultheis is tweeting!

Seriously. I mean did Post reporter Michael Riley really mean to write this?

John McCain managed to shape debate on the omnibus budget bill recently with blistering Twitter missives and top-10 lists on wasteful spending, helped by media fascination with a tech-savvy septuagenarian senator.

“Media fascination with a tech-savvy septuagenarian senator?” He’s talking about John McCain, who up until at least last November didn’t use the Internet and had staffers checking “the e-mail.” Twitter is not techy! John McCain is texting on his phone. That’s all there is really to tweeting. He’s not writing software. He’s not tech-savvy.

This may be overstating — but only by a little and mostly just for fun — but the media’s presenting twittering as tech-savvy-ness and Riley’s repeating it is more evidence of what’s wrong with journalism.

Twittering is fairly new, at least in its widespread adoption, and has spurred some compelling developments. It is becoming, for example, an important taste-making medium, a great aggregating tool people use to cut a path in the information jungle.

But tweets are also rapid, loose, unedited and part of an expanding and uncontrollable twittersphere. Right now that’s what’s interesting about politics and Twitter. If we can keep playing on the vanity of politicians — calling them tech-savvy for using Twitter and subscribing to their Twitter feeds — all the better.

It was a tweet, for example, that sparked the recent and rich David Sirota / U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet / Wendy Norris blog fire!

This is how it happened for Sirota:

Check out this Twitter note I caught from Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post blogger, just now:

“Just back from lunch with Sen. Bennet (Colo.).”

So evidently, Bennet has no time to get on the phone and join a public, 50,000-watt forum for tens of thousands of Colorado voters, but plenty of time to lunch with a Washington Post blogger.

There it is, a Twitter leak. Boom!

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