This Political Revolution Brought to You by Twitter
Warning: The following blog post references language that may be disturbing to some readers. If you're the sensitive type, better not click any of the following links. (Remember, I warned ya.)
This past weekend saw something we hadn't seen before on Twitter. Someone started an angry trending topic? True, but that's not new. People everywhere started cursing in a massive simultaneous attack of Tourette's? Yes, but that's not it either.
[ Also on InfoWorld.com: This isn't the first time Twitter and politics has come together, as Cringely details in "Fox News' Twitter account hacked, Obama's just fine." | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter.
Somebody tried to overthrow our government? Yes -- in word, if not in deed. And while he obviously didn't succeed, he did open the lid on a bubbling caldron of frustration that has real political potential.
Jeff Jarvis, one of the most successful bloviator/bloggers on the Net, rolled a Twitter snowball down a hill that turned into an avalanche. He started by ranting about the debt ceiling farce that has consumed much of our summer, which then turned into a crude hashtag I cannot repeat in this space, but which involves our nation's capital and a violent act of love.
That simple crude sentiment apparently struck a chord. The FYW tweet storm so completely dominated Twitter traffic that Jarvis says Twitter temporary shut down his account for tweeting too much. And though it never showed up as an official trending topic -- because Twitter monitors those for potty language -- that hashtag completely overwhelmed worldwide twitter statistics, per Trendsmap.
Even Anonymous chimed in with support for Jarvis, if that tells you anything.
This simple bleet of frustration has now become mixed with calls for a third, centrist, Internet-based political party, which in a nice bit of fortuitous timing was the topic of a New York Times column by Thomas Friedman that very day.
Americans Elect is trying to create a viable third-party alternative to the donkeys and the elephants by using the power of the Net, Friedman writes.
The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open - guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle with the best ideas on how deal with the debt, education and jobs.
Memes like FYW are exactly the kind of thing that could make this dream a reality -- or at least get enough people to sign enough petitions to put a candidate on the ballot.
The flaw with this idea, as Slate political analyst David Weigel points out, is that the president isn't the problem; the process is the problem. Washington is a place where almost nothing ever gets done, and the few things that do get done are almost never done well. Changing the nameplates at the top does nothing to change that. It's a simple-minded approach to a hellishly complicated situation.
Yet from here on out, I expect Twitter to play a key role in any new political movements in this country, in part because it is so simple minded. Jeff Howe, a journo prof at Northeastern and a crowdsourcing champion, tweeted most sagely:
Why this is smart. Web=nuance. Terrible in politics. Twitter=loud and simple. Like a bumper sticker.
And bumper sticker slogans are what get people elected. Think about it: The New Deal. I Like Ike. All the Way With LBJ. Morning in America. Hope. Death Panels. Twitter is verbose and nuanced by comparison.
We just witnessed the Arab spring, fueled largely by Twitter. Perhaps we are about to see an American fall -- one way or the other.
Could Twitter spark a revolution over here? Cast your vote below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "This political revolution has been brought to you by Twitter," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.