There is no monolithic “Twitter” that makes pronouncements

December 29, 2017 • 12:00 pm

This is happening not just at the much reviled (and, I suspect, cash bleeding) HuffPo, but on many other pop news sites as well. “Twitter does this” or “Twitter says that”, the sites proclaim. Here’s one example from the site I love to hate (click on screenshot to see it):Some points:

1.) There is no monolithic “Twitter” that expresses a unanimity or near-unanimity of opinion, as such headlines imply.

2.) The headlines reflect this sad fact: the author (in this case a Regressive Leftist) decides he or she doesn’t like something, and then trawls Twitter to find support for that opinion.

Yet for every case of support, there are cases of non-support. Just think about Trump and all the HuffPo headlines proclaiming that “Twitter thinks X” about Trump. They don’t look at opposite opinions—you’d have to go to Breitbart for that.

What author Moye really means here is that “some people on Twitter” criticized the NYT for portraying chopsticks in a culturally insensitive matter—clearly one of the overarching problems of social justice.

3.) The headlines reflect something else: lazy journalism. These “Tweetercles” are just a way of producing pieces of “journalism” without having to do any legwork. Just subscribe to a lot of Twitter sites, and pick out what you want from the feed based on whether it supports your preconceived ideology. Moye’s article contains 24 short lines of text sandwiched between ten tweets that themselves contain 19 lines of text. Remember, too, that Twitter is self-selecting: those who abhor something like misplaced chopsticks are more likely to tweet about it than those who don’t have an issue with it.

4.) This growing trend reflects a lack of journalistic diligence and integrity. Just pick and choose what you want from Internet, and voilà—you have an article that you can title “Twitter calls out X.” Whatever this is, it’s not journalism, but more like confirmation bias.

5.) As far as I can see, good journalism in newspapers and websites, and that includes the New York Times, is dying. I’m sure there are lots of good reporters out there, but how can they compete with clickbait that drags in views and bucks from those with limited attention spans? There are only about three halfway decent newspapers left in America, and I predict that even these will grow fewer in the coming years.


56 thoughts on “There is no monolithic “Twitter” that makes pronouncements

  1. Only question I have for the moron who wrote that PuffHo piece; if I find an Asian person using a fork incorrectly am I allowed to get MY knickers in a twist?

        1. In Italy, including Naples (where pizza was invented), pizza is not usually pre-cut into slices. Hence, use of a knife and fork is de rigeur, and some would say more civilized. Ergo, as a person with solely Italian ancestry (of course I have to identify as a member of a group!), I am deeply OFFENDED when I see Americans eat pizza with their hands. If PuffHo actually paid for their “articles”, perhaps I could receive some remuneration for my expressing my deeply held feelings?

              1. Can’t abide the guppies, but I agree with BJ. The Canadians are responsible, blame them; the Hawaiian pizza, along with curling, ice hockey and obnoxious pop-stars, was invented in Canuckistan, or so I believe.

  2. I really enjoy The Oregonian, they’ve done some excellent journalistic work this last year (lead in the public schools, Bundy trials, etc.) I also subscribe, because I think it is important to pay for our long-form journalism.

  3. The photo in the screenshot is a correct view of chopsticks, but the photo in the New York Times is rather bizarre.
    But why call this “cultural insensitivity”?? It’s attaching a stronger stigma than necessary to something massively less sinister.

    During the summer I lived in Shanghai, I encountered a fair amount of friendly cluelessness to American culture none of which struck me as “offensive”.

  4. A new dictionary definition:


    having no value; worthless.

    synonyms: worthless, of no value,
    useless, to no purpose, (of) no use,
    profitless, futile, pointless, vain, in
    vain, to no avail, to no effect,
    fruitless, unproductive, idle,
    meretricious, ineffective, unavailing;

    verb – informal
    spend time aimlessly; idle.

    noun – informal

    a silly or foolish person,POTUS (often as a general term of abuse).

  5. I asked a Chinese woman working as a waitress to teach me to use chopsticks when I was a 15-year-old busboy working at a Polynesian tiki joint. She didn’t seem to mind the cultural appropriation. Hell, she’d laugh to find me practicing in the bus-stand during slack times.

    1. I’m assuming that bus stand is a part of a restaurant and not where one waits for a bus as I initially thought.
      I had visions of you waiting for a bus waving chopsticks around.
      Inagine the looks you’d get?

    2. That is a darling recount, Mr Kukec. I was myself a restaurant worker, a waitress Louise Sawyer – style at a couple of interstate / truckstop diners; and a kiddo of mine (now a bilingual, legal aid – attorney / TRLA branch manager at the Texas / Mexico border) was at one time a busboy at that same age for an upscale seafood joint.

      I so appreciate such employees and that type of workplace. It was a mighty fine sorta – ‘first’ job; and I know that some never ( are able to ) leave it for something different to do.

      Appropriation of The Hard Work Ethic of such workers of any ethnicity ‘d be a good.good. thing, indeed !


  6. I’m surprised that someone like Bill Gates doesn’t start a news organization with the goal of producing excellent journalism that is actually fair and balanced.

    1. Like eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, did with The Intercept? It is obviously limited in scope and has a certain agenda, but if “fair and balanced” means non-partisan then it would certainly serve as an example. I doubt it would make much financial sense to set up a massive news organization like the one you seem to have in mind. However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are helping fund quality, freely accessible “journalism”, written by academic experts who do not get paid for their contributions, and available to all media organizations under Creative Commons. The Conversation (US version)

    2. It’s probably an understatement to say that producing objectively “excellent, fair and balanced” journalism is insanely hard. How do you fairly balance things that are completely imbalanced, like Donald Trump’s government? Giving fair and balanced treatments to all sides of an issue is madness, unless you want half of each article to consist of complete lunacy.

      1. It isn’t that hard. You simply report objective fact and let the readers make up their minds. The problem with media now is that they go out of their way to skew stories in one direction. Trump is quite correct in his “fake news” accusations. The fact that he spins like a top himself doesn’t absolve the press of their wrongdoing.

        1. It’s not hard in theory, but for example how do you deal with facts skewing incredibly hard into one direction or another? Or how do you deal with important objective falsehoods (the ones you can’t just not report on)? Do you mention in the article that what person X claims is wrong, or is that skewing into one direction again? Do you leave it uncommented and let the reader make up their mind? And then again, where do readers go to make up their minds, if they even choose to do so instead of taking whats claimed at face value?

          1. Some news/media organizations provide this in a limited scope. For example: BBC’s “Reality Check” (;
            ABC’s “Fact Check” (

            But, if you read them, you will see they are rather in depth, sometimes technical, and bureaucratic/academic in tone. Thus, they hardly appeal to your average news reader who just wants “the facts”. Things are never usually straightforward and simple and this is precisely why they can be spun and become the object of contestation.

            1. To give a simple example: Current government says it is spending more on education & health than any previous government.

              This statement is true of spending in real dollar terms. It is “a fact” as such.

              But what does “spending” mean? Expenditure in real dollar terms, as percentage of GDP, amount per person/user of education and health systems?
              What about when the figure is inflation adjusted? Does the figure include any rare (once in a lifetime restructuring, for example) or extra-ordinary expenditure? Does it include major spending commitments introduced by a previous government? And so on and on….

        2. Many people seem to be unable to put bias aside when processing statements (messages). Ideology/identity, rather than intelligent consideration, decide how many view information they are given.

  7. I eat popcorn with chopsticks for practice. That should be good for half a page of ridicule on HuffPo. I’m sure they have nothing more important to do.

    1. It’s outrageous cultural appropriation. Corn stolen from Meso-Americans, chopsticks stolen from China. You probably butter it, stealing from the Celts. I’d suggest you bow your head in shame, but that gesture belongs to the Japanese exclusively.

  8. H/T Sexy Sadie. J. Lennon

    Euphemia Allen
    what have you done
    you made a fool of everyone
    YOU made a fool of e v e r y o n e
    Euphemia Allen you broke all the rules
    middle eight
    you played your chopsticks on the ivory keys
    and left it in a world f**king hard to please
    oh Euphemia Allen
    what have you done.

  9. H/T Sexy Sadie. J. Lennon

    Euphemia Allen
    what have you done
    you made a fool of everyone
    YOU made a fool of e v e r y o n e
    Euphemia Allen you broke all the rules
    middle eight
    you played your chopsticks on the ivory keys
    and left it in a world f**king hard to please
    oh Euphemia Allen
    what have you done.

  10. I read the NYT regularly. Something I noticed: the hard/paper copy reads differently than the online version. The main section in the paper version contains the “real” news, and the standards are maintained at a high level, IMO. But in the online version, the “front page” is a jumble of news articles, editorials, random social commentary, and bylines for arts, philosophy, etc., so it’s harder to delineate actual news from softer stuff. A much different experience. I’m still happy reading the online version since it’s convenient and I can cull the fluff – and, the crossword is fun to do online!

    1. I get the Sunday hard copy and agree that nothing compares to having all sections to browse through the old-fashioned way. Also subscribe online and agree that it seems to take much more effort to find the same non-front-page articles that way…But I disagree about working the puzzles online–guess it takes getting used to!

    2. This is a good observation. I think the same thing is true of the Telegraph (UK), whose website is very much fast-food news.

      This means that part of what’s wrong with news isn’t just “in the water” of 2017, nor is it lack of money. The exact same back-room operation is producing two different presentations optimised (week by week) for different markets. And the market which is growing prefers a very shallow product.

      1. Many who excoriate the quality of journalism today (or who have throughout history, for that matter) forget that in order to survive it has to appeal to its audience. When the public doesn’t appreciate quality reporting it ceases to exist.

    1. The “problem” is the not way they are holding them. There is an additional photo (in the linked article) which -horror of horrors- show two sets of chopsticks, one left flat in a dish with food on it, the other set, also left in food, is sticking up out of a dish.

      When eating with chopsticks, EVERYONE who isn’t a culturally appropriating s**lord knows that you don’t leave them in your dish and especially not with them sticking up.

      Why? Reasons.

  11. I don’t really get the objection to chopstick placement in the NYT photo, aside from the oddity of having them next to a steak. The main objection was that they were claimed to be stuck upright, & that doing so is considered poor taste. But I don’t see the chopsticks placed like that in the photo.

    1. Who cares anyway? The Chinese certainly don’t. White Left is now an insult in Chinese internet culture because of this kind of regressive rubbish. They can see the insanity of it quite clearly.

      1. My wife, from Hong Kong, disapproves of chop sticks standing in a dish as that is too similar to food with incense sticks offered to the dead.

        As for the correct way of holding chopsticks, I’ve seen Chinese use several techniques – the grip shown in the screen shot at he head of the post enables a firm hold but, IMO, hinders flexible control which is better achieved using just two fingers and the thumb.

        Alas, I am an insensitive western barbarian and have used chopsticks to eat fish and chips, steak, salad, potato wedges, pizza. A place in cultural appropriation hell awaits me.

  12. I have a chuckle when I’m in Thailand and westerners insist on using chopsticks to eat Thai food to be more authentic.
    Thais use a fork and spoon and only use chopsticks for foods from chopstick using countries such as noodles from China.
    I wonder if it’s racist to think that all Asians use chopsticks. 🙂

  13. Those devices shown in the ad don’t look like chopsticks to me. They have no taper and look to be round for their entire length (which is itself problematic). They look like the kind of cheap wooden skewers you get from “Kebabs to go”.

  14. The only people I’ve have seen complaining about “cultural appropriation”, are truly awful human beings, who like to bully and harass others.

  15. It seems that many journalists spend a good amount of their time “sniffing” out stories on Twitter as I have seen numerous examples of a supposed piece of journalism on reputable and quality news sites amount to nothing more than a few words by the journalist and an array of screen shots from Twitter users in order to provide the insightful, worthwhile and expert opinions of authorities such as fluffy_bunny87 and alfalfa_male & etc., on the topic under discussion. Perhaps it could be spun as an initiative in a grass-roots, public-participation model of the media that will be the future of journalism!

  16. I forgot to say that I totally agree with the important point you are making here. It’s very Buzzfeed-ish: “Twitter calls out… for….” and is worrying for journalistic standards and news content.
    It seems, however, that most commenters above have missed the main point (Twitter and a trend in journalism) and turned it into a discussion of chopsticks and cultural appropriation (that is, the example used as evidence of the trend)….

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