If a blog is, in the words of my friend the film critic Cole Smithey, “a column without the responsibility,” a tweet must be something yet more trifling. Off the cuff. Unvarnished. Unfiltered. A revolution is not a dinner party and a tweet is not a political platform.
The kerfuffle (<- word that must be used in pieces about this sort of thing) over game-show host Pat Sajak’s climate-denialist tweet proves that enough is enough. It is time for a Tweet Manifesto, a definitive, universally agreed-upon declaration that restores the tweet’s rightful, inherent status as a free-fire zone for stupid thoughts for which no one may be held responsible, much less, say, fired over.
On May 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm, well into the hours during which most alcoholic beverages are consumed in the United States, the master of “Wheel of Fortune” master of ceremonies issued the following bit of brilliance: “I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night.”
Global warming alarmists (i.e., reasonably intelligent and/or attentive people, including 97% of climate scientists) took issue with being accused of racial bigotry and treasonous loyalty to America’s numerous enemies. Salon accused Sajak of “unhinged denialism — throwing wild allegations of racism against the overwhelming majority of scientists.”
A day and a half into SajakTweetGate, Sajak backpedaled:
“As most of you know, original Tweet was intended to parody the name-calling directed at climate skeptics. Hyperbole.”
He doubled down.
“Of course I was joking. Just mocking the name-calling that is directed at global warming skeptics within and without the scientific community.”
But then — have you no mercy, Viceroys? — the cruel journo-detectives at Vice scrolled down investigated Sajak’s Twitter feed. There they discovered a series of (a) straightforward tweets doubting that climate change is real, including the inevitable shot at Al Gore, (b) anti-environmentalism generally and (c) strong evidence of Republicanism.
E.g., May 7th: “My interest in Al Gore’s pronouncements could fit into a gnat’s navel & still leave room for a Liberal’s sense of humor.”
So now, a question and a plea.
Question first: Why do we/would we/should anyone give a shit what Pat Sajak thinks about climate change?
Now the plea: From now on, can we let Twitter be what it was always meant to be: a forum where nothing you say can be used against you?
Do we really want to live in a world where a comic actor can be chastised for making fun of reality show contestants who die in tragic extreme-sports accidents? Where a football player — working in a game known for its progressive politics — is suspended for tweeted gay-bashing? Where a governor is forced to beg for forgiveness because a state bureaucrat failed to think through a tweet urging rape prevention?
People need a place where they can be their own, stupid selves online. Where they can express their dumbest prejudices, their unsourced political opinions and their peculiar unjustified bigotries free, not of the ridicule they richly deserve and cannot be blocked, but of the real-world fear that they’ll get suspended or fired for something their brains coughed out during a random moment of whateverness.
On Twitter, if nowhere else, let 1,000 moronic flowers bloom.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]