Silence Is Colored: An Adventure In Twitter Debate

This afternoon on Twitter was, to put it mildly, interesting. I’ve been on the Internet since late 1994 and I think the last time I engaged in any sort of debate over any subject must’ve been in the early 2000s. Today I went down the rabbit hole of Twitter debate and I think I came out well enough. (At the very least, this rabbit hole didn’t too closely resemble Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank Prison.)

It started when Max Blumenthal tweeted:

The Twitter timeline linked to in that tweet is its own rabbit hole. It’s not the one I plunged into, but ought to be read for context. After reading it myself, I replied to Max’s tweet with:

This tweet’s been favorited nine times as of this blog post, which I think is a record for me. The hashtag I made up also provides the title for this post.

The timeline from Max’s original tweet developed from there.

The primary point of contention in which I was involved had to do with derailment.

(An aside: Race is a touchy subject. (Obviously.) In my brief time on Twitter I’ve noticed that people who are a) especially touchy about race, and b) a member of a minority (in the US) racial or ethnic group, tend to use strangely academic language when talking about race-related affairs. This jargon seems to be used in a quasi-elitist fashion to shut down debate by means of implying, “I know more about this subject than you, so you shouldn’t speak on it.” The jargon angle is but one method available as part of a suite of shutdown tactics to which I’m becoming increasingly exposed. The term derailment, while admittedly useful, seems to be a member of this class of jargon.)

Several tweets into the timeline, my tweet above gets replied to:

A debate develops. Here are some highlights:

I’m entirely willing to grant that my last tweet in this list may be inordinately self-righteous, but the point of the exchange was to note that concerns about rescuing the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram extend beyond mere support for such an effort on Twitter. I could tweet #BringBackOurGirls fifty times a day and even if I had half-a-million followers, just doing that would mean very close to nothing (putting aside the possibility that if I really had that many followers, some subset of them might have a giant pile of money or military hardware to throw at the problem, thereby either doing some degree of good, a great deal of harm, or a mixture of both). The two links I include in the tweets above are very clear about concerns over the dangers of US intervention. Indeed, it’s prior intervention in Nigerian (and more broadly, African) affairs by the US that may well have set up the very crisis we in the Land of Privilege are now all wringing our hands over. I’m firmly of the belief that any discussion of support for an effort to rescue the hostages cannot be limited to cheerleading and other empty expressions. And such debate ought not be limited to the self-appointed Racially Knowledgeable who want to act as arbiters of who can speak about what by virtue of skin color. We are human. We have a stake in the lives and well-being of others, no matter how near or far, no matter what color of skin or language spoken.

Postscript: If you’re willing to indulge me further, here’s a side trip down another rabbit hole…

Follow the link in Max’s tweet to read another timeline with more of the same, though this one has a humorous ending in which I was able to participate. Twitter has it’s share of levity. It’s especially nice when it shows up in unlikely places.

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