Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twits and Town Halls

So what happens when you produce something so huge that it's virtually unreadable? Normally it's left unread. I call it the Harlot's Ghost maxim.

But what do you get when this strategy of over-delivering backfires? Pure comedy unmatched even by a Golden Girls marathon.

More specifically, you get pols who never read the health care bill faced with people who have. Witness the town hall meeting this past week with Senator Arlen Specter. The folks present didn't just read the bill, they're now quoting it - something even the titan of transparency never really wanted.

Even better, this level of discourse is coming from the non-Twitter crowd, the beyond Facebook folks more concerned with Lipitor side effects than Lady Gaga's lady parts. They are not motivated by racism, as the left wants everyone to believe, but by real concerns - some raised at the dinner table, some reasoned in books. None from Twitter, I imagine.

I only bring up Twitter, because as I watched the PA town meeting, I also came across an online column by Meghan McCain, i.e. Ron Reagan with curves. In a catty struggle for relevance among perceived rivals, she points out that while Michelle Malkin has the number one book on the New York Times bestseller list, McCain has "nearly twice as many Twitter followers as she does. And trust me, Twitter is more of an indication of where young people are than books published by the hyper-conservative publisher Regnery."

Maybe so, but did these "young people" read the health care proposal? Did they show up at town hall meetings? No – they're too busy Twittering about Twilight (yes, a dated reference, but I like how it sounds). Twitter might have been there for Iran, but in the end, the young people weren't.

And here is where McCain's crowing about Twitter reveals a mistake many people make: confusing mass for meaning; accumulation for content. The fact is, the phone book has everything I need to know about the world around me, but I don't take it to the beach to read. The phone book inspires no one, for it is (or was) a tool used by others to facilitate communication – much like Twitter. To confuse the messaging system with the message should tell Meghan her message needs work. Considering she just signed a hefty book deal, I'd get on that soon.

Which brings me back to those old coots railing at Arlen Specter. That was an honest spectacle generated by a generation unencumbered by the desire for "followers." Their concerns are bigger: increased government control, their family's well-being, and of course their own mortality. They realize that 5000 followers will not come to their funeral. And sadly for Megs, they probably don't buy books either.