Detractors of the now ubiquitous (among horrible white people) social media platform Twitter are quick to write the whole thing off as an exercise in the most inane of vanities, salvos of solipsism fired off to a universe that’s clearly waiting with bated breath with the latest on that sandwich you’re working your way through. Linguist, radical, and Dig favorite Noam Chomsky even went so far as to say that Twitter was, “not a medium of serious interchange.”
That argument, though not entirely without merit (#kardashiankolonoscopy now trending!), is not really one that can hold water in this tempestuous first second tenth of the century, with the little blue birdie sounding the death knell of oppressive regimes and plutocratic bastards the world over.
From Occupy to the Arab Spring, those 140 characters have been an integral part of the organization of, collaborations between, and raising almost instantaneous global awareness for what may very likely be the major social movements of our lifetime.
Hate to break it to you, Noam (@doyounoam), but that’s some very serious interchange going on there.
Ultimately, Twitter, like any other form of communication, really, is only as insipid as what’s being communicated. Sure, you could blow a vein about the twenty million or so that hang on @JustinBieber‘s every character, or you could take comfort in the top trending topic #hafizsaeed, and the ensuing conversation it sparked about the United States’s vested interest in South Asian politics.
Yes, you can use Twitter to tell the world about your sandwich. But that still doesn’t mean you can’t make people give a shit.
Unless, of course, you happen to have a lot of money.
As it turns out, the (somewhat depressing) dream of one day being the top trending topic on Twitter is within the reach of anybody with a spare 120k lying around.
On an “exclusive invitational basis” (kinda the way you were hand selected for that expensive summer camp) Twitter will offer people with enough money the chance to give them that money in exchange for instant relevance. Which is how a company like Radio Shack—whose very branding is literally the first two things you’d yell out in a “name something irrelevant” contest—became the talk of the nation with its #UneedANewPhone and #IfIHadSuperPowers campaigns a coupla Christmases ago.
Join the conversation. (The conversation is happening in a 7-Eleven parking lot in 1982.)
‘Course, as that “coupla Christmases ago” shoulda clued you in, this is hardly something new— Twitter’s been accepting coin from such mediocre giants as American Airlines to McDonald’s Canada, and it hardly seems fair to take umbrage with them trying to make some money off of the medium they’ve been generously offering up for free.
What is new, however, is Twitter’s only recently minted reputation as a glorious tool of the revolution, and the company’s own as-yet unclear stance on that status.
For every activist that’s embraced Twitter, there’s a government official with a subpoena ready to snatch up that activist’s account.
Twitter has so far done its level best to avoid pissing anybody important off, at least on this side of the Atlantic. As the conversation becomes increasingly heated—and pointedly anti-corporate—what’s Twitter going to do when the trending topic call for the tarring and feathering of somebody who already dropped that 120k.
If talk is for sale, why not silence?
Last month, in a Facebook post titled “Boston University’s Failure to Provide Support For Victims of Sexual Assault,” The Theater Offensive‘s Allison Francis took BU to task for their completely ineffectual rape crisis hotline, which directed callers to a different number, which in turn directed them back to the original number.
Coming in the wake of serious sexual assault allegations leveled against members of the hockey team, Francis’s damning expose on the school’s lack of resources outraged Terriers, who subsequently lit up the local twitter-sphere with hashtags proclaiming their injured pride, anger and invectives side-by-side with #proudtoBU and #terrierpride hashtags.
Those wounds had only begun to heal when BU’s Daily Free Press released their April Fools’ edition, with the headline reading “BROken Egos: BU Fraternity Suspended For Assaulting Female Student.”
The “joke” article—which was never put online, but is available in its entirety at Jezebel—is essentially a BU re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, substituting the poisoned apple for a roofied appletini and the friendly dwarves for frat rapists. The article goes on to make unbearable lightness of student response, with Pocahantas, the president of “Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Magical Creatures” calling for “the serialization of all BU males.”
All of this not hours after the BU Take Back the Night march had ended.
Anybody got ten grand to spare? It’s time for #shameonBU to start trending.
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