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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The 140-character campaign (II)

The New York Times, the Gray Lady of Mainstream Journalism, has discovered what the rest of us have know for awhile: Twitter has shoved civil discourse in this nation into the gutter.

Once upon a time, in the heyday of Theodore White and Johnny Apple, political campaigns were lengthy narratives to be dispensed in thoughtful daily doses by the boys on the bus. With the rise of TV, that slowly began to fade into 40-second sound bites, then 10-second sound bites until we reached the point today of the 140-character instant attack.

Twitter has rightfully been hailed as a voice of democracy, a key component of the Arab Spring. But less attention has been paid to the corrosive downside -- on display in American politics today.

It's a perverse tribute to today's political operative to acknowledge the venom and misinformation that can be harnessed in such tight quarters. Combined with the explosion of attack ads financed by unfettered corporate cash, Twitter has contributed to a cheapening of already coarse campaign "discourse."

The solution? That's perhaps the most frightening thought of all. I'm open to suggestions.

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