Twitter . . .

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One of the more interesting dialogues in Orwell’s 1984 has to do with the language of the world of 1984.

More specifically, its calculated diminishment.

The character Syme – in the novel, he is presented as a philologist working on the “definitive edition” of the latest Newspeak dictionary (Newspeak is the official language of the Party, in 1984) – explains it a little too openly and ends up the worse for it.

He is worth quoting at length:

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word, which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take ‘good,’ for instance. If you have a word like ‘good,’ what need is there for a word like ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ will do just as well – better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good,’ what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood’ covers the meaning or ‘doubleplusgood’ if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words – in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston?”

Winston – the hero of the novel – is secretly appalled, but feigns avidity.

Syme continues:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”

Italics added.

To narrow the range of thought. To – ultimately – render thoughtfulness (as formerly understood) impossible.

As by Tweeting.

Only so many “characters” allowed, reducing the range of expression to a stunted version  of what would otherwise be expressed.

It is almost impossible to articulate complex thought in a Tweet.

Precisely the point of Tweeting.

The term itself is a diminishment. Of adults into pre-adolescent children. Try to imagine someone like Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy “Tweeting.”

Adults used to speak and write.

But that is at odds with adult conversations. The latter purposefully excludes the children, chronological as well as psychological. Adult conversation, when it turns to serious subjects, requires elaboration – as many “characters” as it takes. The children may not follow, at first – but as they mature (once upon a better time, this was considered desirable and so encouraged) they express what’s on their minds in a more adult manner. A point arrives at which they are accepted as new adults, having developed and demonstrated the skill of articulating complex thoughts and responding to them.

It is perhaps the thing that most clearly divides an adult from a child. And childish from adult societies.

Tweeting reduces all who Tweet to something less than adult, just by the doing of it. And – something worse. For a child is a child. It is a normal stage of development to be childish. But an adult who never developed beyond childhood is a ludicrous – and pathetic – creature. Like the grown-up who joins the kids inside the Moon Bounce. The Bible says “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Like Tweeting.

The diminishment – the arresting of development – is deliberate. Children pose no threat to the adults who work to keep them in a state of arrested development.

There is no technical reason why online commenting has to be limited to a certain number of characters. Indeed, it is precisely the opposite.

Letters-to-the editor and editorials and columns were once upon a time limited to however many column-inches were available. It was a physical limitation of only so much space.

In our time, there is no physical limit to the space necessary to express oneself. Our time ought to be a time of expansive thought – and adult discussion. We have the unprecedented luxury of not needing to constrain our thoughts to the boundaries of a few column-inches. And each of us has the expressive power of The New York Times – the whole thing – at our fingertips. Endless column-inches and pages, open to our thoughts and those of others, each encouraging the other to be more thoughtful.

Instead, we Tweet. Like infantalized 40-year-olds jumping in the Moon Bounce along with the kids.

. . .

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35 COMMENTS

  1. The Future Is A No-Brainer. And Twitter definitely is doing its job.

    “People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories, so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting!” -Joe from Idiocracy, about the movie Ass, which was about an ass. Farting. That’s it.

    *Narrator*
    -But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city slang, and various grunts.
    -Joe was about to learn, that in the future, justice was not only blind, but had become rather retarded as well.
    -Brawndo the Thirst Mutilator had come to replace water virtually everywhere. After several hours, Joe finally gave up on logic and reason, and simply told the cabinet that he could talk to plants and that they wanted water.
    -Dwayne Elizondo Camacho …Five-time Ultimate Smackdown champion …Porn superstar …And president of the United States…

    • Hi Anon,

      I respect Peterson. I may not agree with him on everything – but that is not the point. The point is he’s not a stifler. He does not require orthodoxy. He challenges you to think, to debate. To learn and to understand. That makes him a teacher and a damned fine one.

  2. At the same time, good writing involves clarity and conciseness. I sometimes don’t repost or pass along an article of yours that I otherwise like, because it reads like a transcription of an off-the-cuff recording, rather than a composed written piece. Not a criticism – you gotta do what you gotta do.

  3. This article was plusgood.

    Twenty-something years ago, when the internet was in it’s glory days, it was truly illuminating to have forums of every variety, where threads could go on for years! Even if you were a newcomer, you could easily go back and catch-up and get the context. You could read and write long thoughtful replies; work out new ideas or test old ones…it was GREAT! A person so inclined could really expand their intellect; find thoughtful intelligent people; debate….it was the height of human communication.

    Then came texting and social media….and the forums died- and there was nowhere to go, because 300 characters isn’t always quite sufficient to express complex thoughts; and with no easy-to-follow historical context, only what is said in the past half hour is relevant….and ‘click to read more’ after 12 words gets tiring after about two times…and censorship…and…and….no logical order or progression [Seems like a good way to induce mental illness].

    There’s a song about “the day the music died”- We need a song about the day the interwebz died!

  4. I know Tucker Carlson was making the point of Elon buying Twitter has the capacity to re-establish free speech to our culture. Maybe? I hope Elon is a man of his word and provides anybody the platform (except for Kid Porn which might affect Xiden and his wastrel son). That should mean the Putin can have an account along with Trump. Perhaps we can actually hear what Putin has to say without being censored? The horror!
    The other outcome could be Elon goes along to get along and buys the company but continues some undisclosed censorship to please the government masters he is seeking rent.
    I agree, our whole way of life shouldn’t depend on a single social media platform and a man who made his pile by government fiat.

  5. My experience with anti “social” media was very, very brief. I found nothing of significant value in it, and it definitely encouraged the destruction of the language, with all its abbreviations and acronyms. Because of the character limit.
    I much prefer formats like this one. Where the language can be spoken, and understood. I much prefer excessively over extended comment to abruptly and severely condensed comment.
    God bless you Eric.

    • Hi Jim,

      I just turned on the TV and saw the headline about Truss resigning. What a mess the UK is! She didn’t even make it 45 days.

      I am trying to look at today’s world objectively and I can draw no other conclusion than the elites intent is to destroy it.

      Here comes the digital dollar…

      • RG,
        I’m becoming less sure it’s the intent, and more likely the simple product of their psychopathic mental illness and ineptitude, and the peasants inability to recognize it.
        If you look at todays world, and recognize the difference with past worlds, the entire world is now being run by fiat currency big banks. When Weimar Germany folded, most of the world was still on the Gold standard. Not so today. If the dollar fails, as it appears it will, they all fail. Well, maybe, since both Russia and China continue to expand their Gold reserves, they MAY come out the other side at least in part whole.

      • RG,

        Today’s Britain reminds one of Argentina, which once had five presidents in 12 days during December 2001, amid its debt default and currency collapse.

        https://inshorts.com/en/news/argentina-once-had-5-presidents-in-2-weeks-1476790902443

        Even white-shoe investment banks in the City of London are mockingly calling Britain an ’emerging market,’ a polite euphemism for ‘Third World.’

        It would be utterly foolish to think that America under ‘Joe Biden’ is any different.

  6. Good points all, but the ability to express ideas concisely is a good skill to have. Even in EP Autos comments, when I see one from a commenter who habitually posts long, wordy screeds, I tend to skip it.
    I used to enjoy the challenge of writing newspaper headlines on the copy desk. Unlike today’s online titles, they had to fit. The slot man would assign the type size, number of lines, and column width, and you had to make it work. The tolerance was zero for overlength and a couple of characters for under. It was fun, especially when an opportunity to use a pun came along.

    • Roland,
      I agree, up to a point. I try to consolidate my writing to some degree. Write whatever comes to mind, and then start deleting and restructuring. It isn’t because of any desire to take up less space though. It’s acknowledgment of a fact that people don’t want to read blathering, bloviating, and demonstration of one’s “extraordinary” vocabulary.

    • Concise is one thing; condensing a whole thought into however many “characters” are allowed (is it 240 now? I don’t know, never used “twitter”) is something else entirely.
      I don’t think it’s quite analogous to your example of headline composition. Or, maybe, it is, in the sense that it forces everyone who participates to communicate only in headlines. But there’s a very good reason why the headline is the headline and not the whole story; therein lies the problem, I think.

  7. Right after the election was fraudulently stolen, I wrote to the editor of a conservative online news outlet. I was suggesting numerous changes of attitude and approach that were, in my opinion absolutely necessary, unless we are to just cede our future agency to liberals.

    One point in particular was that “we” (meaning anyone not liberal) need to get off Twitter! I’ve never been on it, but I pointed out to that editor that “we can’t win there. ever.” By continuing to use it, “we” are legitimizing it, etc, etc.

    The editor wrote back to say, in so many words, that they cannot discontinue the use of Twitter because (something to the effect of) they had to preach the word, like Jesus going into Hell or whatever it was that he said. No really. If anything, I’m not doing justice to the absurdity of his reply.

    OK fine, let’s say they believe that.

    Have you noticed that it has become quite rare to read ANY news article from any alternate “news” media outlet without the inclusion of some stupid fucken “tweet”?! Some outlets, e.g., Twitchy, do nothing apart from discuss the ongoings of Twitter and simultaneously claim to be conservative or alternative.

    At work, they block Twitter which I wouldn’t even notice if it weren’t for the never ending articles that use Twitter as the substance or fill in their articles.

    Twitter and Facebook are both clearly and plainly an invention of some government program(s). They intend to steer and lead opinion, to amplify marginal and otherwise hardly desirable opinions and narratives, and to quite firmly bind the limits of what is acceptable. All for the benefit of the establishment.

    IMO, the tracking is just an added benefit that is ultimately just a feature of the above primary goals. They know what you look at, what you say, what you buy and what you like… not because they’re interested in YOU… but because they want to achieve the above and it assists them greatly.

    The only winning move here is not to play. PERIOD.

  8. I think the twit’s 140-character limit was due to the fact that it initially was on an SMS platform. Like others here, I don’t tweet, I won’t tweet, and I’m not interested in others’ real-time stream-of-consciousness.

  9. Excellent observation Eric. I for one have never Twatted or Farcebooked, never once.

    Substack and it’s ilk seem so much better for actual adult self expression and discussion of complex ideas.

    I also, in most circumstances, detest this obsession with “links”. Most of the time I want to know what YOU think and why. I don’t need or want “links”…

    • Thanks, David!

      I’m working on creating a sort of “substack” right here on EPautos. For everyone to use. The idea is to develop a section where anyone who wants to can write about whatever they’d like to – at length or not. It’ll be a free speech zone, contra most everywhere else and – unlike “social media” – no restrictions on length or content.

      • FWIW, and some may disagree, I do not consider sites like yours to be “social media” though (at a cursory glance) it has similarities (e.g., people talk with one another). I’ve always found the argument that everything and anything where people talk is “social media” part of the legitimizing and whitewashing of the evil that proper social media has become.

        “Social media” is the government program to control and monitor people. It involves tracking, censorship, banning, various forms of timeouts/penalties (as though we’re children) and comprehensive integration with government. Even the outlets that avoid/resist that inevitable outcome (e.g., Gab, Parler, MeWe, Minds, Truth Social) become overrun and subverted by government to achieve those ends by other means.

        I very much like the idea of decentralized, home-grown, “grass roots” (if you will), and privately run sites. For most people in most cases that I know about, there is no good reason to discuss ANYTHING with the entire world hyper focusing on it (e.g., Twitter).

        I think the remedy to what’s become of the internet (I’ve been on it since the ’80s) is to return to general decentralization, where small groups of like-minded people get together to share and understand ideas.

        IMO, there’s no point in ends of the spectrum trying to prove their points against each other. It just doesn’t work. It ends up being a continual shit-show food-fight at best and nothing more than malevolent manipulation at worst.

        So, I’m looking forward to what you will come up with, but I will still be measured in what I allow myself to say until I’ve retired or am in a different line of work. Maybe one day I can even use my real name — not that you privately don’t already know it! 😉

      • That’s a really great idea, Eric!
        I look forward to seeing what it becomes.
        One of these days I’m going to have to send you a donation. I’ve been lurking for free but I’ve been thinking it’s about time to send a little support your way. Although, I usually leave your site measurably more depressed than when I navigated to it; do I really want to contribute to that??
        Regardless; thanks for the work you do, for being the voice in the wilderness, the man standing athwart history, yelling “STOP”. We need those men today!

        • Thanks, Mark!

          One of the things I don’t do here is erect paywalls or “special areas” that only “subscribers” can access. I know not everyone can afford to chip in and the point of the thing is to give us all a place to interact and discuss anything. I never liked it – before there was an Internet – that the only places people got heard who weren’t anointed columnists/editorial writers (and so on) was the Letters to the Editor section, always heavily edited. And I hate it now that there is the Internet and what ought to be essentially an open playing field has become in many ways more cloistered than it was when the Legacy Media controlled who got published and where…

  10. ‘In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.’ — eric

    Different languages can be objectively compared in terms of how rich or impoverished their vocabulary is for describing colors. In Japanese, for instance, the word aoi means both green and blue.

    I’ll never forget, as a stoplight on Broadway in Manhattan changed from red to green, a Japanese colleague asked me, “Don’t you think it looks kind of blue?”

    Actually, I didn’t. But Japanese vocabulary definitely molded his thinking about how gradations of color can be described. And I doubt he was referring to the iconic Miles Davis album.

  11. While I was typing that other response a text message from yet another politician came in. Twitter was limited to 140 characters because text messaging was limited to 140 characters. Never once made any sense but hey, it was an early gimmick. Every one of these damn texts reads the same, because it is impossible to put any context into the message. No way have I been influenced one bit by political text spam, other that it just makes me like political marketeers even less than I did before the texts started.

    As for language, English is pretty hard because there’s a derth of words and lots of implied meanings depending on context. But once you get it, you get it. All the pronoun fools are just mad because “man” has several meanings. That’s fine, perhaps you could move to an Asian country where everything has its own word. Oh wait, they’ve all adopted English as a second language precisely because it is so compact and recyclable. Even the European Commission continues to use English instead of French or German, even though the Brits took their ball and went home. It isn’t because of British colonialism, nor because of American exceptionalism. It is because it is such a darn good language with excellent structure. Noun. Verb. Adjective clarifies Noun. Adverb clarifies verb. An infinite number of ways to say the same thing.

    • Ready,
      Indeed, there is a reason English is the language of the world. No other language compares with the variety of expression that English is capable of. In spite of it being the bastardization of a number of other languages. Shakespeare perhaps?

  12. I’m friends with a manager of a public access/governement cable channel. She and I were talking one day about the relevelence of her job, cablecasting and livestreaming public meetings. I said she’s a true digital journalist, as is CSPAN. She thought I was flattering her (probably a little right), but then I told her my thoughts on infinite bandwith and infinite storage. As Eric points out, when there were physical limits to media distrubution (namely how much paper the paperboy could carry), editing content made sense. Today media weighs nothing, travels at the speed of light and for all practical purposes takes up no space. So anyone editing news is only adding editorial bias by taking away raw material. By only switching cameras to whomever is speaking (audio management is completely automatic thanks to Shure mixing technology) she’s adding bare minimum of editorial decision to the story. Yes, it can be boring, but with simple indexing it can be made much more relevant and engaging. She will eventually be automated out of a job of course, but that will just make things even less biased.

    Imagine if citizen journalism was promoted with the intent to tell the story without bias, instead of the current trend of forcing bias into situations that don’t warrant it. We all have cameras in our pockets, we all can upload anything to the Internet. Seems to me there could be a clearninghouse for all this video that can be indexed by time and location, and used to figure out what happened. 90% of it would be crap, sure, just like life. But that sort of service would require someone willing to put their egos aside and let the story be the story.

    • Tweeting on Twitters for Twits…then what of the “TWATS” that so often infest that site? Or is “TikTok” their new “refuge”?

      Either site is further evidence of the general infantilization of “AmeriKKKa” and its ongoing degradation. Just as Lenin prophesized that the capitalists would sell the very same rope used to hang them, so, as H.L. Mencken would term them, the “Great American Boobsie”, VOLUNTARILY participate in this colossal waste of time and bandwidth.

  13. This is brilliant Eric: “As by Tweeting. Only so many “characters” allowed, reducing the range of expression to a stunted version of what would otherwise be expressed. It is almost impossible to articulate complex thought in a Tweet. … Precisely the point of Tweeting.”

    I never thought if that way, everything reduced to phrases and sound bites, emotionally jerking the population into complete Idiocracy syndrome. I am quite not sure that Kayne West (now called Ye) is being set up to be a future prezident of Amerika. meet President Ye Camacho, 2032:

    IDIOCRACY Clip – State of the Union (2006) Terry Crews
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig446isvXlI

    • (The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves cornered in a canyon by about a thousand hostile Apache…)

      Lone Ranger: Look’s like WE’RE in trouble, Tonto!

      Tonto: What you mean…WE? PALEFACE?

      • >we Tweet
        What Sergeant E. Fudd *should* have said at the Battle of the Greasy Grass (a.k.a. Little Big Horn).
        Followed by, “Be vewy vewy quiet.”

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