Culture Notes: CPAC, Twitter

CPAC/Twitter: This week’s cable-news shows were marked by a very weird confluence: excerpts from CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) and reports of rampant Twitter use, even during Obama’s don’t-call-it-a-State-of-the-Union speech. (Actually, one of Newt Gingrich’s tweets did call the speech a State of the Union message, a minor gaffe that exemplifies a pitfall of the instant 140-word analysis game.) The loonier eruptions at CPAC included a a lot of predictable comments about peculiar-sounding science projects, which for all we know could lead to a cure for cancer but are fair game for derision because they include words such as “swine” and “odor.” William Proxmire, you have a lot to answer for. In some ways the most representative speaker was Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, who piped up with, “Who wants to hang out with guys like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich  when you can be with Rush Limbaugh?” — a glorious sound bite that one hopes is being filed away for future election use. McConnell’s line is doubly revealing: it demonstrates how eight years of conservative leadership, with its aversion to reality-based thought, got us in the mess we’re in, and it reminds us that the current conservative message exists as a playground choosing-up-of-sides.

Maybe Twitter doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with that level of behavior, yet it does seem perfect for the Gingrichian sensibility. To question the value of Twitter is to instantly be tarred with an old-fogeyism of the Clint Eastwood/Gran Torino variety, but still: a measured, thought-through response to events — any event — is something we ought to expect and demand, at least from our leaders, if not from my thousand closest friends on Facebook.