Five years ago, nobody had ever heard of Twitter. Now, the social media powerhouse is where people go to break news and drive conversations.
For policy wonks and political addicts, Twitter in indispensable. Candidates, officeholders, and activists utilize the social medium to push ideas and priorities, to varying degrees of success. And those who oppose them are using twitter to combat those candidates or ideas – and make asses of themselves by dishonest and misleading communications.
Here’s an interesting case study: meet Dan McDonald.
|Dan McDonald, pictured with funny hat|
Who is Dan McDonald? I’m glad you asked. I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard of him. And unless his mother stops dressing him in funny hats, aside from this blog post, it is very likely you will never hear of him again. His picture with that hat might lead some to believe that old McDonald has a farm, e-i-e-i-o.
Mr. McDonald is a central Texas Republican activist who claims to be the Secretary of both the Travis County and Hays County Republican Parties. Perhaps his hat overlaps both counties. I have noticed that he has taken it upon himself to screw around with state Senator Kirk Watson. So far, fair enough. Watson is a Democrat, and McDonald is a Republican. It is McDonald’s sworn duty as a hyper-partisan to ridicule Watson every chance he gets, in every mindless insipid way he can dream up to do so. We here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters are not strangers to the concept. In fact at first we thought McDonald was copying our work. Except, of course, for the stupid hat.
Kirk Watson, for his part, is one of the officeholders in Texas more effective at using Twitter as a means to communicate with those whom he hopes may agree with his policy priorities. Those who follow him already know that he constantly hammers on the Republicans in charge of Texas government for the misleading way they write state budgets. He also pushes his big idea of a medical school for Austin with great frequency. Those familiar with messaging techniques may already be aware that in order for a message to permeate through a constituency, the message must be repeated. Over and over. And over. And…um…over. That’s what Kirk Watson does.
The goal, obviously, is for people undecided on the issues to be persuaded over time by Watson. On the other hand, people who were already in agreement with Watson, and who spend a lot of time on Twitter, may well want to punch him in the throat by now, and desperately hope he hurries up and wins on those two crucial issues, so he can tweet about other stuff instead, very very soon. But that’s just a theory – I certainly don’t have anybody in particular in mind. But I digress.
Enter Dan McDonald, and his funny hat. In his attempts to oppose Watson’s ideas, he merely misleads people about what Watson said in the first place.
Here’s an example. Here’s an original tweet from Senator Watson:
Straight-forward enough: Watson is pointing out the ways in which Republicans have been misleading Texans about their budget process, this example is on cuts to neighborhood public schools. The link goes to a newspaper article which documents the quote Watson tweeted – a ridiculous quote from the state comptroller with gobbly-gook explaining public education funding. You wouldn’t accept such an explanation from your small children.
Here was Dan McDonald’s “re-tweet”:
See what McDonald did there? Those reading McDonald’s tweets would get the impression that it is Watson, not the Comptroller, providing the flimsy nonsense explanation on what happened to the public school budget. Incidentally, McDonald also completely mangled the Republican talking points – they’ve been assigned to blame Medicaid, not Medicare. But you get the point.
It seems people like Dan (can I call you Dan?) don’t feel they can best Watson in a fair fight on the merits of Watson’s ideas. So they just mislead their Twitter followers about what Watson says. Which, turns out, is really easy to do on Twitter. Because you can completely misrepresent what somebody said through a manual retweet, and a lot of people are gullible enough to believe that it’s true.
Allow me to demonstrate. Here is a tweet of Dan’s:
And here is my creative re-tweet, no more disingenuous than McDonald misleading his followers in what Senator Watson said: