Twitter Has Almost Nothing To Do With “Marginalized People”
On an exceptionally silly argument
Indulge me in a rant about a very, very annoying argument.
It’s this one: “I think we'll look back on the last decade as a time when social media gave previously marginalized groups the ability to speak directly to elites and, as a result, elites lost their minds.”
I do not like Hobbes, but he’s expressing an extremely common view about what Twitter is: some sort of great equalizer or pro-democratic force. Anyone who expresses skepticism about Twitter, particularly the view that the stuff going on there under the guise of social justice often isn’t really about social justice, will at some point get a version of this response: You’re just mad that marginalized people now have a greater voice and can directly challenge power.
It’s a cute trick. If Twitter is The Voice of the People, then anyone who argues that elites shouldn’t view Twitter nonsense as important, or who suggests that the platform promotes
unfriendly deranged psychotic social norms and the broken individuals who most exemplify them, can be tarred as an enemy of The People. And who wants to be that? The People are great!
This is a ridiculous argument, though, at least in my corners of Twitter (media and academic). Twitter is, above all, a tool for privileged people to defend and promote their own values and priorities to other privileged people.
Let’s First Steelman This
I don’t want to forge ahead without acknowledging the kernel of truth here. In certain, fairly circumscribed senses, Twitter can be used to bridge power differentials. Twitter is one of the most frictionless machines ever devised (or forged in hell itself) for the spread of information, so for any problem caused by the suppression of information, Twitter can, in theory, be beneficial.