How to Reason Like a Twitter Mob

On Tuesday, I ambled online after breakfast and saw that “Deep State” was a Twitter trending topic. I tossed out my two cents: “Don’t forget how NYTimes & many liberals heaped praise on the Deep State in 2019 for its role in the first Trump impeachment.” I attached a link to my 2019 USA Today article headlined “As the deep state attacks Trump to rave media reviews, don’t forget its dark side.”

Alas, I quickly learned that I was a hopeless reactionary. Apparently, President Donald Trump condemning the Deep State proves it doesn’t exist. And since a Democrat now occupies the White House, any mention of the Deep State is a sin against the political Holy Ghost. DoinTimeOnEarth responded to my tweet: “Why don’t you shut up & do some good instead of spreading lies?”

Twitter is a fount of wisdom because so many of its users are omniscient. Someone with the Twitter name “What?” howled: “USATODAY has gone bat-s – – t crazy. . . . And no, I am not going to read a bunch of jackass bulls – – t before re-tweeting with this comment.” My story had 23 links to news stories, analyses and government reports on the Deep State scandals, including Bush-era torture, National Security Agency misdeeds, drone killings of innocent foreigners and other abuses of power and secrecy. It included links to three New York Times articles confirming the Deep State’s role in spurring Trump’s first impeachment.

Twitter user Nom of the Plume huffed: “Liberals don’t believe in the ‘deep state.’ It goes against our radical values of being sane and educated.” I replied: “So being a smug ‘educated’ liberal means believing federal agencies don’t pervasively violate the law & Constitution? When did gullibility become a badge of political sophistication?” My response failed to placate my critics. “Nom” commented: “No I won’t try to have a rational conversation with irrational people . . . You are extremists and terrorists.”

On Twitter, “likes” are the highest form of logic, and retweets are irrefutable truth. Some Twitter users disproved my articles by posting rows of laughing emoji. Others debunked my delusion with memes such as a photo of a screw next to a baseball. Some of the names of Twitter respondents reeked of piety. “Covfefe_au_lait is FULLY VAXXED+BOOSTER” sneered that “anyone who uses the phrase [Deep State] sounds ridiculous.”

For many Twitter zealots, any mention of the “Deep State” is sufficient proof of mental illness. Almost 40 people liked a reply declaring: “It does not exist. It is a construct of your collective imagination lead [sic] by a diseased mind.” NygrooveX smirked: “It must be ‘Deep State Day’ in Crazytown Today.” MindyLouAgain scoffed: “you are deranged.” Gerald Slaby summed up: “Don’t blame us [liberals] for your ignorance and insanity.” DocB counseled: “don’t forget to take your medication or you end up like this.” Twitter user antifashyst cackled: “Get professional help, Jimmy.”

Few if any of the hostile respondents clicked through to read that 2019 USA Today piece. PupperMum declared: “Please share examples. Should be easy.” You mean aside from the 20+ links in the first article? I replied to her by posting a link to an American Conservative article I wrote in February that detailed the FBI’s machinations with the Steele dossier (condemned by the Justice Department inspector general) and the CIA’s skulduggery bankrolling terrorist groups to fuel the Syrian civil war. That received zero responses from critics.

That Twitter throng symbolized how Democrats have become far more docile toward Big Government in recent years. In the 1970s, a Senate select committee chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) courageously exposed vast abuses by the FBI COINTELPRO and CIA spying on US citizens. In 2014, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) valiantly defied the Obama White House to publish a Senate Intelligence Committee report exposing the CIA’s post-9/11 torture regime. But a 2018 Pew survey found that 77 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of the FBI and 63 percent approved of the CIA. I wondered how many of the folks enraged by my tweet had bought those votive candles to pray for former FBI chief and special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation failed to prove that Trump was a Russian tool.

Twitter bosses have sometimes gone overboard to keep users intellectually barefoot and pregnant. Prior to the 2020 election, Twitter blocked the sharing of New York Post articles on the damning information contained in Hunter Biden’s laptop and even locked The Post’s Twitter account. CEO Jack Dorsey admitted at a congressional hearing in March that Twitter’s treatment of The Post was a “total mistake.”

Perhaps Twitter has simply become confirmation of the historian Henry Adams’ observation a century ago that politics “has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” Twitter exemplifies how herd confirmation is now a sufficient substitute for evidence — at least for many political activists. People consider themselves well-informed because they skimmed dozens of one-sentence tweets and 100 memes.

When law professor Glenn Reynolds canceled his popular Twitter account three years ago, he declared, “Twitter actually makes people meaner and less thoughtful. . . . If you set out to design a platform that would poison America’s discourse and its politics, you’d be hard pressed to come up with something more destructive than Twitter.”

Maybe because my sense of humor has always been a bit depraved, I still get a kick out of Twitter. I can tap on the site and quickly see the latest links and best quips from some of the sharpest political commentators I know. And if a Twitter mob heats up my office on a cold November morning, I would be remiss not to give them a hat tip.

James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.


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