Although I'd hate to agree with anything New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez says, he recently remarked during a confirmation hearing, much to his chagrin, that political policy was being decided on Twitter these days.
He was referring to the back and forth happening between President Donald Trump and former Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada. President Trump has been very outspoken about his plans to build the wall on Twitter; has been since the election. Former President Quesada has been equally adamant that Mexico will not pay for the wall. Very adamant. Almost to the point of unprofessionalism.
Scratch that, he's been very unprofessional:
America, remember who's going to pay for that #FuckingWall: it's you! American taxpayers, not Mexico.— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) February 3, 2017
Now Trump may have a big mouth, especially on Twitter, but I rarely see him using profanity as often as President Quesada.
Looking over Quesada's Twitter feed, he seems unnaturally obsessed with Donald Trump. More so than a former President should be, if you ask me.
I find it shocking and somewhat funny that Quesada is weighing in on the issue at all. As the former President of Mexico, he doesn't really have a say in the matter. But the way in which he expresses his derision about Trump's plan to build a wall is simply unbefitting of a former head of state.
Sure you can criticize the way Trump uses Twitter; even as a Trump supporter, I don't always agree. But Quesada really takes the cake.
This is a bigger problem than Quesada and his use of the f-bomb. Recently failed Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went to Twitter to mock Trump, as the 9th Circuit Court ruled in favor of upholding the stay of his executive order.
3-0— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 10, 2017
Nobody likes a sore loser, Hillary. And you're a big one. What was that? Two bids for the presidency and you lost? That's like what, 0-2?
I don't really need to rub it in, though. Many people have already done that... on Twitter.
@HillaryClinton— Students for Trump (@SoCal4Trump) February 10, 2017
You lost in 2008.
You lost in 2016.
You lost with the recount.
Yep, you're 0-3.
Now, I know we all had a bit of fun, but I ask you: is this really appropriate? In all honesty, I don't like Hillary Clinton. I think she's a crook and should be the last person near the White House. But she is a former First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State. Those are some impressive credentials.
Even though I would never want to see her as President, she does deserve some respect for the roles she's held in this country and for her many years of service.
Once upon a time, people understood that and showed their leaders this thing called dignity and respect. While plenty of Americans didn't agree with Eleanor Roosevelt's politics, you would have been hard-pressed to find people openly mocking her and criticizing her in a disrespectful way.
But today, any schmuck can call out a former First Lady and SoS on Twitter.
Now, I know what you're going to say, "But Hillary and all the others do it too!" Yeah, Trump, Clinton, Vicente Fox Quesada and many other politicians (including Ben Menedez) use Twitter as their own virtual bully pulpits. They take complex issues like immigration, national security, or the economy and oversimply them. Then thousands, even millions, of people repost those oversimplified non-truisms, until they are believed as fact.
Topics worthy of insightful discussion are watered down to better manipulate us.
It's why something as complex as the Syrian refugee crisis or protecting Americans from radical Islamic terrorism can be construed as "racist" or "xenophobic," conveniently skirting the real problems at stake.
And yes, our leaders are abusing Twitter. Does that mean we should too? That's much like when a parent scolds his children for fighting, and they say, "But he started it!"
It's not an excuse that works, no matter what your age.
Over the course of the past few months, I've tried to- in my own way- explore some of the critical issues America is dealing with these days, from racism to politics to social justice warriors. I've lauded the actions of Mike Rowe, who shows us how to effectively use social media to win over detractors, using intelligence, thoughtful argument, and above all respect.
I've heard from readers who would agree with me that social media, though, often makes the discussion much worse. Just read some of the replies to Donald Trump's tweets. Hardly the cream of the crop there.
Or check out the tweets from some of the very worst Black Lives Matters activists, militant feminists, or liberal politicians who are right now on the losing end of the battle. They don't provide insightful discussion on today's issues, but race to the bottom with the most cutting, inflammatory and insulting comments.
The end result is a populace stupider than we've had in the past. I'm not saying Americans were so informed twenty years ago. There are dummies in every generation. But when we are forced to explain complex and divisive issues in 140 characters or less, we all lose.
So what is the solution? I'm not saying we should dump Twitter- but maybe we should dump Twitter. Even if you use the network to follow people you like or agree with, you're bound to be exposed to nonsense that deludes the issues, rather than casting light on them.
Facebook might be better, given that it allows users more space to write. Or better yet, we can ditch social media altogether and find better ways to communicate our thoughts on the issues that matter to us.
Like the comments section of your favorite news blog ;)
All joking aside, I don't know if our leaders will abandon Twitter anytime soon. With over 20 million followers, President Trump has direct access to many, many eyeballs, without having to go through news outlets that hate him. Even TV news covers his Tweets like they are headline stories.
Maybe this is the new reality. Maybe we will never grow out of it. Maybe all of our most important issues, politics, and beliefs will forever be watered down in the toxic filter of 140 characters or less.
Then again, maybe not.