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Take THAT Donald

 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The New York Times

For the latest updates, go to nytimes.com/technology »

The New York Times

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Farhad’s and Mike’s Week in Tech: When Politicians Diss Each Other Online
Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry.
Mike: Hail, Farhad!
Did you like that intro? I’m getting really into “Game of Thrones” this season, and I think that’s what people used to say when they first saw one another. Well, that or “Hodor.
Farhad: I read the “Game of Thrones” books. “Hodor,” said Hodor is really one of the greatest sentences ever written. Anyway, yes, hello, Mike.
Mike: Hodor, Farhad. Hodor. Anyway, on with the news.
I believe we have officially slipped into the doldrums of summer with slowing tech news. Nonetheless, some stuff happened.
For instance, Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, deciding to invest $100 million in a flying car start-up, and also investing in one of its competitors. Clearly this guy cares little about a “winning investment,” and a lot about eventually getting cars in the sky.
Farhad: Flying cars! “The Jetsons” really is coming true. Now if only someone would create a robot maid.
Mike: I thought that’s what Roomba was for. If only it sucked up all the dog hair in my house.
In more, uh, down-to-earth news, kids aged 13 to 17 are no longer allowed to have Tinder profiles or to use the service, according to the company. I may not be the expert on how to raise children — in fact, I’m legally bound by the state to never procreate — but I have a hard time thinking kids using Tinder is a good idea at all. Getting rejected every few months in high school is already hard enough, much less getting swiped left on every few minutes.
This was interesting: Facebook hired Ricky Van Veen, the guy who created CollegeHumor.com, to be Facebook’s “head of global creative strategy,” which I assume means “head of getting media companies to blow up watermelons with rubber bands on live video.”
Farhad: I used to be a huge, huge fan of CollegeHumor. I totally approve of this move.
Mike: Speaking of virality, I want to get to something that blew everyone’s minds this week. Three little words from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton: Delete your account.
She sent them in response to a tweet from Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who dissed her on Twitter after Clinton secured President Obama’s endorsement. This is par for the course for Trump, and occasionally it incites a bit of banter among Clinton or other politicians.
No, this particular tweet seemed to resonate — at least in part — because Clinton, or one of her “823 staff” handling the Twitter account, was speaking the language of the internet to diss Trump right back. The phrase was tailor-made for Twitter to travel far and wide, to be retweeted by web pundits and blasted out by millennial outlets with subheadlines like “the first burn of the general election has been scored.”
Since we are both scholars of Twitter, we should muse on why this seemed to tap into the viral internet so well. You first.
Farhad: I was trying to explain this to my wife, who doesn’t use Twitter, and I failed. I think the main reason Hillary’s tweet did so well is because “delete your account” has a very specific, nuanced and difficult-to-explain meaning on Twitter — and the fact that Hillary seemed to know that it carried special meaning gave her some cred with Twitter’s leading lights (of which I am a member).
Mike: Farhad.
Farhad: No, but seriously, “Delete your account” is interesting. For one thing, it is not a literal request to delete your account. I saw some commentators saying that this was like a schoolyard taunt, the online equivalent of telling Donald to shut up, but that gets it wrong.
It’s more like the saying, “What you said was a little ridiculous and sad, and I’m going to do the hilarious thing of pretending it was so bad that you should no longer even use Twitter, and my hyperbole will itself be a mike drop.” Does that make sense? If not, it’s probably because you don’t use Twitter (which is fine).
Anyway, as Philip Bump explained in The Washington Post, what was remarkable about Hillary’s tweet was that she used the phrase correctly. As he wrote, “It’s like your uncle suddenly turned to you and said, “You know who’s good? [Cool underground band you’re amazed he’s heard of].”
Now, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of lots of “delete your accounts,” I can tell you that it’s hard to recover from one. And that’s what we saw in responses from Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman, and from Trump himself.
They both tried to tie the tweet back to Clinton’s email scandal, but the comeback felt very forced, like, “Oh yeah, the jerk store called …
Right?
Mike: Nice George Costanza reference.
And you’re totally right. Priebus and Trump came back way, way later after they realized that Clinton’s tweet landed and resonated with people like us. Their tweets felt like they were work-shopped inside a conference room for 45 minutes with a bunch of college students. The uncool ones.
Here’s the thing: It’s cool she got a “sick burn” or whatever, but retweets do not equate to political activism or actual votes. Everyone loves to share a Facebook or Twitter post, but look at voter turnout over the two decades. The people who use Twitter are probably not the people doing the voting.
Maybe that’s the true sick burn, Secretary Clinton.
I just wonder if any of these conversations amount to anything at all other than a daily news cycle and a raise for the intern who thought it up. And fun television hits for us!
Farhad: Oh, I think this sort of thing has an impact. Any one tweet does not make a difference, of course, but over all, what happens on Twitter makes its way into the rest of the news either directly (when cable news shows display pictures of tweets) or indirectly, in the way it colors how reporters think about the campaign.
And I’d also add that Trump himself seems to take Twitter insults pretty seriously. He spent several days last month battling Senator Elizabeth Warren over some shade she threw at him on Twitter. So to the extent that his opponent can use Twitter owns to rattle him, well, why not?
Also, that reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to tell you: Delete your account.
Mike: Fine. Also, never tweet. See you next week!
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