Friday, May 4, 2012

Dog Tweet Dog

This past week has demonstrated to me one of the major pitfalls of getting your news solely from Twitter.

I don't always have ready access to news, so most of the day I'm relying on my phone if anything of note happens. Usually this services my needs, except for the fact that I forgot one rather important detail: it's an election year. Three times in the past week or so my Twitter feed has been clogged up with stories that make me pull a WTF face.

Actually, it started a few weeks ago, when some people started commenting about Barack Obama eating dogs. "Wait, what?" I thought. Since this is the internet, and all, I assumed it was some weird meme or a running joke on a late night talk show, so I didn't pay it any mind. I eventually found out earlier this week, however, that the reason people were making jokes about it is because Obama confessed in his autobiography (Dreams From My Father) that while a student in Indonesia he once ate dog.

Under normal circumstances, this would be not be A Thing--it might make the news and comedian might joke about it for a day or two, and then everyone would move on to more important things. However, the Democrats (though to be fair not the Obama campaign) have in the past made a deal about Romney's treatment of his pet dog.  So now it's definitely A Thing--one side has opened up the "Canine Gap," so both sides can lay claim that they treat puppies better.

Then earlier this week people started talking about a "composite girlfriend."  Again, on Twitter, this is without any context whatsoever, so for a full day I was very confused about all of the jokes and banter. There, it turns out that a very sloppy reporter ran a story about how Obama used a composite character template for his girlfriend in his autobiography, only to find out that he outright told everyone in the beginning of the book that he used composite characters right off the bat. The original author wrote a correction--that later needed to be corrected because it, too, was wrong--but the original story made the rounds before his massive error was caught. It was a non-story that everyone talked about for about a day. But that phrase--"composite girlfriend"--was unique enough that it's stuck now as A Thing.

Finally, yesterday I started seeing a lot of information about some Julia who supports Obama. Like, a lot of people talking about it. I ran through all of the Julias that I knew, and realized that most famous Julias appear to be dead. (Has anyone checked on Mrs. von Trapp lately?) Turns out Julia is simply the focus of the Obama's campaign--a fictional (composite?) individual, crafted to be the epitome of middle-class female banality, living life through the benefits that an Obama presidency has granted her. Sadly, as a campaign tool, it appears to be rather clumsy and--despite it's interactive nature--very old-fashioned in its execution. (It was almost an invitation for the RNC to run a parallel commentary about how bad things have gotten in the last four years, and while claiming the ways you have made life better is pretty standard in political campaigns, they overdid it by painting Julia as someone who was carried her entire life on the backs of the government--a sentiment large portions of swing voters probably aren't going to appreciate.)

None of these things ended up being major. Sadly, there is a Presidential election later this year, so petty, emotional issues that have little to do with governance are going to fill the airwaves--and, now, Twitter feeds. This, of course, is nothing new; goofy distractions have been a staple of campaigns since George Washington.

The Pledge: The answer to each of the questions raised by the above issues is: Who gives a shit?

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