Althouse | category: Twitter



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Mr. Musk bought Twitter because he’s a Twitter addict and, more specifically, an extremely online attention addict."

"On his first day at Twitter he hauled around a bathroom sink to make an obscure, very online joke likely poking fun at a certain earnest kind of Twitter user (usually a liberal) who posts something appalling but also banal and says, 'Let that sink in.' The graph of Mr. Musk’s Twitter posts over his time on the platform looks like the hockey stick graph of global temperature. He can’t stop himself. This is someone with millions of followers who is deep in the bowels of his own replies and mentions, clearly spending inordinate amounts of time looking at what people are saying about him. I can tell you from experience that this is a path to madness...."

Writes Chris Hayes, in "Why I Want Twitter to Live" (NYT).

1. Thanks to Hayes for explaining the "Let that sink in" joke so clearly. I nearly lost my mind trying to listen to Scott Adams explain it as a reference to the expression "Everything but the kitchen sink." And it wasn't even a kitchen sink, Scott. It was a bathroom sink. 

2. I nearly lost my mind, but, unlike Chris Hayes, I do not know the path to madness from experience. I wonder what's happened to poor Chris over the years.

3. The hockey stick graph of global warming pops up. Isn't it great that Nature isn't an "attention addict"? I mean, it's bad enough — or good enough — as it is, with the storms and the heat waves and lightning and so forth. But as long as I'm talking about Chris Haye's metaphors...

4. "Deep in the bowels" — somehow Hayes sounds jealous. The fact is Elon Musk is great at doing quick tweets that interact with other users, and it isn't clear that this consumes "inordinate" time. Seeing how Twitter is flowing along is something he needs to do, and not a distraction. While in there — in the bowels?! — he may easily dash off replies. Some people write fast. Reading/thinking/writing — it's all one flash.

5. Hayes goes on to express dismay that one man is "reigning" over what was once a "collective" in keeping with the "utopian vision of its earliest builders and users" of the internet. "Because we’ve had it before," he says, it's possible to somehow return to "a collective digital life." But before Musk took over, Twitter had declined into suppression and heavily skewed censorship. He's demonstrated an intent to restore freedom and inclusivity. Is that what Hayes is really worried about — the loss of the assistance of the faceless censors who ruled in the pre-Musk era?

"What Musk is doing is... like opening the gates of hell...."

Said one of the experts quoted — by Taylor Lorenz — in "'Opening the gates of hell': Musk says he will revive banned accounts/The Twitter chief says he will reinstate accounts suspended for threats, harassment and misinformation beginning next week" (WaPo).

Why would you want to keep people in Hell? 


Why not forgive — if only to give them a second chance? Musk knows that the process of condemnation wasn't fair. At the very least, we are worried that it was skewed against conservatives. It's efficient to wipe the slate clean — to default toward freedom — and to begin again, with a viewpoint neutral approach that is transparent and centered on protecting individuals from harm, not on helping one side over another.

Some who are released from Hell will be those who shouldn't have been condemned in the first place. Some will be those from whom the group does need protection, but these will either go on and sin no more or they will sin again, and they can be dealt with under the new, fair procedure.

And Musk isn't even talking about letting everyone back in. The question he asked in his poll was "Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?" He can say the people have spoken and there will be "general amnesty," but there's that proviso. Anyone who is already known as a danger can still be excluded. On the face of it, Musk isn't recklessly absolutist about freedom of speech. 

The hell the anti-Muskites are afraid of — isn't it just the loss of a political advantage they never should have had in the first place? Did the censorship they enjoyed only make them soft and fearful and stunt their capacity to debate?

"The social media network known as Mastodon is sort of an anti-Twitter: quiet, calm, and refreshingly free of Nazis."

"People have been flocking to it lately, only to get confused by the way it’s set up—which is a shame, because it’s not that hard to get started. Here’s how."

I'm reading "How to Move From Twitter to Mastodon/There are many similarities between the two—except that Mastodon feels like a nice place to be" (lifehacker). 

I'm reading that because I wanted to take a look at something I've heard about a lot lately, but — as it says above — I got confused. I had to find an article explaining it.

I'm confused by this article too. How can a speech forum have a mood as specific as quiet and calm? And what kind of dolt feels "refreshed" by a feeling that a place is "free of Nazis"? I would expect Nazis — especially dangerous Nazis — to lull people into "not see"ing them (until it's too late). You know those old movies where somebody would say "It's quiet. Too quiet." It's like that, I would think. If you're saying "It's refreshingly free of Nazis," you ought to go on to say "Too refreshingly free of Nazis." 

And what's this "Mastodon feels like a nice place to be"? Yeah, feels like.

Lifehacker proceeds to help us with our confusion by trying — trying — to talk to us as though we are easily triggered by anything that sounds disconnected from a simple, off-screen life:

Whereas Twitter is a single huge corporate entity, Mastodon is more like a bunch of local mom-and-pop shops. That means you need to choose an “instance”—a server you’ll call home.

You're trying to soothe me into absorbing a technical description, and you're telling me I need to call something "home" that you're calling an "instance." Just tell me there's something called an "instance" and what it is. And don't drag in mom-and-pop shops. Are we going shopping or going home? Neither. We're having an "instance." Look, I was attracted by the "mastodon," which is a cute extinct animal. There are no Ice Ace behemoths in this Bedford Falls you've got me imagining. And I am more and more alienated from this nice, quiet, Nazi-free place.

It’s like how you can choose to keep your money at your local bank or credit union, but your money is still good everywhere....

Another analogy! Now it's about money. My eyes glaze over. I don't want to understand it. I just want to do it. I'll skip ahead to what I'd see if I did get on this thing:

[Y]our instance also has two special timelines: The local timeline is a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance. So if I click there, I see everything that’s going on on It’s like listening in on everybody in your neighborhood.

It's like Mr. Rogers is explaining this... but he's not helping. And in real life, "listening in on everybody in your neighborhood" is not nice. It's quite wrong. But I know they don't mean "listening in." They just mean reading things people have written and posted.

The federated timeline...

Federated! I don't get niceness vibes from "federated." Is this for people with warm feelings toward the federal government?

... is everything on the local timeline, plus everybody who is followed by someone on your instance. So if I follow Nick, his toots (yep, they’re called toots) will show up in’s federated timeline.

They're only called "toots" if people call them "toots," and I doubt that people will do that. The writer of this article already wrote about "a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance."

A few terms to help ease your transition from Twitter: It’s not a tweet, it’s a toot. It’s not a retweet, it’s a boost. There is no such thing as a quote-tweet, you just either boost or you don’t. Twitter itself is referred to as “the birdsite.” Do not bring birdsite drama onto Mastodon....

Who is telling use what we can do or not do and what words we need to use? Is my question dramatic and birdsite-y? I feel unwanted at Mastodon. It feels inclusive and exclusive simultaneously. How will this rule of niceness be enforced? With niceness? 

First, this is not Twitter. Each instance has its own administrator and its own code of conduct, so make sure you read up before you toot.

So I have to pick an "instance" to start, but each instance has a different code. How many codes should I read before I pick? But reading the code wouldn't be enough, because I wouldn't know how the code is interpreted and enforced. I see that one instance has a code that says (in part):

The following types of content will be removed from the public timeline, and may result in account suspension and revocation of access to the service: Racism or advocation of racism/Sexism or advocation of sexism/Discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, or advocation thereof/Xenophobic and/or violent nationalism....

I'm required to understand a word that isn't even a word: "advocation." Plus, of course, I don't know what will count as "racism" or "sexism." It could be quite broad or idiosyncratic. One person's feminism is another person's sexism. And, for some people, racism is structured into everything and operates covertly, like those clever Nazis I was just talking about.

I quit. I quoot.

"I noticed my number of followers drop for the first time in a couple weeks right after Trump‘s return was announced.

"My advice: If you’re following me, don’t depart Twitter, thus diminishing my reach; just don’t pay attention to Trump!"

Laurence Tribe tweets.

This is a problem with trying to protest Musk and Trump. You cause your side to lose clout on Twitter.

Tribe has 1.3 million followers right now on Twitter. That's a strong reach, and it must hurt to see his following ebb.

He's also got this pinned tweet from 13 hours ago:

Beware of fake “people” on #Mastodon. I have no account there, but someone pretending to be me and using the moniker reposted my tweets for a while, then stopped. They might start up again and post weird shit, falsely attributing it to me. It’s dangerous!

"What Musk is doing is... like opening the gates of hell...."

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