Does Twitter dumb us down or simply reveal our innate dopiness? That’s the question that’s been flittering about my skullcage after reading Gideon Rachman’s column on the popular microblogging service in yesterday’s Financial Times. In reviewing John McCain’s vigorous tweet stream, Rachman observes that “some of the senator’s tweets make him sound like a peasant.” He quotes one: “Meeting with Dr Kissinger – the smartest man in the world.”
I have this picture in my mind of McCain and Kissinger sitting in comfortable armchairs in a well-appointed governmental office, a couple of aides hovering in the corners, and McCain is bent over his iPhone tapping out a tweet, a vague grin spread across his face. Kissinger isn’t smiling.
I don’t know whether Kissinger tweets. But I did discover two fake Henry Kissingers on Twitter: this one and this one. The former is tedious, but the latter’s pretty good: “Just had breakfast with former President Clinton. We both wore the same tie. It was very funny.”
In the wake of the Iranian election, says Rachman, Twitter’s “terseness and immediacy came into its own.” But he suspects that its role as a revolutionary tool is overrated: “The French revolutionaries somehow managed in 1789, without being able to tweet to each other: ‘Big demo planned outside Bastille.’ The Iranians of 2009 look likely to fail, in spite of the invention of Twitter in the intervening 220 years.”
Then again, if Twitter is turning the mighty into peasants, we may not even need revolutions any more. Obama should send Ahmadinejad an iPhone with the Tweetie app preinstalled. “Meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the smartest man in the world.” No tyrant could survive a tweet like that.