I did a Twitter experiment. It went as expected.

I did a Twitter experiment. It went as expected.

By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini | August 10, 2023

I did a small Twitter experiment and it went about as expected. Which is to say it showed the worst in all of us. Including me.

The concept was simple and fairly unimaginative. In total, I spent about 30 seconds constructing my little ruse. It went like this: What if I shared a new damning report about Clarence Thomas but changed his name to Sonia Sotomayor?

ProPublica had just published a story detailing how the conservative Supreme Court justice accepted even more lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors than was previously believed. The headline focused on 38 luxury vacations enjoyed by Thomas, including yacht trips, private jets, and premium seats for sporting events.

None of which he disclosed. 

We’re talking about objectively unethical behavior. In a normal world, Americans from every political leaning would be calling for his resignation or, at a very bare minimum, some acknowledgment of and accountability for his actions.

But we don’t live in a normal world. We live in 2023 America – a magical wonderland where everything’s on fire and two of our richest citizens are planning a pay-per-view cage fight.

Alas, nothing makes sense. Only half the country is outraged by Clarence Thomas. And the other half is worried about Jewish space lasers being too woke. Or something like that.

And that’s why I was fairly certain mild chaos would ensue if I summarized the ProPublica story but changed the name Clarence Thomas to Sonia Sotomayor.

I also added “RESIGN!” and sprinkled in George Soros. Sort of like a garnish.

The experiment was underway. And within the first hour or so (before I stopped keeping a tally) it was retweeted by at least 54 accounts (many verified) openly promoting conservatism and/or support for Donald Trump. Which suggests they either blindly amplified my Tweet simply because I included #MAGA and #Trump2024, or that these individuals actually believed what I had written was true and were RIGHTFULLY outraged.  

That’s the correct response, by the way. Outrage.

One of these individuals even directed a retweet at Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, sternly noting: “in case you missed this.”

I assure you he did.

So, yeah. Hypocritical conservatives gleefully took the bait. They salivated. They retweeted. They liked.

But, in that same first hour, the Tweet also received at least 20 angry replies from liberal-leaning accounts calling me a liar or worse. Perhaps one could argue I just missed the mark at sarcasm or satire. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time. Today.

More than likely, though, these left-leaning individuals were simply triggered into their own outraged reaction without ever considering the unreliable source (me, a bald bearded idiot with eight functioning brain cells) or that this was a cartoonishly distorted version of actual news (the ProPublica report).

Both of which could be verified (like ACTUALLY verified) or at least inferred with limited effort. And I should know. Limited effort is basically my superpower. My comic book name is Nap Man.

Here's the thing. If an unauthoritative stranger posts something you don't like or shares information that doesn't make sense, you don't actually have to respond. And if you do feel the need, at least attempt a shred of research before you froth at the mouth. 

But, largely, that didn't happen. Instead, this experiment left us with a weird bi-partisan mix of hypocrisy, ignorance, and lack of critical thinking.

It's not good. I think that’s my takeaway.

And, it’s further proof that Twitter has gotten worse as a cesspool of tribalism and unreasoned outrage. Users are needlessly getting fired up by ordinary people they’ve never met while so-called verified fanboy accounts with barely enough combined followers to fill a hot tub can wield Elon’s $8 power-punch and undeservedly amplify misinformation.

Misinformation recklessly provided by me – the aforementioned bald bearded idiot with eight functioning brain cells.

The responses were wild. Enjoy this small sampling:


Elroy said...

This is brilliant, you are a god among man, Jarrett!

Tanya Weiman said...

This is so fascinating!! It reminds of this post which imo is along the same lines from Epsilon Theory: https://www.epsilontheory.com/language-is-a-virus-mike-pence-edition/

Just subscribed to your blog!