Leaving Twitter

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For the past two months I have not known what is going on with liberal Catholics like Mark Shea, or Simcha Fisher, or Dawn Eden, or the guy who runs WherePeterIs, or any of the rogues’ gallery I’ve had so much fun with on Twitter these past few years. The reason is that in early August I lost my head and deactivated my Twitter account. 

You should understand how painful this is. After all, I was a Blue Check, one of that lofty club of elite Twitter users who have been recognized by the Twitter Lords as “verified.” That meant no one could mess with my account, and I had a soupçon of Twitter cred, or something. I most often heard, “how did YOU get a blue check?” 

What fun I had on Twitter. There was the time, a month after the death of George Floyd, when I Tweeted “The good news is that George Floyd has now gone a whole month without drugs.” This was not appreciated by friend or foe alike. In fact, one of my book publishers called and asked that I take it down. I took it down, but I still think George Floyd was a drug-addled skell who committed several felonies and whose actions brought on his own death. 

There was the time I mocked the idea that Joe Biden ever stuttered. Remember when they made a great deal about this at the Democratic National Convention? The Atlantic posted on Twitter a sob story about Joe and his stutter, and I answered that he never had a stutter. I based this on two facts. No one has ever seen or heard him stutter. And he has a lifelong habit of lying about his personal life for political gain.

Some joker answered with a vulgarity aimed at me on Twitter and I answered him, “w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w?” Get it? Anyway, this was transmogrified to me mocking some stuttering boy who had spoken at the Convention in favor of Biden because Biden used to stutter. 

The four horsemen of the Twitter apocalypse followed. Rod Dreher wrote a whole column attacking me, which he later modified. Bill Kristol went after me on Twitter. This drew hundreds of death threats. Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark went after me. Mona Charen wrote a column about it, which she had to correct. Heck, even the New York Daily News published a column condemning me for mocking a stuttering boy and advancing a “conspiracy theory” about Joe’s stuttering. Remember, this was in August 2020, during the campaign, and I had published The Catholic Case for Trump. It was the campaign silly season, and this was perfect for Trump haters. 

It did not matter that the claim was false, that I was not mocking a stuttering boy. When I put up that Tweet, I didn’t even know he existed. It does not matter on Twitter what is true or false. The purpose of Twitter is to take scalps. And I must admit the ruffians did get a bit of my hair. A longtime board member, an old and close friend, resigned over the incident. 

So, there is the unremitting hot take nastiness on Twitter, something I gleefully participated in. I read a column the other day; embedded in the column was a Tweet from someone going after Damian Thompson, who had appeared on Raymond Arroyo’s EWTN program. He tweeted, “No sane Catholic could watch the interview with an apparently intoxicated (or possessed?) Damian Thompson the other week and not see something sinister or diabolical at work.” In my Twitter days, this would have been a call to arms and the waste of hours, perhaps days. Make no mistake, I have Tweeted things just as nasty as this. I am not holding myself out as a paragon of Twitter goodwill. But I do not miss this. 

There is much to admire about Twitter. It was the prime source of my news. If something happens, the best and fastest way to find out is on Twitter. People post stories immediately and from sources you may not even know. You get stories posted from all over the world. But there is something about not knowing the latest thing, the latest debate. Why this hunger for the latest outrage? It is often better not to know. 

I also believed I served a purpose on Twitter by taking a lead role on certain questions, most especially the LGBT question. I cannot tell you the number of folks who have come up to me and thanked me for my Twitterness on these questions. They come to me like Nicodemus in the night to thank me. They thanked me for raising the flag, for telling the uncomfortable truths about homosexuality and transgenderism.

I know not everyone can do what I do; after all, they have jobs to lose. The worst that has happened to me is a scolding from my publishers, a board member quitting, a friendship lost (still painful). I have no doubt some of my Tweets have harmed my reputation among those I respect (also painful). So, it did not come without a cost, a cost I will likely never know until the General Judgment. 

The final straw in my Twitter decision was the stupid debate over Simone Biles at the Olympics. Was she a hero or a goat for backing out of the competition where she froze in midair? This is perhaps one of the dumbest national debates in the history of our country; and folks were watching it like the Kennedy Assassination, but only if the Kennedy Assassination took place exclusively on Twitter.

I dare say, had I not been on Twitter, I would not have known there was such a stupid debate. And oh, the opinions about this. Everyone had one and advanced them in the most “knowledgeable” and caustic way possible. And I sat there thinking, this is so lame. 

And then there is the wasted time, massive amounts of wasted time. I remember Twitter fights going on past midnight. I remember them going on for days with people I did not know and would never meet, whose very names were hidden from me. I remember waking up in the morning, saying my morning offering, and reaching for my Twitter machine.  

All this is gone from me now. I feel no twinge to get back on Twitter. After all, they would never give me back my Blue Check! And now I have no idea what is going on with Mark Shea, Dawn Eden, Simcha Fisher, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, and all the rest. For me, they exist only on Twitter. Without Twitter, they do not exist. 

And now it dawns on me, too. Without Twitter, do I exist? I will keep you posted. 

[Image Credit: Unsplash]

By

Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. His latest book, Under Siege: No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic, is now available from Crisis Publications.

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