Twitter makes imbeciles of us all: On Anthony Weiner, Donald Trump and the backlash against Dan Patrick’s Bible verse

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Good morning Austin:

We will begin First Reading today with a reading from Proverbs 6:16-19, New King James Version:

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

To this, I would add an eighth abomination: Twitter.

If this weekend took an epically awful turn overnight Saturday with the attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando, by a lone shooter, who apparently swore allegiance to the Islamic State, my weekend began on a high note seeing the documentary, Weiner, at the Violet Crown Cinema.

As you may recall, Weiner lost a very promising career in Congress when he was caught tweeting images of his, well, wiener, and – the real time subject of this extraordinary documentary – cost himself the possibility of a comeback win as mayor of New York, when he did very much the same thing again.

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But, lo and behold, Weiner is back on the horse, tweeting again, within normal bounds, though reading his tweets is like watching someone you know to be an alcoholic enjoying a white wine with dinner – it looks safe and under control – but you know it is fraught with peril and may not end well.

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But here is Weiner tweeting about the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard being ejected from a game for throwing behind the hated Los Angeles Dodger Chase Utley.

 

And here’s Weiner, whose extraordinary, long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin, is Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, on why Bernie Sanders isn’t dropping out of race even though he can’t win.

Here’s Weiner with a little Ted Cruz humor.

 

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And here is Weiner with one of many dismissive tweets about Donald Trump.

 

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But, of course, Donald Trump – @realDonaldTrump – with his 32,000 tweets and nearly 9 million followers, is the King of Twitter.

In fact, the single biggest reason why Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States, and potentially the next president of the United States, is Twitter, which, with its instant gratification and bumper sticker mentality, is an exact match for what makes Trump tick.

Sure all that free cable helped make Trump. But the real key to his success was his ability to set the agenda, day by day, hour by hour, through Twitter.

Twitter – from the root “twit,”  a silly or foolish person – doesn’t care if its 140 characters reveal that you possess the wit of Oscar Wilde, or lay bare the sum total of your knowledge.

The only metric that matters to Twitter is impressions, engagements, retweets. Like everything else in social media, virtue is popularity, popularity is virtue, it is the only metric that matters and it destroys everything else in its path.

If America is no longer great, I know exactly when it ceased to be great, though I’m not sure of the precise date. It was probably in the late 70s or early 80s. It was the moment at which, as a sort of tag line on the national news each week, they would tell you which movies did the biggest box office that week. I remember it bothered me at the time.  It wasn’t merely a fun fact, it was tossed off as important measure of worth. A motion picture’s merit was less a function of its artistic value than its popularity. It was all about winners and losers and not good and bad.

And how did @realDonaldTrump react to the weekend attack in Orlando?

Through Twitter, of course.

OK. That last line about Obama’s refusal to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” is a standard GOP talking point and, in my view, a mile high pile of stupid, but that’s fine, though it would have been nice if there had been maybe the slightest pause Sunday to mourn the victims before each side – Republican and Democrat – opened fire on the other in casting blame.

But then look at that next – appreciate the congrats – tweet.

Hey Donald. You hear that 50 people were killed and 53 wounded overnight in Orlando, and, apparently, you say, people are coming up to you and saying, “Congratulations, Donald, you were right,” and you’re saying, “Well thank you, but I can’t be patting myself on the back at a time like this. I need to write `I told you so’ condolence cards to the families of the victims.”

Sunday was the epitome of what’s wrong with Twitter, which makes imbeciles of us all.

Which brings to the controversy surrounding Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s regular Sunday morning tweet of a passage of scripture.

Here it is, as it was posted at 7 a.m. Sunday.

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The tweet was immediately met with an onslaught of criticism that Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, was quoting the Bible to lay the blame for the slaughter in Orlando on the victims because they are gay.

OK. Take a deep breath. Seeing that yesterday morning, it seemed clear to me that there was no more chance that Patrick had posted that quote with that intention than that Whole Foods this spring had inscribed a homophobic slur on an Austin customer’s cake, but, what the hell, that was a wild social media ride while it lasted.

At 9:41 yesterday, I sent a message to Patrick – who was out of the country on vacation – informing him that “some commenters on your tweet from Galatians this morning took it to be a comment on the shootings at the gay nightclub in Orlando. Didn’t know if you wanted to clarify.”

Patrick replied, “For anyone to suggest that is irresponsible.  Those are selected weeks in advance so graphics can be made up and scheduled to post in advance. What happened last night is an unspeakable tragedy. My prayers go out to all the families of those killed and wounded.”

The Galatians tweet was deleted.

Patrick subsequently posted this to his Facebook page.

This morning, as every Sunday morning for the past several years, we post a verse from scripture. Those posts are chosen in advance and scheduled in advance. As noted to the media earlier, the post from Galatians, that received many hateful comments, was put on the schedule Thursday. Our scripture was not posted in reaction to the shooting.

I’m actually on an island. The Internet is slow. I first heard of the news late this morning from a reporter. However, the time lag has given me an opportunity to reflect on this tragedy, your comments, our war on terrorism, our divided nation and God’s word for all of us.

The verse has nothing to do with God’s judgement on any one person or a specific group of people. If some chose to read into it what they wanted they either have never read Galatians Chapter 6 or have misread it.

Some wanted the post pulled down and others did not. Let me be clear, I didn’t pull down the FB post & tweet because God’s word is wrong. His word is never wrong. Taking down his word would be like tearing a page from the Bible because we didn’t like what God was telling us. I took it down to stop the hateful comments and the misinformation being spread of God’s message to all of us- straight or gay.

God’s message to all of us in the world is that of love and forgiveness – not hate. Jesus was clear that the only way to the Father was through him.

We are all sinners, straight or gay, and we all fall short of heaven and eternal life unless we accept Christ as our Savior. He died on the cross for all of us. Let me repeat that. He loves us all and died for all of our sins.

In the public policy arena there are differences of opinion from many viewpoints. Too often there is hate surrounding those differences. Whether it’s political parties, Presidential politics, or one of the many policy issues being debated today, our country is becoming more divided every day.

The hateful comments today following my post of a simple scripture verse, totally unrelated to the terrible killings last night, that were directed at me and God’s word, is another example of that hate. I pray these divisions will end.

Just as we saw the nation come together after 911 we need to come together again after the largest mass shooting in our history.

If some insist on hate speech as a response, that is their decision, not mine. The enemy is ISIS, not each other. We must come together to fight them. ISIS believes in the killing of gays. America does not and Christians do not. Let’s focus on the real enemy.

For those who have never read Galatians 6, here are the first ten verses. Only those who choose hate speech can suggest God’s word was directed at them. It was directed to the church of Galatia as Paul was talking to early Christians about moving from the law of Moses to the new Christian church.

Today God’s message is directed to ALL of us.

Bear One Another’s Burdens
6 Brothers,1 if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Now, I know the religious language of this response will only set those who hate Dan Patrick off. But, I think, to many of his detractors, Dan Patrick is a homophobic bigot, and no matter what he says or does, that tweet proves it, even if common sense and the clear evidence is that he didn’t intentionally post it as a comment on an event he could not have anticipated.

For those critics, Dan Patrick is guilty until proven innocent, and guilty even if proven innocent.

 

So, Joaquin Castro, twin co-star of the Texas Democratic Party, the party’s future, brother to the next, maybe,  vice president of the United States, believes that Dan Patrick tweeted a Bible verse with the intention of laying the blame for the Orlando shooting on its victims?

Wendy Davis upped the ante.

This assumes that Patrick is simply lying when he said the timing of that particular Bible verse was unintentional. This assumes that Dan Patrick wanted to let the world know at a moment when a gay nightclub was under siege by an Islamic terrorist, that he was willing to quote the Bible to indicate that he stood foursquare with the terrorist in the name of exterminating gay people. How else to interpret what she is saying?

 

Am I overstating this? I don’t think so. Listen to Joel Burns, the former Fort Worth city councilman (he succeeded Wendy Davis on the council), a very smart guy, and another bright light of the Democratic Party.

 

 

Does Burns really believe that Patrick is trying to bring down God’s wrath on the victims and their families? Seriously?

Apparently yes, and there is something about Twitter that invites and expedites that venting.

It makes imbeciles of us all.

For a few hours Sunday a bunch of Texas Democrats, ripped up by events in Orlando, desperately sought to focus their rage on Dan Patrick and on what they considered, in an awful and dangerous world, the most awful and dangerous enemy of them all – the Texas Republican Party.

Read again what Patrick wrote:

Just as we saw the nation come together after 911 we need to come together again after the largest mass shooting in our history.

If some insist on hate speech as a response, that is their decision, not mine. The enemy is ISIS, not each other. We must come together to fight them. ISIS believes in the killing of gays. America does not and Christians do not. Let’s focus on the real enemy.

I understand that Republicans – Texas Republicans in particular – are quick to blame Barack Obama for everything, to focus their hate on him.

But it seems to me that the certainty that Dan Patrick intentionally posted a Bible versus to celebrate the deaths in Orlando is as well grounded in reality as Donald Trump’s Obama birtherism.

In the same way rank and file Republicans made Trump possible because they failed to call him out on his birtherism – because, they figured, what the hell, it didn’t really matter whether or not Obama was or wasn’t born in Hawaii or Kenya or Indonesia, because Obama thought and acted like someone born in Kenya or Indonesia – Patrick haters figure it doesn’t matter whether Patrick actually posted that verse with that intention, it exposed him for who he really is.

 

 

Yes, it took a few hours for the tweet to come down. But Patrick was out of the country. His political advisor, Allen Blakemore, was in church – it was Sunday – as this was unfolding, contending with texts and Twitter. He said he made the call to take it down without consulting with Patrick, but, he said, he had to figure out what was going on, find someone from the social media team with the password to delete the post – he doesn’t have it. And it took a little while.

I know – to Patrick’s critics this is all “blah, blah, blah.”

But, unless you are prepared to conclude that Dan Patrick is an ISIS operative and part of international anti-gay jihad with advance notice of the Orlando attack, I am afraid that’s the way it is.

But, Patrick’s critics were undeterred.

From a reader:

If you look at all of Dan Patrick’s Sunday tweets with Bible quotes, I noticed they come with the tag line, “Have a Blessed Sunday.” The reaps what he sows tweet this morning at 7:00 am did not have this line. The next tweet a few minutes later with a bible verse did have it. There is always one bible verse on Sunday-why 2 this morning?

Aha. The smoking gun that Patrick really did post that tweet with ill intent.

Even the perspicacious Bud Kennedy was suspicious

Yes, the second tweet yesterday included Patrick’s Have a Blessed Sunday salutation, and that same salutation is included in his other Bible tweets of recent weeks.

But, if you look back into recesses of the long-forgotten past, way back to March and April of this year, week after week, the salutation is missing.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, how far back do you want me to go?

With all due respect, the attempt to divine some conspiracy here is  Paul is dead, the Walrus is Paul, Rafael Cruz passed the ammunition to Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository grade stuff.

Thanks to Twitter, the Texas Democratic Party – which holds it state convention later this week in San Antonio –  has been presented with a savior, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Donald Trump, who could deliver the party from the wilderness. But, if Sunday is any evidence, it can still tweet its way out of this opportunity by revealing itself as simply not credible.

I know the temptation is great.

I am sure, amid the horror of Orlando, they count the Twitter assault on Patrick as a success.

It was irresistible click bait for liberals always ready to consume the latest outrage confirming how hateful the religious zealots and charlatans posing as politicians in Texas are.

From Talking Points Memo.

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Even after all the facts were in, here was the tweet from The Hill.

 

 

And here is Sean Otto writing at the Huffington Post:  Texas Lt Gov. Dan Patrick Must Resign Over Anti-LGBT Tweets in Wake of Club Shooting

(Shawn Otto is a political advisor, novelist, filmmaker, science advocate, and social entrepreneur. His upcoming nonfiction book, The War on Science, can be ordered now. His new novel, Sins of Our Fathers is a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. He is co-founder of sciencedebate.org, which works to get politicians to debate the key science issues. He is recipient of the IEEE-USA National Distinguished Public Service Award “for elevating science and technology in the national dialogue.” He is also the writer/co-producer of the Academy-Award-nominated DreamWorks movie House of Sand and Fog. @ShawnOtto
Find Shawn on Facebook)

From Otto’s post:

Later on Sunday morning, even as criticism was growing about his first tweet, Patrick doubled down, tweeting another bible verse:

Late Sunday morning, after online criticism continued to grow, Patrick removed the posts, and a spokesman told the Texas Tribune that they had been pre-scheduled. That does not make it any better. Elected officials are there to represent everyone, impartially. Posts that seem to condone hatred of any constituency group should not be made by an elected official at any time, because they create an atmosphere of intolerance of fellow Americans that in turn can lead to violence.

People like Dan Patrick who encourage or in any way condone mass murder of fellow Americans they dislike or disagree with, however obliquely, are unAmerican and should not be in any position of authority in any state or community. This issue is not left or right, Republican or Democrat. It is about fundamentalists of any religion—Christian or Muslim—imposing their views on others. This is America. We are better and bigger than that.

Mike Huckabee, Ralph Reed, and other prominent endorsers of Patrick must publicly retract their support for his political future, or they will be condoning the same sort of assault on core American values and on fellow Americans.

This expression belongs only to brutal fascist thugs no better than Nazis, who wrap themselves in a group righteousness as they seek to deny, demean, destroy, and eject anyone not part of their authoritarian ideology, in this case, LGBT Americans. That’s why they deny science they dislike as well. Because it doesn’t support their authoritarian agenda.

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It is time for a new Government in the State of Texas, and for Dan Patrick to resign.

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UPDATE: Patrick has posted a statement attempting to explain his posts, bemoaning the “hateful comments” directed at him, and further quoting scripture. What it lacks is any apology or, more importantly, any expression of sympathy for the victims or their families. It’s all about him.

The leaps of logic here – all in the name of science and sweet reason – suggest that posting the verse from Galatians – at any time, in any context – is fascist hate speech. Apparently the only time it is OK to talk about reaping and sowing is when Patrick is reaping what he sowed.

Even Mr. Sulu joined in calling for Patrick’s resignation.

All I could think of is, where is Mr. Spock?

Oh yeah, he’s dead.

Twitter makes imbeciles of us all.

 

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