Magazine | December 3, 2018, Issue

Apologia pro Tweeta Sua

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Imagine Walter Cronkite standing on a street corner with a megaphone, shouting, “I wish sharp-toothed night weasels would gnaw off Nixon’s testes!” CBS brass would send down a team with a stiff white coat to prevent him from saying anything more because he was clearly unwell. But now you’re expected to be awful on Twitter, just to show how attuned you are to these awful times.

A very important Twitter person — he has a blue check by his name, which means he’s big and influential — expressed his views on the lumpendeploratariat:

“Sometimes I think about America’s sedentary, heart-diseased, fast-food gobbling, car-addicted suburbanites, sitting watching TV in their suburban castles, casually passing judgment on refugees who have walked 1000s of miles . . .”

There’s more, but you get the idea: those pampered toads, how he hates them.

No doubt he hit “tweet” with a smile: Oh, that’s good for 10,000 retweets! I’ll be the toast of this amorphous, meaningless medium for ten minutes at least. Turns out the tweet was a tad . . . problematic. Can you put on your Intersectional Cap — it’s the pink one over there with strands of yarn to indicate ovaries — and see what the problem was?

Very good! Fat-shaming. The original tweeter was surprised, no doubt: Whoa, c’mon, isn’t that how we think of them? Isn’t it okay to ridicule their appearance? It’s not like they’re, y’know, people or anything. But once he realized his Woke Status might be downgraded, he went on a 20-tweet apology thread that sounded like he’d end up confessing to reading the works of Emmanuel Goldstein and visiting prostitutes in the proletariat sector.

It’ll just get worse. Let’s imagine that a writer for The Nation, previously in good standing for decoding white-nationalist meanings in Donald Trump’s love of ketchup (“Heinz’s ‘57 flavors’ is not a testament to diversity but a dog-whistle reference to the 57th footnote in the Wikipedia entry on the Wannsee Conference, which set the Holocaust in motion”), tweets the following:

“Thought: Lettuce is nothing but a water storage and relocation system, and an inefficient one at that.”

Here’s the tweet thread that would follow:

“Wow, lots of pushback on that lettuce thing. You’re right, I didn’t consider the sociopolitical history of iceberg lettuce. Y’all are schooling me! Love it!”

“Okay first off apologies for appropriating southern slang — ‘y’all’ is something I say with friends but as a northerner I should stay in my lane.”

“If we can get past that I can address the whole lettuce thing — yes, iceberg is problematic, I get that, from multiple aspects. First there’s the historic oppression of migrant workers, who were poorly paid and housed.”

“Second there’s the climate impact of water diversion and transportation. Shipping a flavorless ball across the country to use as garnish is insane! Some studies say the carbon impact of salad might rival that of bovine flatulence. Eat local!”

“Okay well I didn’t know ‘migrant’ was a problematic term but hey we learn something every day right? So the term is offensive because ‘migrant’ implies they were alien to the farming area (1/2)”

“ . . . when many in fact had ancestors who’d been there before white Californian settlers pushed them out. The preferred term is ALL people who belong here regardless of borders are ‘geographically fluid.’ Thx! (2/2)”

“Wow my DMs are just blowing up. It’s so helpful. I apologize for implying that all Californian settlers were white. There were many Chinese who suffered tremendous racism. Clarifying here that no Chinese pushed out any Latinx POA (persons of agriculture).”

“It’s getting late but that’s no excuse for using ‘alien,’ which has historically been used to invalidate the humanity of Latinx populations, and I realize that language like this is a form of violence that empowers frat boys in North Dakota to wear sombreros at a party.”

“Okay hearing from the Aztec and Toltec communities, so just to clarify, it is historical erasure to assume everyone who picked lettuce did not have indigenous blood. I will try to do better.”

“But I think we can all agree re: iceberg lettuce that its flavorlessness and popularity make it a perfect white people food, I mean they put it on Wonder Bread and call it ‘cuisine.’”

“Gotta go to bed but a shout out to the peeps who reminded me that Wonder Bread may have been crap food but it freed up women from the chore of baking bread — so they spend more time making babies amirite? Lol”

“Clarification: Some women have penises instead of wombs, my comment was made in the context of 1930s commercial-baking industries that promoted a corporatized idea of bread and prevailing gender norms.”

“Also I know now that iceberg lettuce was used by drag performance artists to simulate breasts.”

“It’s humbling to slip up and conflate drag queens with transgender people, what can I say, obviously I didn’t get it but I do now.”

“In closing it’s been a great night and I’ve learned lots and I’ll never look at iceberg lettuce the same way again.”

Next day:

“Well, I was fired from the magazine, but I guess I deserved that. I will try to do better. Off to lunch with a friend who might have a job, I’ll order the Cobb salad lol”

“Dear @jargonistic I did not know the Cobb salad was invented at the Brown Derby restaurant, which barred admission to African Americans. I’ll inform the waiter.”

“Thnx to all who reminded me that the preferred term is ‘server.’”

Repeat until Twitter catches on fire and melts into a slag heap of molten resentment. It’s their world, and they’re welcome to it.

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