Logo
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Whisper campaigns

Elections in the Twitter age


You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining. You've read all of your free articles.

Full access isn’t far.

We can’t release more of our sound journalism and commentary without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.

Get into news that is grounded in facts and Biblical truth for as low as $3.99 per month.

Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.

LET'S GO

Already a member? Sign in.

In the citrus orchard beside my house, every day is a flame war: My chocolate Lab, Riggs, barking blindly through the fence. On the other side, the neighbor’s German shepherd, Dakota, barking back.

This is no friendly banter. I happen to speak Big Dog, so here’s a rough transcript:

Riggs: “My yard! Keep out!”

Dakota: “My yard! You out!”

Riggs: “Me alpha!”

Dakota: “Hah! Me big! Me mean!”

Riggs: “Wait—what? Me more mean!”

The two dogs have never seen each other, but they’ve been having the same argument for six years. One day during the canine cacophony, it hit me:

This is exactly like Twitter.

Left: “Me smart!”

Right: “Me more smart!”

Left: “You no heart!”

Right: “You no brain!”

I laughed when I thought of this. But Twitter’s blind barking is no laughing matter: Reductionist narratives thin as playing cards. Whispered questions costumed as facts, like delicious morsels going down to the inmost parts. Isolation scuttles sound judgment, leaving straw-man apostles where thoughtful people used to be.

As if the ether weren’t warped enough already, here come the midterm elections. We’ve brushed away the bluster for you and prepared an in-depth preview: What’s at stake? What are the key races and ballot measures across the country? And what of Donald Trump, who has been out of office for nearly two years, but looms over almost every race? One political pro told us that in 30 years of working on election campaigns, he’s never seen anything like it.

Neither have I. I remember the good old election days long before social media. Back when most of the electorate still believed socialism was bad and America was good. When November came, we’d all turn out ­amicably to vote—a right many of us took for granted.

The Main Street folksiness of it all always amazed me—walking down to a polling place in my neighbor’s garage, which was decked out in patriotic bunting—a scene replicated in schools and community centers and other ordinary locales from sea to shining sea, the whole enterprise a reflection of the trickle-down trust in America’s institutions.

These days, though, our elections feel more like a Monty Python witch trial, with the candidates decked out in their opponents’ absurdist lies:

Peasant 1: “We have found a witch! May we burn her?”

The mob cheers.

Sir Bedevere, a knight: “How do you know she’s a witch?”

Peasant 2: “She looks like one!”

Bedevere: “Bring her forward.”

The mob hustles a woman to a wooden platform. She’s wearing an upended funnel on her head and has a carrot strapped to her face.

Woman: “I’m not a witch! I’m not a witch!

Bedevere, skeptically: “But you are dressed as one.”

Woman: “They dressed me up like this.”

Mob: “Naaah … no we didn’t.”

Woman: “And this isn’t my nose. It’s a false one.”

Bedevere, to the mob: “Well?”

Peasant 1: “Well … we did do the nose.”

Bedevere: “The nose?”

Peasant 1: “… and the hat … but she’s a witch!” …

Mob: “Yes! Burn her! Burn her anyway!”

At least we’re not burning people yet. I mean, OK, we’re burning cities. And churches. And centers that offer help to pregnant women. But at least we’re not burning people individually.

Well, OK, yes, individually. Reputations. Livelihoods. Relationships. People made in God’s likeness—and yet with tongues of digital fire, how great a forest we set ablaze.


Lynn Vincent

Lynn is executive editor of WORLD Magazine and producer/host of the true crime podcast Lawless. She is the New York Times best-selling author or co-author of a dozen nonfiction books, including Same Kind of Different As Me and Indianapolis. Lynn lives in the mountains east of San Diego, Calif.

COMMENT BELOW

Please wait while we load the latest comments...

Comments

Please register, subscribe, or login to comment on this article.