Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tweeting ourselves to death

It's official: more people follow Ashton Kutcher's random celebrity tweets than follow CNN's news headlines on Twitter. CNN itself brought Kutcher in to talk with resident mortician Larry King about the huge accomplishment on Friday, and then Puff Doo-Wah-Diddy Sean Combs joined Demi's boy toy to talk about the importance of giving shout-outs to followers, and somewhere in there the three managed to talk about malaria and how following Kutcher's tweets would apparently save millions of people from getting the disease. Maybe because birds that tweet eat mosquitos that infect?

Thing is, we're back to Neil Postman's thesis in Amusing Ourselves to Death: distracted by and drowning in pop culture, we can't see our own gradual doom taking place all around us. With web-enabled cellphones in hand, we will happily follow celebritweeters like utterly disposable Ashton Kutcher over the cliff to our own destruction.

Tragically, CNN will broadcast Twitter updates and warnings about the cliff's location the whole time, as it did on Friday when it announced that the Environmental Protection Agency, after eight years of inaction, is back in the business of protecting the environment and has listed basically everything that comes from a car's tailpipe as a threat to public health. This is huge — already, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched a major protest (as with the Heritage Foundation's scare campaign, left) knowing that business as they want us to know it will change radically. The protest is Postman's theory in action, too: if we get caught up in the USCC's hype that CO2 regulation will "drive up gas prices, food prices, transportation costs, and the price of manufactured goods, [and] regular Americans will even have to carefully monitor their own greenhouse gas emissions," we will never realize that these are exactly the steps necessary to prevent the climate-toasted doom we're marching toward while blithely dancing and singing to the iPod speakers jammed into our brains.

But really, who wants to follow boring old life-altering news when Ashton is tweeting his wife's butt to the world?

No comments: