Sing, little birdie, tweet-tweet

      7 Comments on Sing, little birdie, tweet-tweet

So, yesterday evening, as Your Humble Blogger was listening to the ballgame and puttering around on the internet, Gentle Reader Gannet retweeted a comment about Arizona and confederate memorials:

Arizona’s history of course does not start with statehood in 1912 (or even with white settlement, if it comes to that) and its confederate history is actually quite interesting—well, if you are interested in the war, anyway. There was copper at stake, and the rebels took Tucson and the California Column marched down to take it back, and there was a skirmish at Picacho Pass which is not a Pokemonz thing at all but an actual real thing that had actual consequences back in the settled territory and is also the westernmost battle of the whole war. Well, and I think it was also the smallest “battle”, but still. And it all gets caught up in the Apache Wars, which obv also racism, and the raising of a Confederate Memorial across from the Capitol in Phoenix is about white supremacy, yes, but at least as much about supremacy over the Apache and the Mexicanos and the wide variety of local native folk as over the Africans. And at the same time, there are Confederate soldiers buried in Arizona, who were loved by their families and mourned.

So, yeah, Arizona’s (and New Mexico’s) confederate monuments were about the fucking war in a different way than the statues in Texas and Louisiana were about the fucking war, and they’re about racism in a different way than the monuments in Texas and Louisiana are about racism, but short answer: yeah, racism.

Now, as y’all noticed, I did give in to that temptation and well-actually up there, but that’s not really why I bothered writing up a post. No, what’s unusual is that YHB interacted with a total stranger on Twitter, which hardly ever happens. And this stranger @cxcope, who I know nothing whatsoever about, has something like twelve thousand followers. That seems like a lot. I have, let me see… thirty. Twenty-nine. Maybe twenty-eight by the time I post this. Call it thirty people following me, though, which I think is the most it has ever been, and which includes at least a few defunct or nonexistent people. This person has twelve thousand, which, I mean, that’s a lot of strangers that I just posted to without thinking about it.

And, there’s this twitter thing that happens sometimes: half-a-dozen people I don’t know retweeted my reply, and more than fifty strangers have ’liked’ it, and more than ten thousand people have seen it. Ten thousand people. Ten thousand people have seen something I wrote, and it was 140 characters of nonsense. That makes me deeply uncomfortable.

I think, at one point during the beginnings of this Tohu Bohu, I imagined that I would like a wide readership. I don’t know that I ever wanted ten thousand regular readers or imagined what that would be like, but a wide enough readership so that other bloggers who I found interesting would occasionally include me in their conversations, responding to my essays and such. I never applied myself to getting that readership, because I found the necessary work of commenting on the blogs of strangers unpleasant. At this point, I figure I have about twenty or so regular Gentle Readers of this Tohu Bohu. Amy, Chaos, Chris, Catherine, Dan P, irilyth, Jacob, Jed, Jim, Kendra, Fred, Michael, Melissa R, gannet, ruthling, Stephen, textjunkie and of course my Best Reader. I am aware of one other Gentle Reader who doesn’t comment, and assume there are a few more, which may bring the readership up to, oh, twenty-five? Call it thirty, the same as my Twitter following, and I think you’d be overestimating. And over half of y’all are old college buddies, and I love y’all dearly, and interacting with y’all is not like interacting with strangers over the internet. And half the rest were friends-of-old-college-buddies (or even old-college-buddies-of-old-college-buddies) and are now friends indeed, whether that began before or after YHB started blogging, lo these fourteen-and-a-half years ago.

Wow. It’ll be fifteen years of blogging this winter. More or less, if you count the months I barely poked my head in to delete comment spam. Still. That’s a lot. More than three thousand entries, anyway, tho’ 5/6 of those were in the first ten years. But in all that time, I have always been startled when I am reminded that I am interacting with strangers. Hello, Ronald Goetz! Glad to have you with us! Hope you stick around! I miss Duck and Dance (prone to laughter) and hapa and Matt and, um, I can’t remember who else used to hang around and chat with us. On the other hand, that thing when Lois McMaster Bujold came across the blog and I wound up arguing with strangers was incredibly stressful and unpleasant for me. No, I wouldn’t mind another twenty-five Gentle Readers and occasional commenters, but I don’t want a massive audience for my internet interactions.

I have mentioned, several times, the Famous Blogging Brothers Bernstein, who I have known as long as I have known anyone in the world, and who I think most of the two-dozen of you have met at least once. I forget that they are, at this point, actually Famous: @jbview has over ten thousand followers and @dbernstein has twenty-five thousand. I have been blogging longer than either of them (well, and I suppose neither of them actually blog these days; Jonathan writes columns and David does reporting and they of course they both tweet constantly) and it was very strange to see them over the years, putting in the necessary work and becoming the sort of blogger that I had imagined becoming. I mean, in their own ways and with their own expertise and topics of interest and skills, of course; I don’t mean to say I could have done that because I couldn’t have done specifically what they did, even if I could perhaps have done something similar. I did struggle with envy, the way I do with old friends who have Emmys or tenure or who get cast as Benedick, damn ’em. But in truth those are things I do not want. Well, except Benedick, obviously, but the other ones are not things I actually want, lives that I want to live. Not taking into account the whole life, the inconveniences as well as the benefits, and most of all the laborious, unpleasant or difficult work that these folk do.

And, in the case of the internet, I had decided years ago that I don’t want ten thousand readers. I don’t like interacting with strangers (outside of audiences, with a script, a director and weeks of rehearsal) even when they reactions are almost entirely positive. The thought of what can actually happen on-line when thousands of people notice a person terrifies me, even if it seems unlikely that I will bear the brunt of such an experience. I chose not to swim in those waters

And then—a slip and respond to a stranger with one goofy paralipsis, and ten thousand people see it. It’s a strange world we live in, Gentle Readers.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

Edited to add this Postscript: I must admit I found this amusing:

7 thoughts on “Sing, little birdie, tweet-tweet

  1. Gannet

    Oof, yes. There are times I’ve replied to people with big twitter accounts, and then went around with my heart in my mouth for a few days for fear of being descended upon.

    And I admittedly do want a large audience, but of knitters, because of my knitting design business!

    I should’ve remembered about the Civil War’s outer boundaries in the territories. I vaguely remember learning a teeny bit about that in school, maybe. Certainly I know, because of my elementary school history classes, that Morgan’s raiders and other Confederate groups were rampaging about in southern Indiana , which I think is not more broadly known. From what I can tell, most people have the impression that Civil War battles were confined to the Confederacy?

  2. Vardibidian

    The impressions appear to have stopped (or slowed to a more reasonable trickle) at 22,000. Twenty-two thousand! It beggars the imagination. And still no unpleasant interactions. Not even polite disagreement. Just likes and the odd retweet, and one response agreeing with me. Whew. I’ll probably relax tomorrow or the next day.


  3. Chris Cobb

    I would expect that quite a few people know that the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in Pennsylvania, but that is generally represented as the Confederacy’s deepest advance into the Union States. Living in Indiana, I think the history of Morgan’s raiders is fairly well known here, but probably much less so outside the state. I had not been aware of a Civil War skirmish in the Arizona territory.

    I think the most high-profile thing I do on the Internet since I stopped having time to contribute to the Hall of Merit at Baseball Think Factory is post occasional comments here (unless being interviewed on the local news about whether the proposed site for a new chocolate factory presented a threat to nearby wetlands got more online views than I expect), so my practice is to avoid attracting virtual attention. However, I am always aware that everything I post on the internet is effectively public, so I try to articulate whatever I say in a fashion that won’t tend to be inflammatory or embarrassing. Probably I don’t succeed at that too well, but the presence of an undefined public weighs on what I write, and I think knowing that I am trying to be careful would reduce my anxiety somewhat if anything I wrote “went viral.” I can’t imagine treating public discourse in the fashion it is treated by many who Tweet to large followings! Still, my experience with being interviewed by the media at various times leads me to believe that whatever I say on line that is the most irresponsible and inflammatory will be exactly what gets picked up and widely read.

  4. Vardibidian

    I don’t really expect anyone who wasn’t brought up in Arizona to know about the Battle of Picacho Pass. Or anyone in Arizona, for that matter. It wasn’t entirely insignificant, but it wasn’t terribly important, either. I mean—I learned almost nothing about the military history in school, myself, and only happened to be aware that there was a battle in Arizona, without remembering any of the details until looking ’em up on the internet. I certainly didn’t learn about Morgan’s raiders in school, and the name is really only distantly familiar to me, so I probably have only seen references to them in passing, rather than having ever known anything and having forgotten.


  5. Chris Cobb

    I first learned about Confederate raiding in Indiana from Friendly Persuasion–I don’t think the film treats the raid with much authenticity, but it did impress upon me that there was raiding. Connor Prairie, an outstanding Indiana living history museum, makes the Morgan’s raid incident the centerpiece of its Civil War-era town. That’s how I know that it is a prominent piece of Indiana history.

  6. gannet

    The story in Bloomington, where I grew up, was that the hole in the weathervane on the courthouse was a bullethole from Morgan’s Raiders. I have no idea if’s true or not. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the hole, though.

    I’ve been pondering twitter this morning. The kinds of posts I make that I would rather have go viral are the knitting ones (for obvious reasons). I’m going to put a thought here instead; I hope you don’t mind. I don’t know that it would get RTed a lot, but who knows.

    There is much hooraw from Trump supporters about a version of Shakespeare’s Caesar depicting him as Trump. Of course, there have been depictions of Caesar as various presidents over time. Also, various people are pointing out that assassination is being portrayed as a bad thing in the play, and that people shouldn’t take that scene out of context. It’s been a long time since I read even a summary of the play, but I was thinking about the out-of-context part. There is a tendency among Evangelicals to look at bible verses in isolation without considering the bigger picture; perhaps this affects how other things are understood? I don’t know if it’s related…

  7. Vardibidian

    Well, and not just evangelicals; I was only recently talking about the tension between what can be gained by lifting words or phrases out of Scriptural context and what is lost, connected to the Book of Ruth and the word beetakhteet. So I don’t know if that’s a particularly evangelical thing.

    As for Julius Caesar, it’s true that the assassination is portrayed as a Bad Thing in the play, that noble Brutus is led into the conspiracy by ignoble people playing on his nobility, and that the outcome was far worse than Brutus’ fears. So, yes, just being told that the Caesar character is wearing a Trump wig and a red tie, it seems to me that the conservatives are overreacting. On the other hand, I don’t really understand the point of identifying Trump as Caesar, other than getting publicity—Caesar isn’t very Trump-like as a character. It would be more interesting to put Brutus into the Trump wig; play up his vanity and how easily he is manipulated, and also the notion of how dangerous it was to yell Tyranny! every time Obama signed an executive order. On the other hand, just depicting the brutal murder of the President has a visual power of its own, as Kathy Griffin could expound on.

    Of course, as Michael Billington points out, the Shakespearean character that most resembles Our Only President is Parolles.



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