“As with all Twitter accounts a re-tweet is not an endorsement. The congressman removed the tweet because it appeared to endorse use of a nasty term, which is not what we wanted.”
—-Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn) Communications Director, Jennifer Porter Gore, making a ridiculous and incredible defense of a re-tweet by the Congressman on Twitter, sending out a message from a supporter referring to Mitt Romney as ” a heartless douchebag.” Ellison has been among the most vocal of Congressional advocates for civility in public and political discourse.
Various media noted that the crude and uncivil tweet was an odd thing for the Congressman to adopt as his own, since he had repeatedly spoken on the need for civility, called for a tolerance pledge, and strongly supported the civility pledge promoted by the Jewish Council on Public Affairs. Yet Ellison, or someone whom he entrusted to run a Twitter account in his name, sent the “heartless douchebag” tweet around the Twittersphere. When reporters started asking uncomfortable questions using words like “hypocritical” Ellison’s office took the tweet down.
But if anything, Gore’s spin attempt is worse. If the re-tweet wasn’t an endorsement to re-tweet someone’s rude insult, what was it? Are we to believe that Ellison’s subtext was, “As an advocate of civility, tweets like this are just unacceptable, and let me send it out to all my Romney-hating followers just to make that point clearly”? What does Gore’s “which was not what we wanted” mean? Presumably it means, “We wanted to knock Romney and use nasty language to do it, but we didn’t want to be held responsible for it.”
I wonder why Spike Lee didn’t use this explanation when he thought he was re-tweeting George Zimmerman’s home address, as in “I wasn’t endorsing the effort to get George killed; I just was telling my followers. ‘Hey look: this guy’s trying to get George killed!’ How irresponsible can you get!” Actually, I know why Spike didn’t try it: Gore’s pathetic effort at damage control is beyond stupid, an obvious lie, and Lee has more respect for his followers and the public than that. Of course Ellison or Ghost Ellison was endorsing the tweeter’s sentiments. That’s why he re-tweeted them.
As many suspected, Congressman Ellison’s definition of civil political discourse is that everyone should be restrained, polite and civil when they are criticizing him and his allies, but he and his allies are just telling the truth when they call opponents “douchebags.”
Twitter’s greatest value may be as a jerk detector.