As soon as my young colleague Austin Yack said in the National Review New York newsroom “Twitter just exploded,” on Thursday, I knew it was a day to disconnect.
It mercifully took hours to read the bloody tweet from the president about the co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Everything in politics lately has had the feel of watching a car crash in the middle of the road, where the bottlenecking just seems to make everything more unbearable.
This is, of course, why increasingly you notice people renouncing Twitter and other social media. There’s a guilt by association people want to be free of. There is a sense that every post just adds kerosene to the fire.
I’ve taken a much keener notice lately, too, that it can be near impossible to get silence – there’s noise seemingly just about everywhere (diners, Ubers, sidewalks, offices, living rooms…). That word – silence – even seems to be a paradox or jumble of contrasts. It’s something you want. It’s also something we shamefully fall into on matters where we choose indifference, ignorance, and ignominy.
First, the attraction. A few weeks back, I had the most wonderful gratitude as I walked out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. I had gone to Confession, and it had been one overflowing with grace. I write about religion among other things because I am a sinner who knows how much I need God and desire for others to know the freedom in Him. Utter peace.
So I walked across the street for breakfast and while waiting in line with some of the most pleasant and efficient people in New York, I felt the contrast. There are signs on lampposts outside of St. Patrick’s that say, “In the city that never sleeps, everyone needs a place to pray.” But you can pray anywhere, one might counter! Oh, but it’s hard to find silence. The deli shook me out of mine.
Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I’m waiting for that final moment
You say the words that I can’t say
It had been years since I heard “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New World Order. Which like many a beloved 80s song from my youth, doesn’t make as much sense as I once thought it did the more I actually listen to the words.
The night before Donald Trump’s ugly tweeting about Mika Brzezinski broke I watched the “Mystified” music video she appears in with her cohost and fiancé Joe Scarborough. It captures the overload of the moment. But it’s an overwhelming crush of everything — a fire — Donald Trump didn’t start.
Yes, surely he can bring out the worst of the fourth-grade schoolboy in some, but there’s something more going on. People who elected him accept the bad behavior because they’ve had it with polite lies.
They see an upending of so much they treasure about America and daily human life and they’ve craved someone who will not err on the side of silence. It’s a prompt for much more of an examination of conscience than on the part of the president.
And we do err on the side of silence when it comes to things we want to look away from. Consumers make choices about what we’ll watch and click on and that has an affect on what the media covers. So genocide in Sudan and at the hands of the so-called Islamic State won’t get headlines, but tweet antics will. (Would that the Chaldeans in danger of deportation get some of the airtime presidential tweeting gets.)
The downside of silence gets to a pet peeve of mine. It used to drive me crazy back in the old pioneering days of online journalism and commentary. If someone on our National Review group blog didn’t near instantaneously have a reaction to whatever just happened in the news – especially if it involved bad behavior from the right side of the political spectrum, a waterfall of e-mails would deluge our inboxes about the silence being deafening.
And as much as you wanted to be the place people would come to first, I always had, too, a comment Michael Ledeen had made to me in my head: “They don’t give awards for getting it wrong first.” There can be an element of prudence, too, at play.
On Thursday, I remembered a story Brzezinski shared one erratic Morning Joe show of days past where she talked about the peace she had encountered stepping into a church and sitting and staying a while with her daughter earlier in the week, something she had become accustomed to do.
Isn’t that – silence, and in that particular example in the presence of the holy — exactly what we need? And that doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on Twitter. Just don’t join the avalanche of anger there. Show something beautiful. Share something uplifting. Encourage the good. Move ahead with common decency for the common good.
And the sacrament of freedom, Confession, is surely not a bad idea, either.