Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tweet your way to a better president!

OK, so this story doesn't go quite that far... but it feels like that's the direction we're heading in. Pretty soon presidents will have to make sure all of their important objectives can be explained in 140 characters or less.

This dumbing-down of our political discourse is one of the primary themes of the recent book by Elvin Lim, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency. Lim demonstrates that presidents have consistently been downgrading the intellectual level of their rhetoric since the time of Woodrow Wilson. The implications of this for our civic discourse are disturbing.


  1. Political leaders reducing complex subjects to simple black and white issues has been done for centuries. Leading people to one extreme or the other is an easy thing to do because black and white issues are easier to deal with than gray areas.
    A great example of this was the 54 40 or bust campaign cry, right? That was proponents of manifest destiny taking the complex issue of borders and relations with other countries to a black and white issue. Either you are with us or I don't think this whole "dumbing down" is a recent phenomenon.

  2. Hmm, I don't find the president's Twitter statements dumbing down issues: sometimes, in fact, writing with brevity is tougher, intellectually, than writing flowery long prose.

    This actually might be a better turn for politics. So often, we find politicians giving long speeches which, in effect, mean nothing. By forcing leaders to limit their points to 140 characters or the like, we're asking them to make statements that are meaningful, sincere and responsible, rather than dance around a subject for fifteen minutes.