The rumpus in the small pop culture world of Twitter last weekend—the latest rumpus, accompanied again by loudmouths proclaiming they were leaving the “hellsite”—was, at least in this corner, mildly inconvenient and mid-level entertaining. At some point on Saturday morning I saw a notice on my PC and cell that I’d “exceeded” my “rate limit,” meaning, as owner Elon Musk tweeted, that too much “data scraping” was occurring and the site’s users would be “allowed” to read a finite number of tweets. I first thought about barnacle scraping—I’m a 20th-century fellow who fights with missiles and with spears—and only learned later what the term meant, which was pointless since it went over my head.
Took a look at Downdetector and saw the disruption was widespread, and, like others, was relieved my Twitter account wasn’t banned or hacked, and then went about my business, logging onto The Drudge Report for story links, The Boston Globe to read about the Red Sox, and The Irish Literary Times for book news.
It’s not socially acceptable, but what distressed me more on Saturday morning was that my red Bic lighter was spent and that meant scrounging around the house to find a pack of matches to light a Merit Blue, which was a daunting task. I rooted around closets, drawers and the rack of suits that I no longer wear. After an irritating 30 minutes I found a sleek and tastefully-designed box from Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel, where I spent a couple of days with two of my brothers in 2006. The Burj is a jaw-dropping hotel and was way ahead of other luxury establishments in its technological advances, a downside for me. For example—just like my older brothers—I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the TV, no big loss, but the lighting system was incomprehensible, and I slept in a fully-lit room. Conversely, unlike the hotel we stayed at in New Delhi, where the internet was dial-up (and cost me $200 to follow a Sox game), the Burj was all-in on Wi-Fi. Now, that was some “data scraping”; I’m intentionally misusing the term, but fuck it, I like the way it sounds.
Someone I follow on Twitter (who’s an occasional Splice Today contributor and good guy) posted this obnoxious tweet on Sunday: “Also, both the app and the browser version of Twitter are working totally fine for me. Does it help that I use a VPN on browser? Am I just not as feverishly addicted as the rest of you?” Can you spell condescending? Maybe he was making a funny that I simply found to be stupid. But that was mild compared to the legions (it must be said: mostly left-leaners) who—for the fifth time this year alone—predicted that Twitter was “dead” and gave contact information for when “this thing goes down.” The vitriol directed at Musk was insane, as usual, as if Twitter was a public utility and not a private enterprise. I’ve no idea whether Musk (who is nutty, but I think fairly benign) will fail in his uphill effort to turn a profit with Twitter—my hunch is that it won’t go out of business and will, as an institution, promote Bobby Jr.’s campaign in the fall of 2024—but if it does goes bust, those were the days of our lives, as the world turns.
As for the hysteria, it’s misplaced, but completely in line with the modern whining over what’s, realistically, trivial. Once more: if people hate Musk and Twitter, don’t use it. End of. The intelligence level found of Twitter varies—my favorite dummies are the “instant experts” who predict a market crash if the S&P dips two percent on a given day; say that Trump will or won’t defeat Biden depending on a stray quote from Jared Kushner; or, after a contentious Supreme Court decision, put on Paul Revere’s hat and warn, from their desks, outdoor pool or back seat of an Uber, that the barricades are, right this minute, organizing in the streets to save democracy.
The best “quite literal” theory was that Musk was limiting Twitter “reading limits” because of the mayhem in France. That was a Jack Benny/Eric Bogosian/Jackie Mason/Mrs. Maisel routine from some source, but the funny bit was that some ret*rds (I’m with program; and no fat jokes, at least today, either) believed it. As of Wednesday morning, Musk retreated from his “scraping” chats, still over my head, and all systems were in the fast lane. I was pleased, for I like to see the jokes from J.D. King, Oliver Bateman, Jeff Murray, Davrola, Lambchops, Tom (“I won a letter in high school, and I can grow a beard!”) Joyce, as well as the photos posted by Steve Giardini, not to mention the Giant Sculptures that thrill Will Truman, and fishing tutorials from Graft Master.
—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023