You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

A Fiery Twitter Debate About Race, Obama, Bin Laden, Gingrich, and Salon. Umm, Right?

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, May 17 2011

Reading Kevin Drum, one learns that Salon's Glenn Greenwald all worked up about the supposed "about 30 obsessive, truly unstable Obama cultists who sit on Twitter all day, literally, smearing with vile, rancid invective anyone who criticizes their Leader." And one wonders, what exactly is Greenwald talking about here?

It's tough to know. Greenwald mentions in his post Salon's editor-at-large Joan Walsh, so one starts doing some Twitter forensics there. It's clear that Walsh has gotten involved in an incredibly heated, tweeted debate that has drawn in scores of people -- Greenwald, a ThinkProgress writer, the dozens of people Greenwald seems to be referring to, and someone who goes by the handle of @AngryBlackLady -- and seems to have to do with the death of Osama Bin Laden and Newt Gringrich calling Obama a "food stamp president." A little Googling leads to the blog of said Angry Black Lady, and she recounts what went down on Twitter. Here's a taste:

So you can imagine how infuriated I was to see that Walsh had apparently purposefully picked a fight with Truthrose (she is following her). This woman with a highly trafficked blog dropped a couple of tweets that surely a woman of her intelligence had to know would be infuriating to black folks on Twitter. (Indeed, I think that was the point.)

Angry Black Lady's is a lengthy account. But, honestly, after reading the whole thing, it's still not at all clear what this debate is about, or how it played out on Twitter, and on blogs, too.

With all the various tweets, retweets, short links out to blog posts, and dozens of engaged voices, we're looking at a 3-D debate, one incredibly difficult to make sense of unless you're in the middle of it. You really had to be there, as they say, which makes a Twittered political conflagration an intriguing kind of debate, but one that we're arguably not equipped to make sense of. There are tools like Bettween, which is neat, but that can only handle a back-and-forth between two people. Storify looks promising, but would require someone to actually go and build an archive of the discussion. For now, it's far more like being in the middle of a chaotic rumble than participating in political debate.

Anyway, for her part, Walsh calls the whole experience "chilling."