blockedWhen Michael D. Weiss, Professor Thomas M. Nichols, Kelsey D. Atherton, and Tom Gara “blocked” me on Twitter, each did so without warning or explanation. I discovered the evidence of their disdain only by Twitter happenstance, when I found myself unable to re-tweet their re-tweeted tweets. Only after clicking on their handles did I learn why I had been seeing less of them in recent weeks or months.

Though obviously of no great moment in anyone’s life, to be blocked by a popular tweep is frustrating. It arises as a peremptory disruption of normal exchange, a minor but practically incurable injury. A post at a Twitter maven’s blog once crudely described blocking as a “junkpunch,” and I wonder if my blockers were giving in to impulses on that level, unless they were just brushing me off like the specks of virtual dust people like me are to them. I also would not be surprised to learn that some or all of these gentlemen blocked me by mistake, but, in this social media epoch, for a high-followership account to block inadvertently would be as much an offense as blocking merely for giving voice to an adverse idea (or “advertently”). In short, blocking self-indulgently, whether out of laziness or anger or boredom or trifling annoyance or whatever obscure motive, amounts to a special kind of trolling: a narcissistic negation of discussion that, like most trolling, would be impossibly embarrassing to a contemptibly contemptuous perpetrator if attempted in “3-d life.”

Of the four men who have punched my virtual junk, I have had the most previously to do with Nichols and Weiss. In addition to retweeting them, I often responded or “@replied” to their tweets, I believe always politely, sometimes entering into intensive, sometimes multi-sided conversations with them. I memorialized one conversation with Nichols via Storify, one that began, ironically enough, with his complaints about being “shut up.” (Nichols has changed his twitter handle since the time of that discussion.) I addressed some of Weiss’s views, and his general outlook as I observed it, in a 2013 post on conservative responses to Obama Administration Iran policy. I have also had collegial side-exchanges with both men, for instance by fact-checking a mistaken claim by Nichols within his area of special expertise (nuclear arms policy), and also by offering him some minor proofreading advice on a blog-post. As for Gara, I followed his account at one time without knowing much about him. He may be a business editor at Buzzfeed or the Wall Street Journal, but I do not know for sure, do not presently expect to be looking into the matter further, and in fact see no good reason ever to give him another thought. As for Atherton, finally, he is someone who seemed to be knowledgeable about security-related issues, but I do not know much about him either. I recall a handful of I believe entirely cordial interactions with him.

Simple requests by any of the four to be left out of my twitter dealings would have sufficed: I will absent myself from anyone’s timeline on request, though I of course have no control over being brought into replies and mentions by other tweeps – as can still occur even after blocking. The effect they have achieved is mainly to ensure that I am less likely to read or be influenced by, or to pass on with or without comment, anything that they tweet, including their links to their own latest posts.

It all seems pointless and counterproductive: I cannot see a reasonable justification for these four tweeps or for anyone else to block anyone other than a spammer, a stalker, or a committed troll, and I am not a spammer, a stalker, or a troll. In my view all honorable tweeps, among whose number I cannot presently include Messrs. Weiss, Nichols, Gara, and Atherton, should block only for serious cause, and never without warning, especially since there is also now the option of “muting”: In other words, you do not have to block ______ from ever gaining the benefits of your wit and wisdom in order to keep ______ from bumming a morning high or deepening an afternoon slough.

I have also now taken a look at my own blocked list – now available under Twitter settings after a December 2014 rollout – and have discovered that no one on it needs to be denied access to my tweet-work: Most are inactive spam accounts reported long ago. There was one rude interlocutor who I am sure would have wandered back to wherever on his own. There was one particularly nasty tweep who now operates from a private account. There were also two “political” blocks, one each from either end of the left-right spectrum: On the left it was DemocraticHub, which I blocked after the following promoted tweet appeared and re-appeared in my timeline:

In short, the account was promoting hatred – or was promoted hatred. It should probably have been pre-empted by Twitter itself as unforgivably uncivil and ungrammatical, too, but I could just as well have muted the account. On the right I was blocking SarahPalinUSA, against whom or which I acted in a fit of political pique one day.

If Democratic Hub or SarahPalinUSA proves problematic or upsetting or annoying again, he or she or it or them can be muted, and they and the twitter-verse can be informed as to the reasons. For now on, the policy I advocate for most tweeps is to aim for the response depicted below under my block settings. I would advocate it especially for Weiss, Nichols, Atherton, and Gara, but they would apparently prefer to remain beyond my reach, and I have, after some delay, gotten their message.

you arent blocking anyone

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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