The Washington Post

Winston Churchill approve of Twitter? Fat chance.


And now — thanks perhaps to a well-timed reference to Winston Churchill — Twitter is permitted inside the House of Commons building. But to invoke Churchill in this cause seems a bit much to me.

It would be one thing if Twitter were indeed used for pithy, Churchillian statements. "We shall tweet them on the beaches, we shall tweet them on the landing grounds" –

But it so seldom is. Look how our members of Congress use it. Anthony Weiner sent images of his privates. Perhaps there was a Churchillian precedent for this, too. A younger member once observed that the great man's fly was open. Don't worry, Churchill said, fixing him with a stare. "Dead birds do not fall out of nests."

Senator Chuck Grassley tweets things like# volleyballuni 25 bradley 22 1st set. Bradley doing bettr than record wld indicate!”And he’s one of the good ones!

Besides, not that I presume to be a Churchill whisperer, but he could be invoked in support of almost anything.

Remember that time Franklin Roosevelt surprised him in the bathtub at the White House? Churchill beckoned him in: "The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States," he said, or words to that effect.

Or how often Churchill was rude to his servants? When they attempted to remonstrate with him, Churchill merely shrugged. "Yes,” he reportedly said, “but I am a great man!"

Next we'll have the Winston Commemorative Show Up Nude Or With An Open Fly Or Hitting Someone Day in Parliament.

It’s a dangerous precedent. But beyond that, I don’t believe Churchill wouldn’t have approved. Using him as precedent misses the point. Churchill didn’t believe that everyone ought to be talking all the time. He believed that he ought to be talking all the time.

Yes, he was a master of pith. But Twitter doesn’t encourage pith. It encourages inanity.

It's one thing if the tweets you receive are a constant, golden stream of pith. But usually they tend to resemble a constant, golden stream of – well, change the last two letters.

Without Twitter, I had nothing to say and no one to say it to. With Twitter, only the latter changes.

But a tweet gets halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on, as Churchill might note. No, I think this the sort of thing up with which Churchill would not put. If Twitter invaded Hell, Churchill would at least make a favorable 140-character reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.

Would Winston Churchill have excelled at Twitter? “Yes,” he might say, “but I ama great man.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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