#SnowDay on Twitter, or, how everything is political now

Twitter has always been one of the more politically conscious social networks. But in the age of the Trump administration, politics seems to pervade even the most seemingly neutral subjects. The snowstorm which hit the Eastern Seaboard today – giving students and workers an unexpected day at home – yielded a wide range of conversation on the #SnowDay hashtag,

First, there was food, and lots of it:


And there were carefully dressed toddlers:

But pretty soon, folks realized that the blizzard was not as boisterous as promised. The Weather Channel caught some of the flak:

… as did the entire notion of global warming:

… and some even thought that weather reports smelt like fake news.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this was not the only time that Donald Trump made an appearance on the hashtag. His supporters were out in force:

… as were several of his detractors.



Twitter has always been one of the more politically conscious social networks. But in the age of the Trump administration, politics seems to pervade even the most seemingly neutral subjects.

It seems that politics is never far from tweeters’ minds – whatever the weather.

Jamelle Bouie on race and racism in American politics

Slate’s chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, sat down with MIT’s Seth Mnookin this evening for a conversation about race and racism in the 2016 presidential election. The wide-ranging discussion approached the issue of race and racism from several angles — including both Bouie’s personal experience as an African-American journalist to a broader focus on the shifting ideological coalitions in the American political landscape.

Every political discussion since November 9th has probably started with the same question: how did this happen? Bouie deserves credit for pointing to the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination earlier than other observers, citing the intensity of support at his early rallies, and how easily Trump survived the criticism leveled at John McCain shortly after announcing his candidacy. Trump also benefited, Bouie argued, from a crowded Republican field and the “zombie candidacy” of cash-rich but vote-poor Jeb Bush.

But Bouie, along with so many others, gave Trump scant chance of winning the general election against Hillary Clinton, pointing to the seemingly durable ‘Obama coalition’ of voters. Bouie admitted that he wished he’d more taken seriously Trump’s chances. The media in general, Bouie argued, were confident enough in a Clinton win to subject her to severe scrutiny and merely focus on the “spectacle” of Trump — it was “Trump saying crazy things, versus emails.”

Another reason Trump succeeded — and one which might have serious implications going forward — is that so-called ‘Never Trumpers’ stayed reasonably quiet. Bouie pointed to the several crises that the US two-party system has suffered through yet survived, and suggested that the Republican party is more likely to morph than collapse, with ethno-nationalism emerging at its core.

Bouie and Mnookin also discussed the challenges discussing race and dealing with racial inequality — even between those who might agree. Bouie highlighted the differing forms of interaction that take place between people of different races in the south as compared to the north — the liberal northeast of the country experiences its own perhaps more subtle form of segregation and separation which can color attempts at crossing racial divides.

Bouie, at a mere 29 years old, has already emerged as one of the leading observers of American politics in our current volatile era. Both Bouie’s firm sense of American history and his own experience undergird both his articulate prose and the important, impactful perspective on display this evening.

Josh’s Media Diary: A Tale of Three Devices

The timing of this assignment was a little fortuitous, because the past few months have forced me to reflect on exactly what I read, when, and why. During the 2016 election I became a true Twitter junkie (the communication proclivities of one of the candidates didn’t help) and seldom made it away from the platform towards longer-form content or into a slower-paced environment.

Continue reading

Politwoops: tracking politicians’ social media stumbles

Deleting tweets is something we’ve probably all done from time to time – whether it’s just to fix a typo or to tone down our reaction to the latest aggravating news story. As private citizens, erasing an earlier post is a reasonable expectation. Yet it might be argued that for politicians in public office, what is said (and read) should stay said, much as a hot-mic gaffe, for example, can’t be taken back.

Twitter has become an important medium for politicians, whether campaigning for office or serving constituents. But sometimes, politicians (and their staffers) can get a bit carried away – and become just as susceptible as the rest of us to some post-tweet regret. Fortunately, the website Politwoops, now hosted for U.S. politicians by ProPublica, preserves these deleted tweets. Their archive makes for an interesting insight into the tweets that politicians wish they could (and perhaps believe they have) taken back. Given the Tweeter-in-Chief’s no-holds-barred nocturnal musings, for example, it’s a tool that may well prove useful for journalists in the coming years.

Several journalists have already noted, for example, the chronological coincidence that President-elect Trump praised Russia’s nonchalant response to Russian sanctions at exactly the time his recently fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was holding sensitive discussions with the Russian ambassador. That wasn’t a tweet Trump ever deleted – but it’s certainly reassuring to know that if he had, it would still be on record.

Josh’s bio

I’m Josh, a second year graduate student in Comparative Media Studies. My previous credits include working as a Research Assistant at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, and as a Field Organizer on the Obama re-election campaign in New Hampshire. I’ve also worn several media hats: I previously sub-edited a news website called The Vibe, which provides a space for writing and original journalism by students and young people, and I’m a staff writer for MIT’s The Tech. (I also do the occasional radio interview for The Monocle 24.)

From my perspective, this class sits perfectly at the intersection of research and practice. My graduate thesis (due in May) looks at how Donald Trump was able to gain the attention and support needed to win the presidency, especially in respect to the use of his Twitter account. The story I’m telling obviously has a lot to do with the news media and its reporting role, in the age of email hacks, dossier leaks, nocturnal tweets, and other virtual flotsam.

Get @ me @JoshCowls, and on www.joshcowls.com. I’m also part way through an attempt to write 100 words every day for 100 days – you can follow my progress at medium.com/@JoshCowls.