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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rupert Murdoch on Twitter: Insipid and Pedestrian

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 9:20 AM


It's sort of hard to believe after all this time, but I still regularly see people making fun of Twitter as if it's just a bunch of morons saying moron things. Okay, it is mostly that when taken as a whole.

But I see very little of that kind of thing because I generally don't follow morons. Twitter is what you make it. For me, it's a collective, real-time headline service staffed by hundreds of people involved in each of the industries and topic areas I closely follow. I rarely see anyone tweeting about the Real Housewives, about how Ron Paul will defeat the New World Order, or about (to cite the most commonly employed anti-Twitter snark) "what I had for lunch."

Still, in general, Twitter is full of garbage, and sometimes that garbage seeps into my feed. The worst is spam, but there are also flamewars (discussions of any kind are pointless on Twitter) and, most commonly, simple declarations of opinions or banal thoughts. I'm occasionally guilty of that last one, as are most people. But a good (if permeable) rule of thumb is that if there's no link, a tweet is probably not worth stopping your scroll for.

Which brings us to Rupert Murdoch. He started tweeting on New Year's Eve, and so far, in 24 tweets (which is a lot considering he's the head of a major global media conglomerate) he hasn't pasted in a single link. His feed up to now has been nothing but opinions and banal thoughts -- that is, when they aren't errors or, more often, promotions for his various media properties.

Even Murdoch's most ardent critics, after flambéing him for one horrible

act or another, will often offer the caveat that he's "a real newsman

at heart." But at least since the rise of the Internet, there hasn't

been much evidence of that. He has flubbed the Internet badly at nearly

every turn. Remember MySpace. Or take a look at the New York Post's website, which is still among the worst on the Internet, even aside

from its content and all the racists in the comments sections.

Murdoch is a "real newsman at heart" in only the worst ways -- just like

the crusty ol' newspapermen who 10 or 15 years ago (or, you know, today) pooh-poohed online

publishing even as it was pulling the economic rug out from under them.

Like them, he doesn't seem to recognize Twitter, or the Internet as a whole,

as an incredibly powerful distribution system for news.

So from Rupe we get tweets like: "Great to see Mike Bloomberg getting

some rewards for being New York's best mayor in memory!" Yes, that's

just fascinating, Mr. Murdoch. As is: "Happy 2012. May itbe

better than all experts predict. Has to be! Must change everything to

create jobs for all, especiallyyoung" [sic].

Sometimes, he's as incomprehensible as a suburban-tween Twitter addict:

"Great to see alexsalmond Briton of the year. Fellow

antiestablishmentarian's Econmist piece equal very good and bs!"

He didn't bother to link to the "Econmist piece." It's hard to know for sure, but I assume it's this one,

where the First Minister of Scotland employs a lot of platitudes to

explain why Scotland is so great (in sum: because it's not Greece or

Spain). As for "bs" -- I have no idea what that means. Do you?

Much has been made of some of Murdoch's more "controversial" tweets, such as his near-endorsement of Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses and his now-deleted complaint

that Great Britain is faltering because its citizens take too many

vacations (which he tweeted from his Caribbean vacation spot, natch).

But for me the most representative tweets are the more insipid,

pedestrian ones -- the ones that reveal the devolution of the man who

was the savviest media mogul of the 20th century. After conquering

the newspaper industry, Murdoch turned his attention to what were then

the cutting-edge technologies. He recognized the power of space

satellites long before most of his competitors did, and he put vast

piles of money into exploiting them. He ultimately took control of dozens

of what would prove to be incredibly lucrative cable channels, while also

launching what would quickly become the "fourth network" -- Fox

Television. But his sagacity stopped with the rise of the Internet. The ultimate control freak can't

get his mind around a media environment that he can't control.

And so when he takes to Twitter, we get stuff like his Monday tweet, my

personal favorite so far because it is, I think, the most revealing: "NY

cold and empty, even central park. Nice!"

Dan Mitchell has written for Fortune, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, and many others.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly

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Dan Mitchell


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