The tweet seems to me an inadequate vehicle for the forming of political strategies, foreign involvements, and important documents of state. Some may say that I’m being a fuddy-duddy about this, but for those who find The Gettysburg Address better than the average tweet coming from the White House these days, I hope my caution is deemed wise. I think the world has been enriched by the statements of so many presidents and others, like Christ, Abraham Lincoln, The Buddha, Edith Wharton, John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jane Austen and the many others who preceded the founding of Twitter.
I have difficulty imagining what a tweet from Prime Minister Churchill during the Battle of Britain might have been like, although I suspect that, given his intelligence and amazing ability for language, his would have been better than the ones we’re getting now from, well, Our Current Leader. Even Churchill would have trouble fitting the story he tells in his six-volume The Second World War into two hundred eighty characters. But to be fair, no tweet from Our Current Leader could be expanded into a six-volume history of a world-involving military conflict that resulted in a re-ordering of the planet at the expense of countless millions of people killed. I suspect the president would grow weary of the effort after, maybe…two hundred three characters? Two hundred seven?
But speaking of The Gettysburg Address, maybe he would do better with a speech like that. It contains, after all, just two hundred seventy-two words, which would fit quite nicely into the tweet format, and offer the president a vehicle he could…that he could…. But that’s two hundred eighty characters, isn’t it? So, even with his ability to explain politics and diplomacy with a gruff claim of personal success, an occasional sneer, or an off-color remark about the size of his hands or the size of his button (all created for the benefit and understanding of the white uneducated) he would still have trouble being as eloquent as Abraham Lincoln.
He could save space though by shortening that phrase “Four score and seven years ago” to “Eighty-seven years ago.” He probably doesn’t know what a “score” is (in this context, anyway.) Maybe he doesn’t even have the experience to know what that other kind of score is—the one he uses when speaking of women. Besides which, “eighty-seven years” doesn’t have quite the lilt, does it?
Terence Clarke’s latest book New York was published on November 1. It’s available at your local bookstore and at Amazon