At Twit's End

A GOPer learns the need to think before he tweets.

By Robert A. George
|  Friday, Jun 19, 2009  |  Updated 12:13 AM EDT
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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) awkwardly compared Twitter's role in Iranian election coverage to GOP's use of it as communication tool in partisan spat last summer.

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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and a rather smart guy. He's been in Congress since 1993 and seen the power technology wields in the political specter.  So, why does he allow himself to sound like a self-absorbed, well, twit when it comes to social media? 

Wednesday, Hoekstra marveled at the remarkable role Twitter has played in the Iran election, and the protests unleashed afterward.  With U.S. media first falling down on the job in its election coverage -- and then ordered not to cover any protests -- tweets from Iranians and other observers have been the only way to get information out of that country.

Supportive Twitter users outside Iran have helped as much as possible by spreading the tweets and identifying their own locations as "Tehran" in order to confound Iranian authorities trying to track down internal tweeters. 

All of the above is factual and Hoekstra is quite right to be amazed at a new technology having such impact in an international event. But, he had to take it a step further:

"Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House," Hoekstra tweeted from his BlackBerry on Wednesday, referencing how House Republicans used the Web to get their message out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House before an energy vote last August.

Pete, why you wanna go there pal? 

Partisan sniping over an energy bill isn't quite in the same league with the potential overthrow or at least transformation of a theocratic regime.  In fact, it's not even the same sport or universe. 

Yes, the House GOP minority used various guerrilla communications tactics last August to attract attention to the need for more oil drilling. Members made speeches from the floor of the House, those speeches were blogged and tweeted and drew the attention of a curious media. Other conservatives created a site calling on Congress to stay in session until a drilling option was passed. Eventually, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was embarrassed enough to include a drilling option, though the broader energy bill never went anywhere. 

So, House Republicans won a brief tactical victory, but didn't get the bill they wanted. It goes without saying that no GOPers were arrested, thrown in jail or shot during their floor protest. Those are the realities faced by Iranians taking to the streets to stop what they see as their election being stolen.

How about Republicans just take advantage of the technology that's out there, use it to spread their message and try not to draw larger comparisons to its more profound uses?  

Hmmm...actually, even that scenario has been somewhat problematic with the GOP lately. Might be better to leave this Twittering thing to a society where more than half are under the age of 25 -- like the Iranians.

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots; follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 

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