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The Strangeness that is Twitter: Clint Eastwood and the UK Riots

Hollywood director and movie star Clint Eastwood doesn’t seem to have a Twitter feed. Too bad: the pithy one-liners he’s known for in movies such as Dirty Harry seem well suited to the medium. “Go ahead—make my day.”

But there is a Clint Eastwood on Twitter. Actually more than one, but the first one that turns up if you do a search is @Eastwood_, with a handsome black&white photo and a locale of California. It’s actually the account for a fan website, as is fairly readily apparent if you follow the posted URL – http://www.clinteastwood.net. But significantly, that URL isn’t giving much away, and clearly many Twitter users have been fooled into thinking this account belongs to the real Clint Eastwood. Many Twitter users:

Without ever posting a tweet, @Eastwood_ nonetheless managed to accrue 13,000 followers.

It says something about the meaninglessness of so much of Twitter—the lists of followers and following, the number of tweets, the desire for glimpses into celebrity lives, the willingness to be marketed to…

On the other side, speaking to the possibilities for meaningfulness in Twitter—and very much in the news this past week—the riots in the United Kingdom have also had a social media angle, with rioters and looters reportedly using social media networks—including Twitter—to call people to action.

One teenage has been charged with a crime for her use of Blackberry Messenger to encourage friends to join in the mayhem:

UK riots: teenager charged with BlackBerry incitement 

The 18-year-old, from Clacton, was accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, Essex police said.

She allegedly sent a message on BBM on Monday Aug 8 encouraging friends in the seaside town to copy scenes of violence and looting that were spreading across England.

(via The Telegraph.)

In the face of this and similar reports coming out of the riots, the British Prime Minister is reportedly considering restrictions on Twitter and other social media services (UK riots: tougher powers could curb Twitter – Telegraph).

There’s a savage irony at work here, though. When Facebook, Twitter and other social media systems were being used during the upheavals in Egypt and Iran, they were hailed by Western politicians and newspapers as tools for democratic change:

To be clear: the visionary products created by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Evan Williams at Twitter are foundation stones of what is becoming a regional revolution. (via Sharon Waxman: How Egypt’s Social Media Revolution Could Spread Across the Middle East.)

Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is pinching.

Taken together, @Eastwood_’s 13,000 followers and the use of Twitter for encouraging looting in London (or democracy in the Middle East) suggest both the power and some of the perils of this strange new form of communication.

For more…

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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