Katherine Krall, CS Intern
Mark Twain once advised to “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” His recommendation to avoid becoming engrossed in heated conflicts with journalists is based on the limited reach and influence that the general public had in the 19th century.
During Twain’s lifetime, reporters purchased barrels of ink to print newspapers. He was trying to convey, in a way that only he could, that fighting with journalists is futile as they have pages and pages to fill every day with content for their readers while their opponents lack a similar amount of influence.
However, Mark Twain did not live in the age of social media where everyone and anyone can share their opinions on a variety of subjects. Websites like Twitter and Facebook become platforms by the masses and for the masses.
This paradigm shift is why President-elect Donald Trump won’t stop tweeting; it offers him a level of control that the media could never provide, namely exclusive management and oversight.
Dennis Culloton, the president and CEO of Culloton Strategies was quoted in Vanity Fair explaining that, “like it or not, with nearly 17 million followers on Twitter, President-elect Trump has a bigger audience than the mainstream media he assails. Never pick a fight with someone who buys tweets by the barrel.”
Giving everyone a voice is a foundational principle of democracy and should be encouraged in almost all situations. But things can spiral out of control when every slight and each insult is retweeted and liked by thousands of people.
A balance must be struck between providing information that hitherto was impossible to disseminate in real time and ensuring that certain opinions don’t drown out the concerns of others.