We’ll just go ahead and say it: A whole lot of Coloradans go about their business without even once consulting Twitter on any given day.
The plain truth is most Americans aren’t on Twitter at all. As gleaned from statista.com, 42% of the country’s tweeting-est demographic, 18- to 29-year-olds, was tuning into Twitter as of last February. From there, use declines steeply as people get older. The total Twitter audience claims 27% of those age 30 to 49; only 18% of people 50 to 64, and a mere 7% of those 65 or older.
Yet, those straightforward stats haven’t seemed to stop political gamers from staging well-orchestrated and very public tantrums any time a partisan adversary — gasp! — blocks them on Twitter. As if they’ve been pushed off the edge of the political universe into the dark abyss.
They’re not naive. They know most voters never have been on Twitter, aren’t following the manufactured furor and don’t much care. The high-pitched histrionics over the presumed perils posed by blocking — to the First Amendment; to political discourse; to the democratic process, etc. — are calculated to gin up a media moment. If not a controversy, at least a flap. The offending officeholder must be hiding something, or is out of touch with his / her constituents. Make a big enough stink; get some news coverage out of it, and the mere appearance of controversy might sway a few fence sitters on the eve of the next election.
It’s all very tedious, predictable and devoid of substance.
So you can imagine our relief at a federal court ruling the other day that essentially upheld a politician’s right to block. At least, under some circumstances. Our hope — OK, our wish — is that it would put a damper on the future use of Twitter for such political stunt-craft.
Tenth U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Domenico in Denver denied a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed against U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, earlier this year for blocking another politico on Twitter. The plaintiff is former state Rep. Bri Buentello, a Pueblo Democrat who also works with a political committee bent on ousting Boebert. Buentello was blocked from Boebert’s personal Twitter account after tweeting criticism of remarks by the freshman congresswoman when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in January.
Domenico noted in his ruling that Boebert did not block Buentello from Boebert’s official @RepBoebert House account, just her personal Twitter account.
“Blocking a Twitter user on an account created before she was elected to office is something Ms. Boebert could do before she was in office and could do after she leaves office,” Domenico wrote.
Domenico found that Buentello wasn’t being blocked by an act of the government but by a private individual.
“That an account might be used for official purposes in one instance does not necessarily turn everything the account holder does into state action,” Domenico added.
As noted by our news affiliate Colorado Politics in its report on the ruling, other Colorado elected officials have been challenged in court for blocking people on social media like Twitter and Facebook. In some cases, it was even when the pols were using a personal account. State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, settled a lawsuit filed by a critic he blocked from his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo also settled with a man who was blocked from his Senate President Facebook page.
To hear Buentello’s comments after the ruling — keep in mind the judge only denied the injunction; the lawsuit goes on — you’d think the court had shut down Twitter itself.
“It should worry everyone who cares about the First Amendment that we have a judge that’s willing to make a very partisan ruling,” she told Colorado Politics. (Domenico was appointed to the bench by the Trump administration.)
Her lawyer, high-profile media maven David Lane, kicked it up a notch.
“It is a blow to our freedom of speech when a politician using a platform such as Twitter can block voices of dissent which she disagrees with and the courts won’t intervene to stop this First Amendment violation,” Lane told the media.
Block voices of dissent? Because she can’t weigh in on the same tweet thread on one personal Twitter profile — out of millions? Oh, please. Enough already.
Twitter has proven useful, or entertaining, in various ways. CDOT can tweet highway closures in a blizzard; we media types can tweet out our latest headlines; mega-jocks can tweet trash talk. But as a trip wire to set off orchestrated outrage against politicians du jour, it’s getting stale.
Time to move on to a new bag of political tricks.