Never read Twitter comments

The header above is sound advice for anyone who posts anything more controversial than cat pictures, and I almost never read comments under my tweets, which I usually don’t see anyway as most of them go directly to Twitter from my website.

But I made an exception for this one, which just confirmed the wisdom of the header.

I suppose the degree of incivility below is par for the course. But yet that very same day I’d tweeted TWICE about Trump’s stupidity, and yet people still say, “Go after Trump instead of getting those brown girls.” As if their being brown has anything to do with the issue, except for the benighted who feel that pigmentation is directly correlated with virtue.

“Now do Trump” says one person who doesn’t read. And of course I’m an Islamophobe, and quick to accuse those who merely criticize Israel of being anti-Semitic. (I’ve pointed out the difference many times.)

Note too the use of the word “tribe”, which is a real tell in this game. While one person defends me (“hypnotize” is the word Omar used to refer to Israel’s effect on the world), the degree of hatred of Israel—particularly by the Left—still amazes me. Why Israel rather than Syria or North Korea? You know why. And you can see the same sentiment in the comments on any article about Israel on HuffPost.

At any rate, all this does is confirm the wisdom of ignoring Twitter comments. For some reason, those comments form the epicenter of the Internet cesspool.

Oh, and no, I’m not upset at all; I’m used to this. It used to sting, but now it just makes me shake my head and utter the immortal words of the Wicked Witch of the West: “What a world. . . what a world!”


  1. Mark R.
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Good grief…another reminder of why I don’t tw**t.

    Last sentence typo; I think “immoral” is supposed to be “immortal”. But I’m sure the wicked witch is immoral as well. 😉

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Whoops, I’ll fix that, thanks.

    • Robert Ladley
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      You took the words from my mouth!
      Have nothing to do with Twitter etc. They serve no useful function.

      • Posted August 23, 2019 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        I disagree. twit*er is a great forum for exchanging information & meeting scientists. 🙂
        It is brilliant for science communication – just ask Matthew!

    • BobTerrace
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I simplify the headline:

      “Never read Twitter comments”


      “Never Twitter”

  2. W.T. Effingham
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Some threads feel like a roller-coaster ride of improperly placed emoticons vs. intriguing memes and positively useful clarifications. One might be coasting along smoothly gathering new tidbits about “geological” (or lunarogical?) events on one of Jupiter’s moons when someone jumps in with, “Has anyone seen rings around Uranus?”

    • Robert Ladley
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      I rest my case.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      “geological” (or lunarogical?) events on one of Jupiter’s moons

      “Selenological” if you’re talking specifically about the Earth’s Moon. More generally … I’m not sure there is an adjective for satellites as a class. At least, not in English, that I can bring to mind at this time. A named moon (Io, Phobos …) you could make an adjective for (“Ionian”, Phobian”) but I can’t think of a more general one. I guess, when our languages were developing, there only was one moon, the Moon, and so you didn’t really need to think about a general class. “Ge-ological” comes from the primordial Greek goddess Gê / Gaia/ Gaea and “-logos” (word, study) while Selenology comes from Selene (a granddaughter of Gaia).
      There was a brief flurry of terminological discussion a few months ago when someone published on the question of whether a moon can have a moon. (Short answer – yes, but you need substantial mass differences, otherwise the system becomes unstable.)
      I have a sudden yearning to get a genealogical programme and torture it to self-ignition by entering the family tree of the Greek gods. It’ll be more fun than pulling the wings off flies, and ethically more defensible.

  3. Charles Sawicki
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Nasty! I leave the tweets to the birds.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    A great waste of time and who has the time anyway. Oh that’s right, presidents do, at least the ones who have no clue what a president actually does. This one tweets and spends lots of time talking at the media in front of running helicopters.

  5. BJ
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    This is a good rule for nearly any website!

    WEIT is the one website I comment on because it’s the one website I’ve found where there are both comments and people worth replying to, and people very rarely get nasty, and all of that’s likely because of our gracious host 🙂

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      +1.It’s (WEIT) like having a variety show at your fingertips. One you may watch at leisure with some of the best topics, commenters, guest appearances, videography, and of course our talented host.

  6. Charles Sawicki
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    “Why Israel rather than Syria or North Korea?”
    I think that it’s not rational, but tied to religion, both Christianity and Islam arose from Judaism. Their followers hate the Jews because they didn’t convert, the parent rejected the children. This was certainly the case with Luther who was friendly to Jews until they resisted conversion. He then wrote “On the Jews and their lies” which was the blur print for the final solution. This insane hatred of Jews seems to have even infected some secular people. How this happens, I don’t have a clue. Maybe it’s just continuing exposure.

  7. Steve Gerrard
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    The important thing here is that you didn’t get ratioed. You have more likes than comments. Nothing else matters.

  8. John Conoboy
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The only place I see tweets are the ones under the Hili dialogue or on other posts on WEIT. Twitter and Facebook seem to draw out the worst in people. I have been attacked by “friends” even when I comment with something that is basically in agreement with their post.

    • Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      But the ones posted here from Twitter are great on animals— Emergency Kittens, The Dodo, etc.

  9. DW
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Stay away from Twitter. Twitter rots your brain. Just look at Trump, he uses the twitter all the time.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      Yes, but which came first, the brain rot or the tw*tting?


    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Agreed. At least Herr Twitler gives us fair warning that he will soon be boom-voice-barking the complex, intricate details of his decrees near a helicopter. I get so overwhelmed by the deluge of useful data– until Colbert’s segment “Chopper Talk” clarifies things later in the evening.

  10. nay
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Professor – don’t read the comments, they’re just depressing (and we get enough of that in the daily news). I used to say that you know how bad American education is when people can’t read a flashing red hand when crossing the street, let alone Walk/Don’t Walk text. I think AOC should wake up to what her fellow freshmen are really saying, and their constituents have to wake up to what their representation really means. Sheesh!

  11. Carl
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m not exposed to commenting like Sam Harris and Prof. Coyne are. I am galled vicariously. It’s not that the comments are “negative” – it’s the dishonesty. Being libeled and falsely accused with no good recourse is a recipe for health problems.

  12. Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    As I’ve said on many occasion, Twitter is excellent for some things but the comments on highly charged political or social tweets will curl your hair. I hope people don’t abandon or avoid Twitter just because of some peoples’ comments.

    Twitter is really good for following very specific categories of events. For example, I follow a Twitter account that tells me when an earthquake has occured nearby. Another one tells me of the movements of a Union Pacific locomotive — the largest ever deployed in the US they say. I plan to go see it if it ever gets to my neck of the woods. I also follow the space companies, such as SpaceX, to learn when their launches are to take place and when they get delayed. You also get recommendations of new books, articles, etc. that are hard to get elsewhere.

    If the political arguments bother you, just avoid them.

  13. Richard
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    You never criticize Israel or speak out against its oppression of the Palestinians unless you’re defending yourself. Seems to me like that makes you a shill for Israel rather than an objective writer.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Give me a break. I wrote a post just the other day criticizing Netanyahu for prohibiting Omar and Tlaib from entering the country.

      And you, my friend (and I use that term loosely), are uncivil and a violator of the Roolz.

      • Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if Prof. Coyne’s initial view on the decision has changed in light of the new info:
        – Miftah backed trip
        – Itinerary ( “Palestine” not Israel, no meeting with Israeli officials…)
        – Tlaib refusing Humanitarian visit after pressure

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Calling someone a shill completely undermines your point. If you have a problem with the prioritisation of certain political subjects, then you could’ve made that argument, politely, and I might have agreed with you. But leaping in and calling someone a ‘shill’ is both obnoxious and damaging to any glimmer of a point you might have had. Congrats on that, and buh-bye.

  14. Brother Goff
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Hello all, I’m “Brother Goff” the fellow who defended Coyne in this tweet thread. I just wanted to pop in to highly recommend a book about this topic–Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman.

    While it’s not nearly as risible and dimwitted as the Left’s “Islamophobia!” interpretation of any and all criticism of Islam, I think it bears mentioning that the side of this debate typically associated with “New Atheism” is somewhat reductive, as well. The relationship between Judaism and Islam has been one of ambivalence throughout history–it’s had its ebbs and flows, as any large-scale sociological relationship is bound to. It is true that Jews typically were forced to live in a state of religious apartheid called “dhimmitude,” but even this was an improvement over their condition within Christendom throughout much of history. There is much scholarship on this topic; Bernard Lewis’s Jews and Islam is a good place to start.

    The point of all this is that the brand of anti-Semitism that Omar adheres to (let’s just the bullshit; we all *know* she’s truly anti-Semitic at this point)–the contemporary murderous, conspiratorial, and outright phantasmagorical anti-Semitism that we see in MEMRI videos–actually *is* a relatively recent innovation. It’s basically a creation of the Third Reich (whose anti-Semitism in turn was heavily indebted to Christian anti-Semitism). To recruit allies among the Middle East, Nazi anti-Semitism was packaged, as it were, in an Islamic context. Yes, it *must* be said that the Qu’ran and Islamic traditions *are* extraordinarily amenable to anti-Semitic readings, but the truth is that they are also amenable to ecumenical interpretations as well. When the Nazis lost the war, the Grand Mufti fled to Egypt where he continued to be a Palestinian activist.

    The point is, just as the Left embarrasses itself with its “Islamophobia!” nonsense, we do ourselves no favors with the obverse position that “Islam=anti-Semitic.” The thesis of Berman’s book is that the Islamic world needs to undergo a process of reflection, contrition, and expunging of hateful doctrine vis-à-vis the Holocaust a la the Vatican eventually did. This has yet to happen, of course, and doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.

    Berman sets the stage for all of this by noting that the New York Times Magazine did a practically hagiographical cover feature on Tariq Ramadan–anointing him an “Islamic superstar”–even as Ramadan openly praises his unapologetically anti-Semitic grandfather Hassan Al-Bannah–the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and ally of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Tariq Ramadan, of course, has in the years since the book was published been charged with rape.

    tl;dr version: Anyone who wants to better understand contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism and is disgusted by the Left’s silence in the face of it should read Flight of the Intellectuals.

    • Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I see that our university library has that book, so I’ll read it soon. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I have read that book, after it got some recommendations by people I respect. I like Berman, I like his perspective, but I would say I found it overly discursive. There was a lot of stuff about Tariq Ramadan, some very mild criticism, and a lot of talking around the edges of the problem, but not much substance.

      Maybe I was expecting something different, but I was disappointed.

    • revelator60
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      The New York Times should be mighty embarassed by that feature, since Ramadan is now in jail for rape.

    • Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:55 pm | Permalink


      May we adopt ‘dimmitude’ for el presidente?

  15. Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I will say that this also holds true for Facebook comments. Goodness, probably just comments on social media in general. Or comments sections for most things that are large-scale. Reading comments sections often makes me feel worse about humanity.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      Even Youboob comments. In any video that attracts a lot of comments, even if it’s entirely non-political like, say, the Titanic, sooner or later someone will make a comparison between, say, British and American ocean liner safety regulations, and someone else will comment back, and before you know it someone else mentions tRump or the EU and the shit hits the fan…


      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        Oh god, YouTube comment sections are the absolute worst. They’re a stew of total insanity.

  16. DrBrydon
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Twitter is the internet reduced to it’s least common denominator: the comments thread.

  17. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    There is a whole bunch of nasty Twitter troll gangs ready to pounce on anybody who calls out antisemitism.

    Quite a few of the #NewRacists are upset with you right now, for daring to call out antisemitism. These include notorious antisemites such as Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson, and the odious troll Sacha Saeen.

    The latter has the nerve to call himself a “progressive criticising Israel’s human rights record”, when he has a history of enabling racists, antisemites, and abusive misogynists.

    Keep up the good work Jerry, and keep calling out the bad behaviour and antisemitic dog-whistles of those in power.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I have a theory to explain the pop-Left’s extraordinary animus toward Israel, based on three acquaintances (one an old friend I once knew very well) who exemplify exactly these attitudes. All three experienced severe professional failures, which must rankle—and I am sure it does in the case of the one I knew best. So, I suspect their adversarial posture at least partly reflects embitterment over perceived professional failure.

    Now, recall that Israel represents an astonishing success—a society that created out of virtually nothing near-European living standards, and advanced, innovative science and technology, while at the same time fending off murderous attacks from all the regions around it. Combine the embitterment underneath my friends’ pop-Leftist postures with subconscious jealousy of this example of success against terrifying odds, and we have the psychiatric basis for virulent hostility toward Israel.

    PS. Everything I’ve read by Paul Berman is astoundingly erudite and generally brilliant, if sometimes a little too long. This includes Terror and Liberalism, A Tale of Two Utopias, Power and the Idealists, and his occasional articles (now in Tablet).

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      I bought both Terror and Liberalism and Flight of the Intellectuals but I wasn’t hugely impressed by either.

      I admit it was interesting to read about the extent to which the Nazis repackaged their brand of fascism for an Islamic audience(and it was scary to see how straightforward and easy it was to repackage) – that was by far the most absorbing part of either of the books – but I agree that his stuff drags.
      Any point he had at the outset is often lost after he dives into the minutiae of some subject which is only tangentially connected.

  19. Hunt
    Posted August 23, 2019 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    I use twitter for one and only one thing: tracking and spying on old acquaintances.

  20. Rob Aron
    Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I hope that when these anti-Semites come after their chosen targets this time, that their targets, including ourselves, have more to fight back with than simply our wit, our sense of justice, and an obsolescent interpretation of our Constitution. Because we’re going to need it.

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