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BUSH: I see dead people's tweets
FROM THE EDITOR

BUSH: I see dead people's tweets

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For about a dozen years, I have joked that Twitter is the most caustic environment in which humans can exist.

Facebook can be fun. It's like listening to your crazy uncle's political ramblings all year instead of just holiday dinners. Fortunately for my nieces and nephews, all they needed was a newspaper subscription. Until social media came along, their other crazy uncles had no chance to share.

But on Facebook, every crazy comment comes from someone you knew well enough to invite to your party. Even before President Donald Trump turned Twitter into the de facto White House Press Secretary, Twitter's neighborhood standards made Facebook look like a gated community compared to the Twitter projects.

Unless you tinker with privacy settings, everyone on Twitter can see everything you say. They can even see every tweet someone else wrote that you just liked. On Facebook, you shake your head finding out which family members have racist tendencies. On Twitter, crazy racists from around the world can come after you - and they do.

Twitter has made a big deal about trying to clean up the neighborhood over the past few years. They have added some fact-checking and flags on certain tweets that are fake or dangerous. As hard as they have tried, Twitter's beautification project is far from a finished project.

Call me crazy, but zombie accounts seem like a pretty bad idea. Zombie accounts are unfortunately exactly what they sound like. In the words of the creepy kid on The Sixth Sense, "I see dead people." Well, I see their tweets.

Herman Cain was a successful businessman and a less successful politician. Unfortunately, the man known for his easy smile and fun interview style became known for betting his life to attend a political rally in Tulsa with no social distancing. He lost that bet. Of course, we'll never know for certain that Cain contracted COVID-19 in Tulsa. He could have gotten it at a grocery store or from a friend.

No matter, he is one of more than 185,000 people who have succumbed to the disease. Like many of them, he had what the Center for Disease Control calls co-morbidities. Basically, a co-morbidity is anything that would help the coronavirus kill you. Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, and many others are on the list. There are so many of them on the list, that a recent story from the CDC said that only six percent of thousands of people who have died were "only" from COVID-19.

That was a story that fit narratives far too well to be ignored. It was entirely unsurprising that the President used his Twitter platform to push it. It was a little more surprising to see the guy who actually died supporting Trump and flouting the virus push that story on Twitter. In fact, Cain's Twitter feed, now known as the Cain Gang, pushed the story with this caption, “It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media made it out to be.” That's a tough argument for a guy who the virus killed to make. Cain was one of the 94% who suffered from co-morbidities. He was also doing great until he contracted the virus.

Followers are valuable. Cain had 555,000 followers at his death. In a strange twist of Twitter, your account doesn't die with you. His family and those running his account wanted to "keep his vision alive" after he died. Another tangled twist in this twisted Twitter tale came from how I first saw the story from Cain's zombie account. I saw the post when a few people I followed retweeted a post from Betsy Rothstein. Most people won't know that name, but Rothstein was a media blogger and columnist for Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller. She is also dead.

Rothstein died in June after a long battle with cancer.

On August 13, someone tweeted from her account, "Everyone should know that Herman Cain is not the person tweeting from his account." Her account had gone dormant in February for obvious reasons but suddenly made a comeback with a what appeared to be a sense of parody. I guess they didn't want to let her almost 10,000 followers go to waste.

On Sept. 1, the account posted a link to the Daily Beast story about Herman Cain tweeting about the CDC story with the caption, "Why Herman Cain Is Tweeting Nonsense From Beyond the Grave."

When death's icy grip finally takes hold of my mortal coil, my Twitter account better die with me. I don't need another person to parody my tweets. I don't need my Twitter account to continue to post in order for my vision to live on or my legacy to be secure. I'll do all of my living while I'm alive.

Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal. Reach him at kent.bush@lee.net

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