There’s a story going around today about how Twitter enabled Newark mayor extraordinaire Cory Booker to rescue a shivering dog from certain wintery death.
Here’s the Atlantic’s take, entitled “How Twitter Helped Cory Booker Save a Freezing Dog”:
Cory Booker has a solid track record of intervening in crisis situations, but he proved last night that, with a little help from social media, he's not above looking out for the little non-people either. Booker came to the rescue of a dog that was left outside in the cold Thursday night, personally loading the freezing animal into a police car and then scolding the owners on the local news.
The implications of this very heartwarming story goes something like this: Social media, in all its progressivity, enables public officials access to more and better information than ever before, so much so that it brings to their attention even previously marginalized concerns like a frostbitten canine. But that’s not the real story here.
Now, you may have heard of Cory Booker before, even if you live nowhere near New Jersey, and especially if you follow politics. See, Cory Booker has literally pulled one of his constituents from a burning building before. He actually saves lives. He once personally grabbed a shovel and helped save trapped, snowed-in Newark denizens with his own two hands. He is, as the press loves to say, a “superhero” mayor with an outsized public image.
So keep that in mind as the next piece of the story unfolds: “It was actually the local ABC station that alerted Booker to the pooch, when reporter Toni Yates tweeted at Booker that she saw the dog shivering on the front porch of its house … He immediately rolled down to the scene, bringing a few cop cars in tow.”
So that’s what Twitter did here—it more efficiently streamlined the process by which a TV station could arrange a rousing photo op with the mayor. After all, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of more efficient ways to rescue a freezing dog. ABC’s news team, for instance, might have made the bold move of bringing the dog into its van themselves and calling the owners from there. But that wouldn’t nab them a primo heartwarming segment for the evening news with a man-of-the-people mayor.
No, thanks to Twitter, ABC was able to reach out to the mayor in a way that seemed casual and less ethically dubious—no reporter at any point actually had to pick up the phone and go, ‘Hey, Cory, I’ve got this idea that might make us both look real good here …’ This way, all she had to do was tweet, wait for an RT, and show up on location with the cameras ready to roll and just conveniently capture whatever inspirational moment might happen to unfold thereafter.
Look, New York Times hit piece or no, Cory Booker is a good mayor—he’s brought crime rates down and raised an impressive amount of funding for city programs. But isn’t this bit of melodrama a little transparent?
Twitter has helped people communicate in new and exciting ways. So it’s easy for the media to routinely cover the platform as a good/neat phenomenon enabler. But it’s quite capable of muddying the waters too--it also allows news outlets to stage publicity stunts with politicians on the fly.