Coastal Elites Can't Decide: Is Twitter a Force for Good or Evil?S

Have you heard? All the trouble the president's been having with his health care initiative is Twitter's fault. So says ad man James Othmer in a New York Times op-ed. Wait, wasn't Twitter saving Iranian democracy like 10 minutes ago?

Yes it was. In the summer, the coastal elites hailed Twitter's brilliant simplicity for allowing the microblogging service to route around authoritarian sensors and transmit poignant messages that made otherwise apathetic Americans really care about Iranian activists, as evidenced by their willingness to turn digital avatars green.

But now they're starting to fret that Twitter and its social networking brethren, like Facebook, are not so much simple as simplistic; reductive media that distill a complex debate like universal health care down to its most emotional, televisable sideshows. Of course, we've seen this flip flop before: Hollywood celebrities fell in love with Twitter as a free marketing channel, then despised it as a haven for uncouth and often unchecked imitators; earnest liberals loved what social nets did for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, but hated the eternal platform they have given birthers.

Of course, this dysfunctional, love-hate relationship is basically endless. The brands might change from year to year, but the practice of ultra-concise and often crude networked communication is only going to become more common. The lessons for the future are, as always, in the past; it was the current president who showed there was an emotional and reductive way to package online the candidacy of a novice black politician with a Kenyan father and a liberal political platform. There's got to be a way for him to similarly distill the health care debate. He could start by asking Michael Moore for tips.