Thread Man: Seth Abramson's viral meta-journalism unreality
One of the most prominent Twitter-thread stars is Seth Abramson, who came to the fore around 2017, as the American press was choking on news about Russian interference in the presidential election. Every story was cloaked in subterfuge: The hacking of the Democratic National Committee. That time Ivanka Trump sat in Vladimir Putins chair. When Donald Trump grabbed an interpreters notes and crumpled them up. The Miss Universe pageant. Cable news anchors sputtered out names: Maria Butina, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort. What did it all mean? If the frenzy of scoops presented a vast evidence board of clues and suspects, we needed someone to connect all the pieces into some kind of meta-narrative. Enter Abramson, on Twitter, arguing that out in the open was all the proof required to see the truth about our wildest fears and hopes: crimes had been committed, and the evidence was already being reported on by major media outlets. He was the man uniquely capable of pulling the loose threads together.
Now in his mid-forties, Abramson is a lawyer turned poet turned professor turned journalist turned influencer. His follower count on Twitter is close to a millionwhich, to compare his reach with political analysts employed by reputable outlets, is more than twice that of the New York Times Jamelle Bouie, eight times that of The New Yorkers Masha Gessen, and eighteen times that of WNYCs Tanzina Vega. His platform is powerful. From his first viral tweetabout how media outlets should not have put Kellyanne Conway on airAbramson gained thousands of followers. Soon, he was offered guest spots on cable news shows, where he expounded on Trumps and Russias misdeeds. His analysisstrung together over threads that are sometimes a hundred tweets longoffered a pleasant assurance: no, our country hadnt voted for a racist misogynist; instead, wed been manipulated by sinister outside forcesRussia, China, the Middle East.
Abramson began writing a regular column for Newsweek. He churned out books in rapid succession: Proof of Collusion (2018), Proof of Conspiracy (2019), and Proof of Corruption (2020). The first two were best sellers. He also started a podcast called Proof: A Pre-Election Special, which was, according to Abramsons website, a top 10 Government podcast on Apple Podcasts in over 30 countries. In October, he was a guest on Under the Skin, a show hosted by Russell Brand, who called him charming, informative, brilliant, and bright.
"His analysisstrung together over threads that are sometimes a hundred tweets longoffered a pleasant assurance: no, our country hadnt voted for a racist misogynist; instead, wed been manipulated by sinister outside forcesRussia, China, the Middle East."
He very much thinks nearly half the voters twice voted for a racist misogynist.
He has a tendency to a) sensationalize, and b) make rather odd leaps of logic ostensibly couched in deductive reasoning.
traditionally a training ground for creative fiction writers. Some of our great novelists taught and studied there (Cheever, John Irving, T.C. Boyle).
I really enjoy his writing and have posted some of it here at DU. But I think of it more like performance art than actual journalism. It's very pyrotechnical and filled with connections that may or may not exist. Critical theorists will probably come up with a term to define what he does. It's very novel and inventive. Post-truth semi-truthiness?
To me his value is that he challenges readers to contemplate many theoretical possibilities to explain the corruption that surrounds us. Part of his appeal is that he writes with such obsessive and fierce conviction, but how much of what he theorizes does he actually believe?