Here is a truly wonderful interview in Mother Jones with Teju Cole about his drone strike tweets and our empathy gap, but he also ends up saying some very clever things about Twitter, too. I’m a huge fan of Twitter, which for me is a place where pop culture, politics and conversation converge. The 140 character limit also makes it all a bit like an artform. And Cole’s ability to inject real and stunning social justice into that heady mix is quite extraordinary.
Part of the appeal of Small Fates is that I could put something into people’s day that I knew was completely different from what they were seeing. It wasn’t the only serious thing in their timeline, but it would be the only thing that would arrive with this extreme lack of context—because you have a context for the jokes, you have a context for the news reports that had links, and then the usual “I’m reading this book” or “I just ate the most delicious pizza” or whatever. That’s sort of the voicing of Twitter. And then, you know, the Small Fates sort of arrive with a kind of intricate and decontextualized detail about lives that you knew nothing about. Each Small Fate was completely new and completely out of context, and that sort of helped them stand on their own.
MJ: Why did you stop doing Small Fates?
TJ: I had wrote a few thousand of these, and I felt like I had sort of delivered. I didn’t want to be tied down to—how do I put it…the more followers you have, the more interesting it gets what reader response means. It’s almost as if it was time to stop because too many people were enjoying them. You know what I mean? The temptation to now entertain is absolutely not what I’m doing. I’m trying to do the opposite of entertaining.