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Scott Brown's Twitter trouble

Posted by Mark Leccese  January 27, 2013 05:16 PM

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BrownTwitter.jpgMost politicians delegate their Twitter account to platitude-producing staffers, all of whom excel in a genre of writing I think of as Bland Earnestness. I’m looking at you @MarkeyMemo, @JohnBoehner and @DevalPatrick.

After U.S. Sen. Scott Brown lost his bid for re-election in November, it became apparent platitude-producing staffers were no longer writing @ScottBrownMA — Brown himself had his thumbs on the keyboard.

He had a lot more free time, after all, and he tweeted about spending a weekend morning “cleaning the garage. Ugh.” He tweeted “Go Pats!!!” and “Go Celts!!!!” He tweeted about doing book signings with his tag-along little brother, Howie Carr.

As an Associated Press story in The Boston Herald reported Saturday morning, “In recent posts on Twitter and Facebook, Brown has given updates on his meals and workouts, cheered on the New England Patriots and the Boston Bruins, plugged his book signings and offered snapshots of his post-Senate home life with his wife, Gail Huff.”

Brown seemed to be having fun with Twitter, but early Saturday morning he broke one of the most important unwritten rules of social media: Never respond to a troll. On the Internet, a troll is someone who posts a message just to insult you. Trolls haunt Twitter.

On Friday morning, Brown tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing his daughter Ayla perform at Pejamajo Café in Holliston. At 6 p.m. Friday evening, Brown tweeted three words: “Yes. Get ready.” Was he responding to a question? Was the question “Are you running for Senate?”

Was the question “Are you swinging by to pick me up so we can go see Ayla sing at the Pejamajo Café?”

Ten minutes later @MattinSomerville trolled Brown with this response: “Oh we are. You have no idea how ready #MaPoli is to vote to keep you in the private sector & out of #MASen”

Brown didn’t respond until after midnight, with three tweets in quick succession:

Your brilliant Matt
Whatever
Bqhatevwr

Uh-oh, senator. Within a few hours, “Bqhatevwr” was one of the top ten topics on Twitter worldwide.

Brown deleted the tweets. Too late.

Oddly, Brown, through no doing of his own, had been pushed back into the news that morning. The Boston Globe led the paper with a story headlined “Scott Brown still silent on Senate campaign” and the Herald featured the AP's "Online, Scott Brown talk sports, avoids politics” story.

In other words, this all happened on a day he was back in the media spotlight. Bad timing.

Twitter users knew what to do with the former senator’s typo: write tens of thousands of not-actually-funny humorous tweets and include the hashtag #Bqhatevwr.

Political partisans on Twitter knew what to do: either mock the senator as a dope or defend the senator as regular guy. @JoeBattenfeld of the Herald offered this explanation in a tweet: “My theory on @ScottBrownMA mysterious “bqhatevwr” tweet: His dog or cat stepped on the keyboard and accidentally hit send. Happened to me.”

The major media did not know what to do with this story. Was it even a story? Editors decided the store was the Twittersphere reaction to “Bqhatevwr” rather than the tweet itself.

The Huffington Post ran a story calling Brown’s late-night tweets “inscrutable” and saying they “raised eyebrows.” Boston.com published a short blog entry titled “Brown’s strange late-night tweets draw attention.” WBZ put up a post titled “#Bqhatevwr: Scott Brown’s Account Sends Twitter Into A Frenzy.” On Sunday, the Herald ran a brief story headlined “Scott Brown’s Twitter troubles light up Web with jokes.”

There is one unanswered question I want to see political reporters ask Brown: “Geez, Scott, doesn’t your phone have AutoCorrect?”

Follow @mleccese on Twitter.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, covered Massachusetts politics, business and the arts for more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and magazine writer. He has More »

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