Packer & Bilton, on Twitter

It’s been fun fol­low­ing the debate between the Times Bits blog­ger Nick Bil­ton, and New Yorker staff writer George Packer, on whether Twit­ter is a god­send, or a har­bin­ger of doom.

Packer opened with a dec­la­ra­tion that he’s old school:

I don’t have a Black­Berry, or an iPhone, or a Google phone, and I don’t intend to get an iPad. I’ve been care­ful not to men­tion this to sources in Wash­ing­ton, where con­ver­sa­tion con­sists of two peo­ple occa­sion­ally glanc­ing up from their Black­Ber­ries and say­ing, ‘I’m listening.’

After point­ing out recent news sto­ries that Twit­ter had a hand in breaking—Iran, Haiti, Obama’s Elec­tion—Bil­ton fires back:

…when trains were a new tech­nol­ogy 150 years ago, some jour­nal­ists and intel­lec­tu­als wor­ried about the destruc­tion that the rail­roads would bring to society…

I won­der if, 150 years ago, Mr. Packer would be rid­ing the train at all, or if he would have stayed home, afraid to engage in an evolv­ing soci­ety and demand­ing that the trains be stopped.

Ouch. One gets the sense that there is some kind of gen­er­a­tional clash going on here. Packer tries again:

If a Lud­dite is some­one who fears and hates all tech­no­log­i­cal change, a Bil­tonite is some­one who cel­e­brates all tech­no­log­i­cal change: because we can, we must.

George is ask­ing the right ques­tions, but it’s hard to dis­agree with Bilton’s point—by refus­ing to par­tic­i­pate in social media, he’s miss­ing part of the story… you can’t bury your head in the sand and expect to keep up.

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