“Never seen Twitter so united in sarcasm as over the Nobel announcement.” With that tweet which at a mere 59 characters is terse even by Twitter’s Procrustean standards Alex Evans aka @alexevansuk, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, sums up the prevailing sentiment on the microblogging website.
If Twitter is a kind of global watercooler, the place to go if you want to get an instant take on everything from who should win American Idol to why on earth NASA aims to crash a probe into the moon, then the verdict is in. Within minutes of President Obama’s surprise Nobel Peace Prize win, the Twitterverse had greeted the news with a resounding raspberry. “What are the reasons for Obama to get Nobel Peace Prize” asked @ludmila_kh incredulously, if not grammatically.
A joke repeated or, in Twitter parlance, RTd in numerous tweets suggests one possible interpretation of the Nobel Committee’s haste to garland the new laureate: ” ‘Did you hear Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize’ Answer: ‘What for For not being George W. Bush.’ ” @Fulmonster sees method in the Nobel madness, wondering “Are the Norwegian Nobel Committee trying to force President Obama to ‘be good'” @chirdeep follows a similar train of thought: “So does this mean that the pressure is on for Obama to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan”
Gamely venturing into this sea of snark, a brave minority offers fulsome compliments to Obama and the Nobel Committee’s judgment. “Barack Obama Nobel Prize for Peace Yes, we can. Good choice. Hope and change should be encouraged,” declares @smackfairy. @arkeis says “Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize! I might just cry with joy *but I won’t*. I still believe in him … but … it’s time to get moving dude.”
Yet several twitterers suspect that the Nobel Prize may hinder Obama from doing just that, by galvanizing his opponents at home and ratcheting up the unrealistic expectations he’s been trying to downplay since he entered the White House. Here’s @alexevansuk again: “I can hardly wait for reactions on US conservative blogs.” Another Twitter regular says “If the Nobel Committee deliberately set out to sabotage Obama, they couldn’t have done it better.” Actually, that was me. I’m sure many others will have made much the same point by now. Twitter often reminds users how many different viewpoints there are on a subject. The Nobel Committee has achieved something of a first by bringing the fractious Twitterverse into such widespread agreement. They almost deserve a Peace Prize.
Follow Catherine Mayer on Twitter.