When political scientists draw their weapons

It is not so much a secret that politicians increasingly use twitter to present their opinions, discuss political ideas, or just to get in touch with people. Barack Obama has 28.6 million followers and the German government spokesman Steffen Seibert addresses almost 94,000 people; of course, those are rather prominent examples. Over at the Monkey Cage, Heather Evans shows that politicians use twitter not just to babble about their daily irrelevances, but to actually boost their campaigns and to engage in (more or less) serious debates. Likewise, political scientists frequently use Twitter as a tool to stay in contact with their colleagues, to comment on real-world events – or if only to promote their newest article and newest blog post. Some of them participate in this:


So what is the Twitter Fight Club? As far as I understood: 64 political scientists comment on the politics of national security and foreign policy and communicate with the general audience. Just like they do in their daily use of twitter. Well, they probably will be even more active since this is a fight club and they will want to win. Some procedural rules can be found on the website from last year’s fight club:

In all rounds of the tournament, head-to-head winners will be determined by a combination of popular poll and our expert judges’ decisions. The first round will be contested one bracket at a time. Each bracket (made up of eight contests) will be judged by a panel of five judges, whose decisions will make up 50% of the total score, with the other 50% being supplied by the results of the popular poll.

Note, the twitterfighters are grouped according to four regions. There are four judges per region this year. And every round half of the twitterfighters will be sacked based on the results of the expert evaluations and a genaral public poll. What is the evaluation based on?

Judges and voters alike are encouraged to look at metrics such as: knowledge base; quality of argumentation; innovative thinking; humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma; and responsiveness to followers. We are looking to crown the best overall natsec/fopo tweeter, so contestants’ full bodies of work on Twitter are fair game, but any work outside of Twitter should not be considered. (The Twitter Fight Club)

The competition started yesterday and will continue over the next two weeks. Two days of competition will be followed by a short break. The 2013 tournament features talented people such as AM Slaughter, Steve Saideman, and Marc Lynch. If you want to follow the tweets, they set up a list on twitter.

I am looking forward to the next two weeks. Why? Well, I guess that twitter is still arcane to some of us (me included). How many of you have a twitter account? And do you actively and seriously use it? I don’t. 140 characters is not much to get out your statement; considered that you might want to produce a reflected argument. I am all the more astonished that journalists and analysts put so much emphasis on the twitter fuss during (political) TV debates and on election days. Yet, this often remains superficial and hence just trivial, at least in German TV. So, the Twitter Fight Club will probably show us the bright side of politcal scientist’s twitter engagement: succinct, trenchent, and hopefully hilarious comments on national security, foreign policy and what have you.

As our very own Ali Arbia (@zoonpolitikon) is also taking part in this, we would be more than happy if you could just go over to the Twitter Fight Club website and cast a vote for him.

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