What does the political firestorm of the "war on women" look like in 140-character bites?
How fully, and how quickly, did the "war on women" come to dominate Twitter yesterday?
Twitter released this amazing graph (larger version here) of the number of tweets per minute during the odd little controversy. Wednesday night, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen suggested on CNN that Ann Romney hadn't worked a day in her life and contrasted her with working mothers. Soon after that, Romney started tweeting, and you can see the spike around midnight. But then everyone went to bed and the tweets fell to nearly nothing.
In the morning, the media-outrage complex started rolling; the peak of the attention came around 10:50 a.m., as Romney was doing an interview on Fox News responding to Rosen. Unsurprisingly, mentions of Ann Romney exceed mentions of Hilary Rosen over almost the entire span. (This even though Romney has still only tweeted twice, once shortly after Rosen's original remarks and once on Thursday morning to announce her Fox interview.) The Romney spike at 1 a.m. is tough to explain. Even harder to explain: the fact that the controversy actuall overshadowed the might of Justin Bieber's flock of Beliebers, exceeding the tweet-per-minute rate for the Canadian heartthrob. And this graph only measures tweets that specifically cited the Twitter handles for the two women, leaving out what is probably a larger number of tweets on the topic.
Tut-tutting over the way this story blew up is probably largely misplaced -- and not just because many of the people making the most digital noise are political operatives, political activists, and political journalists who make a living on this stuff. This is how the system works; it just works faster now. But the fact is that actually important political news isn't being lost in the process. While Thursday's frenzy topped out at 263 tweets per minute, Rick Santorum's announcement on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the presidential race reached 2,550 tweets per minute -- nearly 10 times the Romney-Rosen rate.