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Your 2011 Twitter Fight Club Champion

April 6, 2011

The final round of the inaugural Twitter Fight Club tournament, between @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill, can only be described as epic. Both fighters fully displayed the skills, humor, rugged determination, and beards that have taken them this far.

@abumuqawama jumped to an early lead in the final round through the hiring of @AbuMuqawamaPMC, a private military corporation that would compete in the final round on his behalf. This was designed to allow him to compete in a cost efficient and non-accountable manner. Though @jeremyscahill brought his A game when the final round began — landing several good blows — @abumuqawama was the decisive winner the first day. As day two began, @AbuMuqawamaPMC justifiably boasted, “I think @abumuqawama‘s decision to out-source his #twitterfight to a PMC has broken @jeremyscahill‘s will to live.”

But @jeremyscahill made a remarkable comeback on the second day. A new account, @ExumRangerBeard, began teaming with @jeremyscahill and launching vitriolic attacks on @abumuqawama. The account was ostensibly Exum’s own beard turning on him, but @abumuqawama attempted to provide photographic evidence of his beard’s continuing loyalty. In one of the best lines of the final round, he noted that Michael Hastings was preparing an investigative piece about the incident: “Hastings’s profile, The Runaway Avatar, will be all about how @jeremyscahill panicked and resorted to amateur MISO in the finals.” But, unfortunately for @abumuqawama, not all the judges would be persuaded. In addition to the insurgency that @abumuqawama now (perhaps?) confronted from his own facial hair, @jeremyscahill won the endorsement of the far left pro-jihadist esteemed independent media outlet The Nation, which enjoys over 100,000 useful idiots followers. Just as clearly as Exum prevailed on the first day, Scahill took the second. As Exum’s own beard observed, “My former face, @abumuqawama, is getting desperate at the 11th hour I see.”

With The Nation’s endorsement, Scahill prevailed in the audience vote. This was expected, but he didn’t win as decisively as he had hoped. @jeremyscahill received 250 votes, while @abumuqawama won 196. Unfortunately for @jeremyscahill, this was only 56.1% of the popular vote — while four “expert” judging ballots constitute 57.1% of the expert total. Thus, if @abumuqawama won a majority of the expert ballots, he would win the Twitter Fight Club championship. If @jeremyscahill had won just 1% more of the popular vote, @abumuqawama would have had to win five judges’ ballots, rather than four, to prevail.

The first three expert ballots — @NaheedMustafa, @AdamSerwer, and @JimmySky — came back for @jeremyscahill. The next three — @jonathanshainin, @dianawueger, and @caidid — came back for @abumuqawama. This means that @mosharrafzaidi would be casting the deciding vote. And as of 8:30 a.m. EST, he had not handed his ballot in yet. It’s a Bush v. Gore redux, only @mosharrafzaidi plays the role of Florida!

And at 10:30 a.m., Mosharraf finally cast his vote…. and @jeremyscahill is the winner.

Jeremy Scahill, as the inaugural Twitter Fight Club champion, has won the Fight Club trophy as well as a bobblehead likeness of himself in Twitter Fight Club superhero mode. (Yes, it will feature his actual face… and the chest will feature the  Blackwater logo). The one stipulation is that when Scahill receives the bobblehead prize, he is to post a photo to Twitter.

Our runner-up, @abumuqawama, receives a handsome inscribed drinking flask as the second-place prize. He can use it to drown any sorrows caused by his loss.

And our bracket pool winner is @strangestrings. He will receive an autographed and inscribed copy of Jeremy Scahill’s book, Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Congratulations to our two finalists, and our pool winner. Our thanks to all the competitors for making this an enjoyable inaugural tournament, and to the volunteers on the #twitterfightclub who generously gave their time, money, and in one instance, even their lives, to make this tournament the stunning success that it was.

And here are the ballots…

Ballot 1: @adamserwer

Knowledge base.

Both contestants are badass in their own way. Exum combines scholarly aptitude with real life experience on the battlefield. On the other hand, Scahill is a dirty hippie that gets scoops on JSOC and is pursuing a Ph.D in terrorizing Erik Prince. Advantage Exum, because I’m a dirty elitist who privileges formal scholarship.

Quality of argumentation.

Exum offers expertise. Scahill is a reporter. While you’re never left wondering where either of them stands on an issue, this category sort of naturally advantages Exum. Also I was very moved by his post on the mob violence in Afghanistan yesterday, so he wins this one.

Innovativeness of thought. Are their tweets thought-provoking and sometimes unexpected? Do they make you look at familiar issues in new ways?

While Exum and Scahill are both thought provoking, I find Scahill’s reporting on what the government does under the veil of secrecy frequently more unnerving and surprising than what Exum writes. While the argumentation category favors Exum, this one favors Scahill.

Humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma.

Exum’s a funny guy, but Scahill convinced his mom, along with half of his followers, that he was moving to the Weekly Standard. Nuff said.

Responsiveness to followers.

Scahill wins this one. Exum has around 4,000 followers. Scahill has nearly 30,000. They’re both responsive to complaints, criticisms, and clever quips, but Exum just has an easier job.

Obviously, there’s a close contest here, so naturally it comes down to the beard. It’s really hard to take a COIN expert seriously when he can’t even keep his beard from launching an insurgency against his face. At the same time, absent international intervention to establish a no-shave zone, it’s clear that we’re heading for a catastrophe—Russell Brand on steroids—when Scahill’s forces ragtag five o’clock shadow meets Exum’s beard’s well trained mercenaries. While I’d normally be skeptical of intervening, I find myself persuaded by Joshua Trevino’s beard’s pleas for immediate action for once. So it looks like I’ll have to cast my vote for Scahill, but only reluctantly, since his hatred for Han Solo is indefensible.

Ballot 2: @caidid

This round presented me with a whole new challenge. I did not have the problem of last round, striving for objectivity when making a judgment between the man without whom I might never have come to appreciate Twitter and another whom I don’t even follow. No, in this round, I faced a choice between two of my favorite tweeters, both funny, responsive, knowledgeable, smart, interesting, both men I enjoy and admire on Twitter and in their other writings and appearances. To make it even tougher, both competitors have fully embraced the fun of Twitter Fight Club, talking smack and even working with proxy accounts to seek votes. This has been a brutal decision. I have set aside all non-Twitter factors of these two very accomplished gentlemen—blogs, articles, TV appearances (including such recent gems as Scahill’s outstanding Nation cover story on Yemen, Exum’s excellent blog post on Terry Jones, and even Scahill’s appearance on MSNBC last week, which was awesome enough to give people naughty thoughts)—and just considered both combatants’ work in the medium of Twitter.

Knowledge Base

Exum – As I mentioned in my semi-final ballot, Exum has broad knowledge of warfare, national security, foreign policy, and the Middle East, in addition to being an all-around well-informed person.

Scahill – More identifiably liberal in outlook and just as well-informed, Scahill of course wrote a book about Blackwater and the use of private military corporations. He is also widely knowledgeable about many of the same areas as Exum, such as the Middle East, national security, and foreign policy, with different areas of specialization.

I call this a draw.

Quality of Argumentation

Exum – Exum’s cool-headed pragmatism has always appealed to me. He has a way of making me want to agree with him, even if I’m not sure I necessarily do, which speaks to the overall quality of his argumentation (or maybe just to the best way to appeal to me) if not specifically to logic, reasoning, or use of evidence. Additionally though, clearly a very smart guy, his logic and reasoning are generally quite sound, and he backs up his arguments with evidence, although he does sometimes resort to silly internet videos/90s hiphop videos in lieu of real evidence. To be fair, though, that’s generally in arguments of equal silliness.

Scahill – Scahill’s style has a little more bite to it, as befits his position. Exum is a think-tanker, writer of policy papers, by trade someone who certainly makes a case for a certain position, but presents that case rather gently, in a way that will be palatable to decision-makers. Scahill is an investigative journalist, whose job is often to needle, to wrest information from people, to force his questions to be heard and answered. So his discourse is often sharper than Exum’s, but no weaker for it. Also a smart guy, Scahill can make his case relentlessly, like the best reporters and does not tend to engage in confrontations wherein he doesn’t have the ammunition to back his arguments up.

I call this a draw as well.

Innovativeness of Thought

I don’t really have something as coherent to lay out here. I find both competitors informative and interesting, but of the two – laying out the caveat once again that this is a measure of Twitter output only – Exum is the one more likely to make me think, to present a subject in a way that makes me want to chew on it a while, or to look at it in a different way.

Exum.

Humor, Snark, Facility with Quips, and Charisma

Exum – Exum has a light hand with the humor. He is quick with a quip, he jokes around, he links to silly videos, he makes lighthearted cracks.

Scahill – Scahill is plenty funny as well, in his own more cynical way. He brings the snark in a way Exum doesn’t, and has just as much facility with quips.

I mark that humor for Exum, snark for Scahill, facility with quips a draw. Which brings us to charisma, which is where it gets really hard for me to consider only Twitter charisma, having seen both competitors in multiple televised/online appearances and charisma being so much a matter of presence. So…I think I have to just call this one a draw as well.

Responsiveness to Followers

Exum – I feel like I am repeating myself again, but I’ll be brief. Exum definitely engages, but the bulk of his engagement is with a fairly limited circle of people. I’m not going to hold it against him that he keeps his follow list so small (and I swear, I’m totally not filled with emotional angst and irrational feelings of inadequacy because I haven’t made that list, honest, nosir), but he loses ground to Scahill in this category much as he did to Greenwald.

Scahill – Scahill engages with many people in debate and banter and a troll through his feed shows that he is just pretty generally responsive to all manner of people. (And he follows me. Not that that was a consideration here, nosir).

Scahill.

Twitter Fight Club Smack Talk

I think it is appropriate that it comes down to this category. This is Twitter Fight Club, after all. Both combatants have put forth a great effort in this category throughout the tournament. This has truly been a dream championship match-up for smack talk. Both have fully embraced the humor and cleverness and absurdity of this tournament and Twitter at its best, and they have made it as entertaining a final round as any of us could have hoped. And while his opponent put up a great fight in this category, I have to say that the winner of the smack talk fight, and thus the Twitter Fight Club final on my ballot, is Exum. He hustled and fought for it in general, but the @abumuqawamapmc was inspired, hilarious, and a possibly-perfect dig at his opponent.

This was an incredibly tight race for me, and agonizing to an embarrassing degree, but I give it to Exum.

Ballot 3: @dianawueger

Judgment day has arrived. Until now, the #twitterfightclub finals have been all fun and games and promises of ponies and M-16s hidden in bags of dog food. I said I would base my decision on the best bribes, and on that metric, I have greater faith in @AbuMuqawamaPMC to deliver the goods than @JeremyScahill. Everybody knows you contract out for guns and ponies; Jeremy never had a chance. I should just call this one for Ex.

But I gotta tell you, friends, I’ve had my heart broken by ponies and M-16s before:

And, y’know, I’m just not willing to go down that road again. There aren’t enough sad country songs in all of Texas to heal that heartache. So, @AbuMuqawamaPMC, you can cancel that F-350. I’m gonna do this the right way.

(y’all, I hate doing this the right way. This shit is hard. #firstworldproblems)

Knowledge Base

So Ex knows a whole lot about guns and war and COIN and Lebanon and that’s cool and all, but let’s be honest, this is the 21st century. You don’t have to know your shit; you just know how to find shit out. Scahill’s a journalist. It’s in his blood or something.  The entire world is his knowledge base, is what I’m saying.

Point: Scahill

Quality of Argumentation

Both Ex and Scahill are accomplished arguers. I mean, here they are in the finals, so either they’re good arguers or we’re all really into facial hair (and just between you and me, J, you could step that up a notch).

Given that we’ve already covered the facial hair angle (and frankly, if this were FacialHairFightClub, JFritz and JTrevino shoulda been here), I like Ex’s dress here better. One-shoulder is so last year, Jeremy. And patchwork? Just upsetting. Clean it up, hippie.

Point: Exum

Innovativeness of Thought

Okay, so these guys are pretty smart, or something. I guess. I don’t really pay attention. But in the last two days, Ex made me think about the war in Afghanistan in a whole new light. On the other hand, I talk to Foust on a daily basis, so Yemen’s a little old hat. So, I guess we’re gonna be giving this round to…

Point: Exum

Humor, Snark, Etc.

Oh please. We all know @RBStalin stole this entire category and made for the border with it.

Point: @RBStalin

Responsiveness to Followers

Revenge is a dish best served with pinto beans and muffins, kids. While I’ve actually seen with my own two eyes the very Lego that serves as Ex’s avatar, Scahill is the one who follows me. Petty? Of course. But in the end, isn’t Twitterfightclub about the exaltation of the individual ego?

Point: Scahill

Smack Talk

The last 48 hours has been rife with smacktalking (is there a verb form of smack talk? I assume yes, and I further assume that’s what it is.), and it gladdens my heart. Fake accounts have been created. Scurrilous accusations and true facts have abounded. I never want any of it to end, because this is what Twitter is about (but I think we all reeeeeeally want to go to bed, so thank God this is over). And so it’s only fitting this is what my ballot comes down to. My winner is…

Point: @AbuMuqawamaPMC

(I’ll accept pony delivery to the French ambassador’s residence. They’ll know what to do with it.)

Ballot 4: @JimmySky

When a recently deceased senior leader of al-ShaIbaab contacted me and “requested” that I participate in the judging of the final round of Twitter Fight Club, I was honored and quickly accepted.  This was primarily due to advice from my mother who often said, “If a leader of a radical terrorist organization asks you to do something *and* he’s a zombie, you should probably just do it.”

Knowledge base (Tie)

While we were strictly prohibited from rating pugilists on anything outside of their twitter feeds, I was determined to conduct background research in the interest of fairness.  I started out by doing an exhaustive literature review, but it quickly became clear that there is a reason literature reviews are always referred to as “exhaustive.”  I quickly shifted over to conducting a much faster background assessment based on readily available photographic evidence.

‘Andrew Exum’ vs. ‘Jeremy Scahill’

I turned ‘Safe Search’ off for both of these and the good news is there was no incriminating photos emerged.  However, I found the Related Searches for “Jeremy Scahill Shirtless” (look again, it’s right at the top) to be somewhat concerning.

Both men have a vast array of knowledge and this truly does shine through on Twitter and elsewhere in their writing.  While I believe that Exum’s is deeper (i.e. crater analysis), I think Scahill demonstrates more breadth.  This one has to go down as a tie.

Quality of argumentation (Exum)

This area clearly goes to Exum.  While Twitter is a horrible medium for sincere argumentation, Andrew does a great job at approaching pragmatically and sincerely and trying to deal with people (often of the overtly confrontational variety).

Innovativeness of thought. (Scahill)

This is the category that clearly goes to Scahill.  His “new gig” at the Weekly Standard was brilliant and probably the best Twitter gag of 1 April.  Partnering with @ExumRangerBeard for the final round of Twitter Fight Club was also an amazing stroke of genius.  Think about it.  He surprised an expert in counter-insurgency / irregular warfare with…an insurgency and irregular war (Ex probably should have seen that coming)

Humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma and specific smack talk. (Exum and his PMC)

Both guys are great in this area and are always ready with a quip.  They are both sincerely likeable and sport charismatic facial hair.  They doubled down in the final round with @ExumRangerBeard and @AbuMuqawamaPMC (if you have not read, you must do it now).  According to the rules laid down for me, technically, these can’t affect my vote.  But, let’s be honest, all’s fair in love and Twitter Fight Club.  In this category, Ex and his Xe forces reigned.

Responsiveness to followers. (Scahill)

Scahill seems to be in constant call and response mode with his followers.  I consistently see new people and Jeremy seems to really enjoy engaging with them.

Overall Winner: I really thought this would turn out differently, but the defection of Exum’s Ranger Beard did it for me.  I’m calling this one for Scahill.

<<No sooner than I push ‘Save’ do I look outside and see black helo’s circling my house>>

Ballot 5: @jonathanshainin

Let’s be honest: it’s not every day that one is vested with the awesome responsibility of determining one-seventh of fifty per cent of the winner in the most important online competition since the Webby Awards. It’s a heavy burden, to say the least, and I’ve tried to approach it with the utmost seriousness.

A few conflicts of interest to declare. Exum once wrote an article for me about Lebanon and Israel, during the course of which we had a pleasant phone conversation, but any advantage derived from that connection was negated by his subsequent failure to revise and finish another piece, a review-essay on some COIN books. (If I remember correctly, his excuse was that he had fallen head over heels for some general and followed him to Afghanistan. Not sure how that worked out in the end.) I’ve got no personal connection with Scahill, but my own politics are probably closer to his than to Exum’s. (Plus he’s employed by the Nation, a magazine I no longer read, but the place I had my first job, published my first pieces, and met my girlfriend of nine years.) So, pretty much an even split in the conflict-of-interest department.

The two finalists are pretty damn well-matched across all the categories. I see no edge to either side when it comes to knowledge, quality of argumentation, humor/snark, and responsiveness to followers. They’re both funny, serious, and able to back up their tweet-claims with well-deployed bursts of 140-character knowledge. I’m going to give a slight edge to Exum on the “innovativeness of thought” front — he seems (on Twitter at least) a little more pragmatic and open to new ways of looking at things, and therefore new ways of thinking or arguing about them (with the notable exception of a certain war in Afghanistan).

So I think it comes down to the last couple of days of tweets. Insomuch as I have thought — and alas, I actually have — about the ideal metrics for judging TwitterFightClub, I believe that the real test should be about “game-day” performance, rather than a lifetime (or week or month) of previous tweeting. One’s decision can’t help but be colored by past achievements, but in the end I think it’s got to come down to who brought their A game when the title was on the line.

I think it’s safe to say that both have stepped it up for the final. Exum has written what looks like 200 tweets in the last 48 hours, and Scahill’s got to be close to 100. (Slight demerit to Exum, however, in that about 50 of these were RTs of people praising his Terry Jones article, some of which were prepended with the unbearable exclamation “w00t!”)

In the end, I think that Exum’s manic Twitter activity — the 140-character equivalent of some kind of full-court press with a run-and-gun transition offence heaving up 3-pointers — basically wins it for him. Twice (or three times) as many tweets has meant more chances to drop knowledge, more snark and humor (though Scahill’s mom subscribing to the Weekly Standard made this one a close call), more follower interaction (best exemplified here by his conversation about artillery crater analysis with CJ Chivers in Libya), and so on. The smack-talking battle was a pretty tight one, but Exum hit hardest and first with the ingenious creation of @AbuMuqawamaPMC — @ExumRangerBeard was a competitive response from Scahill, but it was too little, too late.

It was an exciting and competitive final match — in stark contrast to that other brackets-based entertainment event that also just finished — but my vote goes to Exum.

Ballot 6: @mosharrafzaidi

Judging between Ex and Scahill is a lot tougher for me than the previous round for a couple of very simple reason.

With Exum, its important to remember that I just judged the man in his semi-final contest (and voted for him). It will be difficult to offer fresh or novel new insights. I love that Exum is a serious policy guy that comfortably invokes nationality, faith and identity, as important factors in working through a policy issue. Bottom line, Exum’s awesome Twitter timeline is a function of generic and genuine chops. It is hard to make rocket science of this fact. Or to ignore it.

Jeremy Scahill, as far as disclosure goes, is a good friend. Technically, that has nothing to do with his timeline, but the truth is, most of my friends are all-round awesome and as far as Scahill is concerned, I am a fan professionally and personally. His work is going to be remembered as definitive in the post-Iraq era of profit-driven war in which most of the nasty is outsourced. Few timelines on Twitter speak to a person’s core like Scahill’s does. His kindness and sense of humour are palpable.

Since we’ve been asked to judge ONLY the Twitter timeline, then, I have to moderate my admiration for Exum and my personal friendship with Scahill. Not easy, especially because these guys are both funny, razor-sharp intelligent and worth every last Tweet.

With that, here are my thoughts on the specific scale provided:

Knowledge base. Really, really close this. Scahill is an encyclopedia on what he does best. Exum has actually done, what he does best. Both knowledge bases are infused with a genuine humility. Lots of twenty and thirty something folks out there, with the kind of exposure these two have, are guilty of having all the answers. But the true mark of knowledge is how humble one is. Both reflect that special quality. Instead of making a difficult call, I’ll call this even.

Quality of argumentation. Both are very different in terms of general logical baseline. Exum argues both from linear reason and from real world viability. Scahill is decidedly more frontal, which means often he doesn’t really care about how politically viable a line of reasoning is. While I am partial to Exum’s approach, on a scale purely looking at quality of argumentation, Scahill takes this one.

Innovativeness of thought. Exum has a natural advantage over Scahill because he’s professionally involved in figuring out how to do things better, as a day job. Scahill’s day job is reportage, and while a lot of the sourcing for Scahill must be impossibly complicated and require innovation, you rarely get to see it on his timeline (naturally). Exum will access a wide referential space to generate ideas, even on Twitter. Exum wins this one.

Humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma. Exum is genuinely funny. But he’s also safe funny. Scahill didn’t mind going along with a brilliant April’s Fools gag (parallel to jstrevino). Scahill will absorb Twitter blows from 9/11 truthers and neocons, as well as the occasionally hate Tweet from a liberal—Exum doesn’t Tweet without taking heat, but the quantum is totally different. Scahill manages to keep a straight face both in the face of adverse tweets, as well as when he’s being funny. Advantage Scahill.

Responsiveness to followers. I have to use the same benchmark I used in the Greenwald v. Exum contest. In this case, again, both Exum and Scahill are truly folks that engage with their followers. Exum is warm and open, but himself has said he can’t handle more than 100 followers—I feel him on this, when I went over 300, I had to cut down the list because I often could not keep up. Scahill follows more than a thousand people. And he will often respond to random mentions. Just the scale of what Scahill does with followers (over 27,000) gives him an advantage that Exum (with less than 5,000) cannot match. Scahill, then.

Smacktalk. Both timelines are now contaminated, over the last three days, with #twitterfightclub quips. Who’s got the better ones? Exum’s private military contractor gag is hilarious. What seems to be Scahill’s retort, the Ranger Beard comeback is pretty good. Over a longer period, Scahill can mix it up with the best of them… but on the balance of the #twitterfightclub Exum is a Twitter badass. How he does it without coming across as a ridiculous person is ridiculous itself. I have to hand this category to Exum.

As I feared, this one is very, very close. On six categories, there is one tie, two go Exum’s way and three go to Scahill. Could the tie go any one way? It could, and it could genuinely go either way. That’s why it’s a tie. Luckily that leaves behind an odd number, and 3-2 accurately reflects how close this is. Perhaps more than anything else, the contest also demonstrates how a Tweep with one seventh the number of followers can be neck and neck with a bigger Twitter celeb, like Scahill. Exum is a force to be dealt with on Twitter. Scahill is a force, unto himself.

Winner: Scahill.

Ballot 7: @naheedmustafa

I decided to evaluate the Twitter Works of @jeremyscahill and @abumuqawama in two ways: tweets over the last 24 hours and then overall contribution. I did this because of a conflation of two events: first: I believe @jeremyscahill was on deadline and so his tweeting was fairly thin and, second, it feels like @abumuqawama ramped up the tweeting over the last 24 hours (hmmmmm) and it felt out of proportion with how much he does, in fact, tweet. I am comfortable in doing a whole-of-twitter assessment because I’ve followed both “gentlemen” for some time.

Knowledge Base:

Looking at their tweets over the last 24 hours both tweeted about Yemen, basketball, their own awesomeness (about which they are presumably experts), Libya, and their own awesomeness. Scahill also tweeted about corporate agriculture and a little something about Sudan. Exum had some Africom-related snark and Israel/Palestine. The bulk of Exum’s tweets in the 24-hour period I looked at were either about weapons or RTs of his Terry Jones post (“See? It’s not just me that thinks I’m awesome”). Scahill also cranked out a reportedly fab piece on Yemen so in the knowledge base the two men, while separate, are equal.

Argumentation:

In the quality of argumentation portion, it’s kind of comparing baklava to samosas: both are compelling but samosas have all kinds of potentially yummy fillings and baklava sometimes has these hard edges on the pastry that stick in your throat and make you gag. Scahill’s style tends to be more inquisitive. I assume that’s because he’s a journalist. Exum’s style is more about pronouncement which lends itself well to his job as a think tanker. I think Scahill’s style is more conducive to an exchange of ideas which is what I use twitter for so I’m giving this category to Scahill. But if I ever find myself needing to know what kind of gun some random mercenary is carrying then Exum will be my first call.

Humour, Snark, Facility with Quips:

Both these men have tweeted some fairly hilarious things but I have to say when it comes to snark and quips, Exum has it.

Responsiveness to Followers:

Let’s just say I didn’t have to threaten @jeremyscahill with relentless spamming to get him to follow me. #JustSayin’ This category goes to Scahill.

Smacktalk:

In the smacktalk category I have to say that both @jeremyscahill and @abumuqawama deserve extra points for actually creating new accounts from which to tweet smack. Their tweets made me laugh! They made me cry! They gave me pause. And they gave me pain. Exum made up in volume what he lacked in nuance but Scahill made up for his frugal smack tweets (Smeet? Twack?) with original thinking. After much thought and searching of my soul, I feel Scahill edged out Exum. Tweeting as a beard can never be easy.

And there you have it. In my five areas of assessment @jeremyscahill takes 3, @abumuqawama takes 1, and they tie for 1. My vote for TwitterFightClub Grand Poobah goes to @jeremyscahill.

***I cannot believe I just wrote 512 words on TwitterFightClub***

Final Bracket Update

April 5, 2011

The next time we post this bracket, it will be to declare the winner of this side of the competition (who will be receiving an excellent prize, now established, to be revealed later). Many have dropped out of the running here, but remember, correctly predicting the winner will get you 32 points!

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Final Total
RBStalin 22 12 16 8 0 58
dianawueger 23 20 24 16 16 99
smsaideman 25 18 12 8 16 79
drjjoyner 22 20 20 8 0 70
mariastoh 23 16 8 8 16 71
bmccorkle1 27 24 12 8 0 71
johntabin 24 16 16 8 0 64
tellmemo 21 12 8 8 16 65
daveedgr 27 24 24 75
alexlobov 28 22 20 16 0 86
ericmartin24 26 22 12 16 0 76
azelin 24 16 12 0 0 52
elizrael 19 12 4 0 0 35
laurenist 25 16 16 8 16 81
JimmySky 22 24 12 8 16 82
bob_fitch 25 16 12 0 0 53
randomvariable 23 8 16 16 16 79
slowfalling 24 16 16 0 0 56
abumuqawama 20 18 38
mil_historicus 18 12 8 8 16 62
timmathews 25 14 16 8 0 63
strangestrings 28 20 24 24 32 128
doylecjd 19 14 12 0 0 45
jonathanshainin 27 20 20 8 0 75
stcolumbia 22 24 16 16 16 94
D. A-B. 22 16 20 16 0 74
bmaz 26 22 24 32 16 120

Introducing your Twitter Fight Club Championship judging panel!

April 4, 2011

We are proud to announce that we have an all-star panel of judges who will officiate the skillz portion of the inaugural Twitter Fight Club tournament’s final round. We are going to publicly announce these judges now so both finalists can apologize to everyone they’ve hurt over the years know whom to expect ballots from. The judges are:

@AdamSerwer
@caidid
@dianawueger
@JimmySky
@jonathanshainin
@mosharrafzaidi
@NaheedMustafa

Their ballots will be posted Wednesday morning when the winner is announced. But remember folks — their votes only count for 50% of the total, so be sure to vote for YOUR favorite!

The Twitter Fight Club 2011 Title Match

April 4, 2011

We now have two finalists in the inaugural #twitterfightclub tournament. Out of an initial field of 64, only @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill remain standing. Both men are deserving finalists, who exemplify the qualities that make for successful Twitter pugilists.

As you no doubt noticed, the Final Four of this tournament moved from pure audience vote deciding winners to a hybrid system in which popular vote accounts for 50% of the match, and the votes of an “expert” panel account for the other 50%. The ballots below — and particularly that of @mosharrafzaidi — demonstrate why we made that switch. Audience vote can be rather ambiguous: are audience members voting for their friends? For their political compatriots? Are they trying to cast multiple votes and thus subverting the popular vote system? (Yes, you know who you are. And so do we.) The “expert” ballot is a celebration of what is good about the pugilists’ Twitter feed. It is our sincere hope that the below ballots will be appreciated by audience members, in seeing carefully constructed reflections of what others value in Twitter feeds, but also that they will be appreciated by the contestants themselves.

The match between @abumuqawama and @ggreenwald featuerd a razor-thin popular vote, which @ggreenwald won by a vote of 106-99 (51.7%). But @abumuqawama wins the match by decisively winning the skillz portion, with the below ballots outlining the reasoning behind the judges’ decisions. The judges were instructed that they could measure past output in whatever way they wanted: for example, looking at several days’ worth of tweeting, the past x number of tweets (40, 100, 200, etc.), or the entire corpus of their Twitter work. The judges were also instructed to only to take their work on Twitter into consideration. While both @abumuqawama and @ggreenwald are accomplished bloggers and writers, but this outside work (what the #twitterfightclub selection committee refers to as “distractions”) was not to be considered.

For the match between @jeremyscahill and @attackerman, both men had agreed to a showcase fight for an expert panel to vote on. But it didn’t happen. Though we were prepared to explain this through the use of performance-enhancing drug jokes (including a delicious dig about @attackerman using Human Growth Hormone) what really happened is that @jeremyscahill’s schedule blew up. Not only did he write a Nation cover story on Yemen, but also made Ed Schultz look foolish on national TV and convinced thousands of angry lefties that he was joining the staff of the Weekly Standard. Because of this, we could not schedule this showcase match. Since the inability to schedule an actual fight was @jeremyscahill’s fault, the #twitterfightclub committee offered to assess a penalty against him, but @attackerman graciously declined. Unfortunately for @attackerman, he then got up-ended in the popular vote, 160-60. Congratulations to @attackerman on a great run.

The final round between @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill begins now. Like the final four match, the result will be based 50% on audience vote and 50% on the decision of an expert panel that will largely be assessing their corpus of work. The panel will be announced soon (we are currently reaching out to judges). Below we outline the criteria that judges will be asked to use in casting their votes — criteria that have been adopted slightly for this final round. And we encourage YOU, the voting public, to read the below criteria and take a good, objective look at both pugilists’ Twitter feeds.

  • Knowledge base.
  • Quality of argumentation. How solid is the contestants’ logic, reasoning, and evidence for their claims?
  • Innovativeness of thought. Are their tweets thought-provoking and sometimes unexpected? Do they make you look at familiar issues in new ways?
  • Humor, snark, facility with quips, and charisma.
  • Responsiveness to followers.
  • And finally: also assess any the contestants’ specific smack talk for the #twitterfightclub finals. Both @abumuqawama and @jeremyscahill have displayed some impressive smack talk throughout the tournament. We sincerely hope that the final round is no exception, and ask you to factor in their attempts to win your vote.
Poll is at the bottom of this post. Voting will remain open until midnight EST on Tuesday. The winner of the final round will be announced Wednesday morning, as will the winner of the #twitterfightclub betting pool.

Ballot 1: @caidid

Full disclosure: I am a longtime follower of @abumuqawama, reader of his blog, owner of his book, etc. He was my first introduction to what has become my Twitter community. On the other side, I don’t follow @ggreenwald. I don’t have anything against him, but I certainly don’t have the same connection to him that I do to @abumuqawama. I know this makes it sound like I am maybe not the most objective judge, but I have striven hard for objectivity and if anything, staying mindful of my biases has spurred me to give Greenwald a little more leeway and to be a little tougher on Exum.

I looked at both competitors’ tweets from March 1 to today, and considered both feeds in terms of the criteria we have frequently cited in the Twitter Fight Club posts.

Knowledge Base

Greenwald – Greenwald has deep knowledge of constitutional, legal and political issues, and liberal thinking on those subject areas. His field of focus is pretty narrow – in March, the vast majority of his tweets were on Bradley Manning or Libya – but agree with him or not, he certainly knows what he is talking about in those areas.

Exum – Exum’s knowledge base covers a fairly broad range of topics in warfare (emphasis obviously on irregular warfare and counterinsurgency), national security, natsec and foreign policy, and area knowledge of the Middle East.

Logic and Reasoning

Greenwald – Agree with his views or not, lawyer Greenwald certainly knows how to apply logic and reasoning. He does, however, give the general impression of being a crusader. He is relentless in pursuit of what he sees as right, and his passion is admirable to some degree, but also clouds one’s ability to see him as entirely reasonable.

Exum – Exum is no stranger to logic or reasoning either. He doesn’t have that lawyer’s tenacity of logic, but he does have the cooler head of the two. He always seems open to hearing other perspectives and incorporating what’s good into his own thinking.

Humor, snark and facility with quips

Greenwald – Greenwald definitely engages in snark. His humor is all of the dark sarcasm  variety. The lighter side of humor, quips, silliness, easy banter, these do not appear to be in his repertoire.

Exum – Exum is consistenly funny, and his humor tends more toward the light and the absurd. He is quick with a quip, and his snark does not seem to veer toward the mean.

Responsiveness to followers

Greenwald – Greenwald is great with this. He engages all manner of people on Twitter, even more so those who disagree with him, and makes no distinction based on position. He responds to peers, colleagues, rivals, politicians, etc. and is just as responsive to the average follower as to anyone he knows or follows personally.

Exum – Exum certainly takes advantage of the interactive nature of Twitter. He will engage in debate, However, while he will occasionally dialogue with average followers, most of his interaction on Twitter is with people he knows personally, colleagues, and people he follows.

Charisma and overall awesomeness

This is a truly subjective category, which has given me some pause, as I am really trying to approach this objectively. I considered skipping this category altogether, but I have to say that his humor, broad interests, and lighter tone mean Exum is the winner here.

I mark the first category a tie. I give the third to Exum. I give the fourth to Greenwald. The second was a tougher debate for me, but I have to give Exum the edge there on the basis that Greenwald comes across as something of a zealot, not entirely persuadable by logic and reasoning, where Exum always comes off as someone who is willing to listen to arguments and admit when he might be wrong or lacking knowledge. Even dropping the more subjective fifth judgment category, this match-up goes to @abumuqawama.

Ballot 2: @dianawueger

I’ve based my analysis on tweets tweeted since Ex threw down the gauntlet and Greenwald walked away from it. This totals about 30 tweets for Greenwald, and about 70 for Ex. In Greenwald’s 30 tweets, he talked about Libya.

In Ex’s 70 tweets, he talked about Libya, Chris Albon’s #conflictdishwasher, Legos, rugby, small arms, Army April Fools jokes, hipster soldiers, COIN fetishists, the awesomeness of C. J. Chivers, the unawesomeness of Terry Jones, and warzone coffee.

Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like a fair fight. Ex, hands down.

Ballot 3: @mosharrafzaidi

My pre-conceived biases for and against both Greenwald and Exum are pretty evenly balanced. I am more inclined to Greenwald’s politics, but I have had a more enriching Twitter interaction with Exum. Exum is always going to be the one that actually moves something in the real world. Greenwald will always be someone that moves people, to move something in the real world. They’re both fantastic thinkers, writers and in whatever limited way, activists. I have followed Greenwald and still drop by his timeline, but find his volume too heavy for my own timeline. I follow Exum, and will likely continue to do so. On to the actual benchmarks.

Knowledge-base: On first thought, its Exum. The guy’s military experience, and his hands-on experience of living in the Middle East shine through. But Greenwald is no ignoramus, and has a wealth of important knowledge. He also has a background in civil law. There’s nothing like living through your subject matter—and both do and have. Evens then.

Logic & Reasoning: Tough call. I have to go with evens again. Both get a plus. Greenwald’s politics is more identifiably liberal. Exum’s decidedly pragmatic. But both call war, war—like what Uncle Sam is engaged in, in Libya. Real-keeping is the real winner here.

Humour, snark and facility with quips. Exum. Despite being a bit of a soldier boy, Exum is funny, and self-effacing. Greenwald is so committed, and so passionate, that he’s often humorless. Still, Greenwald manages to keep ten times as many followers happy, so he’s surely doing something right. He sure has the snark down. It just seems he could win over more folks by being a little less serious. But this is my call. Exum’s funnier and funner.

Responsiveness to followers: It would be even if they were equals. But Greenwald is approaching fifty thousand followers. Ex is approaching five thousand. Greenwald is consistently and constantly engaged with followers, Ex is too – but it’s a lot different doing with ten times as many followers. Advantage Greenwald.

Charisma & overall awesomeness: Greenwald is a columnist I read regularly—but his Twitter feed is a shadow of the columns, in short I can do without the Twitter feed, but still be a major fanboy of the man and his work. Exum has serious charisma chops, and it would not surprise me one bit to one day see him represent the people of TN in a serious legislative or executive capacity. He’s fair and fun. His blog is great – but the Twitter feed alone is worth the price of admission.

So in total, on five categories. Two are evens. One for Greenwald, and two for Exum. Exum wins by a delicate and slim margin.

Ballot 4: @RBStalin

Recently I was contacted by one Daveed Gartenstein-Ross regarding the semi-finals of the historic inaugural Twitter Fight Club. Daveed GR, as many of you know, is an al Shabaab commander who, along with 29 other militants, has been killed numerous times in northern Waziristan by US airstrikes. You’ve all been briefed on the situation: Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer cum blogger, refused twitsticuffs with arguably more severe individual Andrew Exum, Army Ranger cum think-tanker. He even turned down a gentlemanly offer of bat fight.
The problem was how to get a panel of judges inevitably familiar with these two individuals to make a judgment without an actual contest. Guidance was delivered. One salient point was that we were to ignore their extraneous, extra-Twitter production, which is challenging considering the prolific nature and redefining-prolific-prolific nature, respectively, of their bodies of work. I could not however simply read their Twitter feeds without any context. I had to look at each of them with fresh eyes. 

Having dated a journalist and interacted with journalists regularly over Twitter, I am what you might call an expert on investigative journalism. It should not therefore surprise those of you ‘in the biz’ that the first thing I did in this situation was reconstruct my image of these individuals through the volumes of existing opposition research. This is the distillation of my findings:

It is pretty clear that Exum is a positive personality, while Greenwald is a negative one. This sort of dynamic is not without merit but it does complicate the matter of direct comparison.

It also complicates matters for me as a judge. In order to review these individuals’ timelines I was going to have to devise a schedule. On one hand I had the warm glow of Exum’s relentless patriotism, in which I could bask endlessly. On the other hand was Greenwald’s toxic, seething vitriol:

How can anyone live with that much hate in his heart?

Science and I worked out a rotation in which I would expose myself to a safe dose of three Greenwald tweets, followed by three from Exum, followed by an episode of The Wire to pace my detoxification. Analysis plodded but it was necessary for my safety. After several hours I managed to read literally dozens of tweets between the two gentlemen. This gave me a fairly thorough understanding of the quality of their individual tweets, but this was a contest comparing the men as tweeters, therefore some quantitative analysis was also required.

On this front, Mr. Greenwald is the clear winner. With over 8,400 tweets compared to Exum’s paltry 5,100, sheer non-time-adjusted volume is obviously on Greenwald’s side. Properly, you might think I should determine the rate of tweets over time, but as I will show this is clearly unnecessary. You see, Exum tweets from the beating heart of global democracy, being provided a freedom-lubricated aqueduct through which he can spread 140-character bursts of Ranger-beard wisdom. Greenwald, on the other hand, is slogging through what I can only assume are swamp-ooze-filled pipelines from the heart of darkest Brazil, which I’m not even sure has persistent electricity.

However Mr. Greenwald manages his pace of tweets — be it a furious network of semaphore operators, actual courier birds, or a modified weed catapult — it is an act of sheer will which must decisively swing this metric in his favor.

So here we are, volumes of research consumed, in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis, and we’re no closer to knowing the ultimate truth. My professional ethos demands that I never take short cuts, unless I feel like it. Lives are in the balance. It is time to introduce new metrics.

Purest objectivity rates this another bust, exhausting literally all bases of comparison between the two men.

Rather than abdicating my solemn role, I’m left with only one responsible thing to do.

Dice. Not to be denied the ability to cheat, of course, I obtained a copy of this master’s guide to rolling. These techniques have been harnessed by serious table top gamers for a generation in true life-or-death struggles between intergalactic species, not unlike cricket. Rolls were done facing-off related tweets from combatants in a long series of tweet-on-tweet death matches. This process went on for hours, and was carefully tabulated, cataloging the results by category, place in the timeline, and tweet economy (most efficient use of 140 characters). These records were kept for the sake of future studies, that we may learn if larger tweets are more likely to defeat smaller ones, effects of tweet angle on the outcome, and any other correlations future twitsticuffologists may wish to study. In the end, though, this is all for posterity. Victory goes to the strong and the lucky, and the pugilist with the tweets accumulating the highest body count, like a Pokemon master, claims victory. What were the results?

In the end, there could be only one: Exum.

Ballot 5: @timmathews

As a preliminary matter of deciding this twitterfight as a matter of summary judgment for failing to engage in a twitterfight, which violates a rule of a club that is not to be spoken of and a rule, therefore, that also is not to be spoken of, this does not lie. Notice of said violation of said unspoken rule cannot be served, and thus I find no grounds for a finding of such violation of said rule, nor will I speak of said rule.

In lieu of a twitterfight to provide a forum for resolution of the issue at hand, it is emphatically the province and duty of the panel of judges to say who the winner of the twitterfight is. Those who apply the criteria of judging said fight must, of necessity, expound and interpret those criteria.

The knowledge base of the parties can be said to vary in shape, but not in weight. The no. 2 seed, @ggreenwald, has a knowledge base that is narrowly focused upon a small number of issues, but the knowledge runs very deep within that narrow range. The no. 1 seed, @abumuqawama, has a knowledge base that is much broader, but also by necessity much shallower. If these were represented graphically, it would resemble a tall, narrow rectangle next to a wide, short rectangle. The areas enclosed would be similar.

The question of which contender displays better logic and reasoning is also a difficult one. While the 2 seed makes frequent appeals to logic, often reducing issues beyond absurdity, the 1 seed is often content to cite to others and let the weight of cited sources speak for themselves. This appeal to power cannot be decisive, but neither may logic used in pursuit of fallacy be decisive.

The humor, snark, and facility with quips is an area in which the two contenders are equally matched. While the 2 seed is particularly adept at snark, the 1 seed has a large repertoire of humor from which he draws. Each contender leverages these skills to great effect with their quips.

Responsiveness to followers is particularly impressive between each. Each demonstrates particularly well developed understanding of the medium to engage followers and followees alike. Thus, the decision falls to charisma and awesomeness.

There is no established standard for awesomeness and no standard is attempted to be articulated at this time. But on the matter of charisma, the clear advantage falls to the 1 seed. This may stem in part from consistent resort to humor rather than snark, or perhaps the general tone that suggests he is generally content with himself as opposed to the 2 seed who puts forth an appearance of railing against darkness. Thus, I must rule in favor of the 1 seed, @abumuqwama.

—-

Now ready, set, vote!

For Immediate Release

April 3, 2011

As previously announced, because @ggreenwald declined the opportunity to engage in a pugilistic match with @abumuqawama, a panel of judges has been assembled to assess their past output, and thus introduce a qualitative element to their match. The judges are as follows:

You may have noticed a delay in the announced match between @attackerman and @jeremyscahill. While we cannot get into details yet, we can only confirm press reports that one or more of the fighters may have tested positive to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. This obviously has an impact on when, and whether, they will fight. Details to follow soon.

The Final Four

April 1, 2011

Voting for the #twitterfightclub final four is now open! Please vote for the most skilled pugilists in both brackets based upon the following criteria:

  • knowledge base
  • logic and reasoning
  • humor, snark, and facility with quips
  • responsiveness to followers
  • charisma and overall awesomeness

There is also a qualitative component to this round, counting for 50% of the contestants’ score. @jeremyscahill and @attackerman will be engaging in an actual twitterfight once a time for the match has been established — a much anticipated match that has been likened to the famed Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “rumble in the jungle.” They will be judged by a panel, all of whom will issue written opinions explaining their votes, consisting of:

@AzmatZahra
@caidid
@DaveedGR
@dianawueger
@HerbCarmen
@RBStalin
@timmathews

Since @ggreenwald declined the opportunity to engage in a pugilistic match with @abumuqawama, a separate panel of named judges will be assembled to assess their past output and thus similarly introduce a qualitative element to their match (judging panel to be announced shortly).

There is much at stake. History could be at stake. Winning the future is certainly at stake. Choose wisely.

-

Polls will remain open until 0100 EDT.

Twitter Fight Club: Now with More Twitterfighting!

March 31, 2011

All across Twitter, people are rising up and demanding the disenfranchisement of Twitterfightclub voters. “It’s a little sad, but the outcomes of matches at this point in #twitterfightclub correspond with # of followers,” complained one embittered pugilist. And this came from someone who made it to the final four. There is clearly a strong demand: more fighting, less voting.

When the people speak, we listen. Due to popular demand, the first of the two final four matchups will feature an actual twitterfight, observed closely by an impartial expert panel of judges who will play a key role in determining the winner. @jeremyscahill and @attackerman will be taking it to the streets — or rather, to the pixels — and engaging in a ten to fifteen minute twitterfight at a mutually agreed-upon time (time  and topic to be announced soon.) Although Scahill has more followers than Ackerman, he quickly agreed that testing the fighting skillz of the contestants would be a good idea, and even sent a gracious note to his loyal followers in anticipation of the change.

The aforementioned expert panel will judge the epic Twitter duel between @jeremyscahill and @attackerman based on the established criteria which all voters have surely been carefully considering:

  • knowledge base
  • logic and reasoning
  • humor, snark, and facility with quips
  • charisma and overall awesomeness.

But after consulting the UN Security Council, we have decided not to render your votes totally irrelevant. The panel decision will count for 50% of the total outcome, and audience votes will count for the other 50%. Consider this #twitterfightclub learning key lessons from American Idol.

Be on the lookout for announcements about the expert adjudicatory panel, as well as what time this twitterfight for the ages will occur. @jeremyscahill vs. @attackerman. A fight surely to be remembered in the history books alongside Ali-Foreman.

Whether the second half will follow suit, and feature an actual twitterfight, will be up to @abumuqawama and @ggreenwald after they have had the opportunity to witness this epic match.

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