If you would like your Twitter feed to deliver ski reports and inspirational nature quotes with minimal political rancor or caterwauling malice, the National Park System’s Twitter feeds have long been the way to go. There are hundreds of them, ranging from Yosemite to the George R. Clark National Park Site, which commemorates the capture of a British fort in Vincennes, Indiana. A Twitter feed full of National Park sites provided that rare online experience: one that involved peace, beauty and calm. One that quietly presumed a self-evident truth: political diversions are temporary; America’s beauty is not.
This, though, is 2017.
On Friday, the main National Park Service Twitter retweeted a photo of the crowds at the presidential inauguration, originally posted by New York Times reporter Binyamin Applebaum. After all, those crowds were on the National Mall, which is a National Park.
Not long after, “representatives from the new administration asked the Interior Department’s digital team to temporarily stop using Twitter,” a decision said representatives later attributed to concerns of hacking. Not only the main National Park Service Twitter feed, but all of them. No weather advisories. No ski reports. No inspirational quotes. No moody photos of bighorn sheep. Nada. If your Twitter feed is composed nearly entirely of NPS feeds, the experience of going to Twitter without them is uncanny, as if millions of social media cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
The parks were soon allowed to resume tweeting, but that, perhaps surprisingly, wasn’t the end of it. Yesterday, whoever’s manning the fort on Badlands National Park’s Twitter feed went rogue, tweeting a series of hotly debated observations about climate change (aka “scientific facts,” per CBS News). Buzzfeed News reported that the tweets were posted by a “former employee” from a “compromised” account. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe he’s getting extra cups of cocoa today.
Either way, the Park Service — perhaps the most bipartisanly beloved governmental unit in the country — seems to have been galvanized against the gag orders that have been executed against the Park Service itself as well as the EPA and USDA. While Badlands is back to tweeting the aforementioned nature quotes and animal pictures, an alternative Park Service account has sprung up: AltUSNatParkService, defined in their bio as “The Unofficial “Resistance” team of U.S. National Park Service. “Not taxpayer subsidised!” (British spelling sic.)
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