Roger Ebert didn't just write about movies. The Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, who died today at age 70, used his Twitter account to take aim at targets ranging from the Tea Party to climate change, to North Korea.
"I'm a liberal," he told the Los Angeles Times, and he didn't hide it.
After cancer surgery claimed much of his jaw in 2006, Ebert lost the ability to eat, drink or speak with his natural voice. Fortunately, he never lost the power to type.
In 2010, Ebert took aim at Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. "Palin made $100,000 for her Tea Party speech slamming over-spending and greed," he wrote in one representative Tweet. "I write about the TeePees because it's so sad how they've been manipulated to oppose their own best interests," he explained to the LA Times.
Conservatives howled at Ebert's use of the term "Teabaggers," complaining that the term had pornographic overtones. But Ebert gave back as good as he got, telling Tea Partiers to admit they "own" the term now.
And when one detractor resorted to vicious attacks on Ebert's medical condition ("How many pieces need to fall off @ebertchicago before he gets the hint to shut the fuck up?"), Ebert responded with an elegant but forceful verbal left hook: "Dear TeePee Tweeters making fun of my cancer: You want ugly? For that, you have to look at a mind, not a face."
In the wake of that controversy, Ebert continued to use his Twitter as a political soap box -- when he wasn't linking to his movie reviews, RT'ing interesting articles and plugging his own entries to the New Yorker caption contest (which he eventually won, in 2011).
Here are some recent Tweets that show what was on Ebert's mind in his final weeks:
Ebert's outspoken ways do predate social media, however. In a video plucked from digital cold storage by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, Ebert appears to give Congress a piece of his mind on the question of censoring films and music:
You're making an error that no journalism student in high school or college would be allowed to get away with, and that is you're confusing the inventory with the analysis. To say that a movie or a song contains something is not to make a meaningful statement about it … I think you have to look a little further into tone, mood, message, purpose, context, and origin in order to understand whether or a movie or a song has a message that's worthwhile or whether it's simply negative and destructive, and that's something I think that Senator Dole and other people who have joined his cause have not been willing to do.
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