[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/04/17/ashton.cnn.twitter.battle/art.twitter.aplusk.from.jpg caption="Ashton Kutcher's Twitter feed has surpassed CNN's breaking-news feed in the race to 1 million followers."]
AC360° Senior Producer
Which is bigger news: Kutcher beats CNN on Twitter, or President Obama goes to Mexico?
Ok, that sounds like a reductive and absurd question. But it's not, or not completely anyway, and here's why:
When a movie star and a news network persuade hundreds of thousands of people in less than a week to "follow" them on a hot, newish social networking site, as part of a charity competition – at the same time that the number of eyeballs on cable, network and print news outlets struggle even to hold steady despite millions of dollars in marketing – it says something.
Like what? Like a couple things:
Like a high-powered flashlight, it shows us very clearly where our society is – and is headed. It shows that young, mobile, digital people are THE driving force in business, technology, media and – as the election of President Obama and the size of the anti-tax tea parties on Wednesday showed – politics. No surprise, I know, but what a fast and glaring confirmation. We'd better pay attention.
Another thing: Kutcher's entertaining and bravado-fueled victory over @CNNbrk last night in signing up more than million Twitter "followers" – complete with low-grade, Youtube-distributed camera phone video of Kutcher ranting and goading Larry King while driving (so much for anti-cellphone driving laws) – also gets 11,000 mosquito nets to April 25th's 2nd annual World Malaria Day. Kutcher promised to send 10k mosquito nets if he won, and 1k if he lost. CNN promised the same.
That means thousands of real people will actually be better protected against a disease that infects and weakens more than 500 million people a year, and kills more than a million people. Despite all our advances in medicine, malaria still threatens 40% of the world's population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Those are stunning numbers, aren't they?
And it if takes watching Ashton Kutcher threatening to "ding dong ditch the house of Ted Turner" - Ding dong ditch means ring the doorbell and run - and then seeing Larry King, over at the other end of the demographic and media spectrum, railing with equal braggadocio "We will bury you!" to make people aware of the astounding continued threat of malaria, well, I can take it.
Besides, it was pretty entertaining way to make a point, wasn't it?
The only thing I still wonder is whether Larry King knew he was using the same words that then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev used in a famous moment at the United Nations at which in 1956 he interrupted the British prime minister's speech by banging his shoe on the desk and then loudly warning the U.S. that "We will bury you!" Larry's vow turned out to be as futile and mistaken as Khrushchev's, though without quite the same stakes.
Larry says he tweets. I guess I'll just have to get back onto Twitter and ask him.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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