@realDonaldTrump: A Requiem

@realDonaldTrump: A Requiem

On Friday evening, Jack Dorsey finally pulled the plug on Donald Trump and, symbolically, on the use of Twitter to promote the kind of rhetoric that’s served to undermine western democracies for the last five years.

In a notice called “Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump,” the company explained what scarcely needed further explanation.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them – specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter – we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said, citing a pair of Trump’s Friday tweets.

After years of pretending as though context didn’t matter — as though they somehow couldn’t hear the dog whistle — Twitter’s executives finally stated the obvious. When placed in the context of what they inspire, Trump’s tweets are sometimes an invitation to violence and/or a celebration of violent acts already committed.

“After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that [they] are in violation,” Twitter said, before providing the following point-by-point breakdown:

  • President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
  • The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending.
  • The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
  • The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.
  • Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.

And just like that, @realDonaldTrump will never again tweet.

Twitter will, naturally, pretend the decision was a bold and honorable example of putting principle over profits. In fact, the move was unavoidable considering the circumstances. And it wasn’t just the public backlash. Internal pressure may have played a role too. Earlier Friday, The Washington Post reported that the company’s employees asked Dorsey, in a letter, to take action.

If Twitter and Facebook genuinely cared about enforcing their own rules, Trump would have been banned years ago. And that’s not even a partisan assessment, necessarily. The majority of Trump’s tweets are, by any rational interpretation of Twitter’s rules, a violation.

Importantly, you don’t have to like Twitter’s rules or dislike Trump’s tweets to admit that. Put differently: You can agree with a set of statements (in this case Trump’s tweets) while still acknowledging that they violate a given set of regulations (in this case Twitter’s community conduct guidelines).

Trump tried, unsuccessfully, to strip social media companies of their liability shield before leaving office. He signed an executive order last summer alleging “bias” and went so far as to veto the defense spending bill in a desperate bid to pursue the grudge. Congress overrode him.

Prior to Trump’s ban, Twitter also suspended Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and several other Trump supporters, for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. Last month, Flynn advocated for martial law in the wake of the election, while Powell was, of course, the loudest voice in the room when it came to promoting unfounded allegations of voter fraud.

While you’ll be subjected to all manner of feigned incredulity from conservatives on Friday evening and throughout the weekend, the fact is, everyone knows why these accounts were banned.

I wrote extensively (and, I’d like to think, eloquently) about this nearly two years ago. I’ll recycle some of the language here, and not just because it’s obviously relevant — rather, because at times like these, when it’s all too easy to churn out cookie cutter copy that amounts to little more than a recitation of Trump’s digital transgressions, I try to provide added value and nuance.

Twitter is immeasurably inimical to public discourse. It’s a digital black hole that tempts otherwise sane people to do silly things, like engage with bots and follow accounts run by outlets and individuals known for the dissemination of misinformation and propaganda. Simply watching other people argue on Twitter has become something of a national pastime — like rubbernecking the aftermath of a car accident on the highway.

Twitter’s role in destroying civility and undermining Americans’ sense of community can’t be overstated. Real discussion is made impossible by design. The expanded character limit (instituted in 2017) added insult to injury — real debate was still impossible, but the space for implicit shrieking, unnecessary punctuation, fire emojis, and cartoon middle fingers was doubled overnight. The latter even come in different skin tones now, which means you can celebrate diversity while making an obscene gesture at someone you’ll never meet.

Twitter is a veritable godsend for anyone (individuals or entities) looking to spread misinformation. That’s one reason Trump was so fond of his account.

The president claimed he needed to tweet so he could “get the word out,” which was true, precisely because the “word” was false.

In April of 2019, Trump, referring to himself in the third person, said “The best thing ever to happen to Twitter is Donald Trump.”

Maybe so. But one of the worst things to ever happen to America was the wedding between the two.

Likely many divorces, Dorsey’s separation from Trump came too late and is bound to be expensive and messy.


 

11 thoughts on “@realDonaldTrump: A Requiem

  1. Twitter ban for Sydney Powell is moot. She was sued earlier today for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems to the tune of $1.2 billlion and is going to be too busy holding down a second and third gig for the next thirty, forty years to have time to tweet.

    1. Unless someone remembers Enron and Arthur Andersen, and, I estimate, that perhaps 1% of the general American population at large do, few had ever heard of the name of Sidney Powell before about three weeks ago. If mirth dust works as it usually does, few will of ever hear of her again after 12 more weeks, except, perhaps, below the fold in the business section of NYT, page B4, three years hence, when the final judgement of libel claims is pronounced.

      Ms. Powell is somewhat an epitome of what might be called the dustbin of history.

  2. What is even more miraculous is that more than a handful have already proclaimed the acts by Twitter et al. as a gesture similar to what the *azis would have done to quell dissenters. Sure. That is where we are. All the while, we know that freedom of speech is not absolute.

    We all knew years ago there would be a point where these, I don’t know, what do we call them, unregulated gossip and attack, virtual newspapers, were going to be regulated, or sued, out of business. The time has come. Would we better off if these platforms did not exist? Sometimes, shareholders have to take a bath; just some Schumpeterian, creative destruction, something the low-tax, low-regulation proponents are in favor of. TWTR and FB. Re the “dark web”…so what…there’d be fewer sites for the NSA (yes, the NSA) to monitor.

    Let’s face it. Trump used the platform as a venue to call for harm against people. Pretty much as a master, having done so for quite some time. Obviously, obviously this is, was, all going toward an eventual politically motivated act to kill a person who holds public office (politely avoiding the “a” word here). Such an act would have been called that of a lone wolf, no doubt.

    Our democracy is at risk. Mr. Trump showed that we, as a mal-educated populace, due, in part, to our own grass-fed laziness in the halcyon period post WWII, are suspectible. What, perhaps 50-50 in the next 10 years that there is a not-incompetent autocrat, right-wing coup attempt in America?

    1. “perhaps 50-50 in the next 10 years that there is a not-incompetent autocrat, right-wing coup attempt in America?”

      I think it’s better than 50-50, and I think we need look no further than Josh Hawley. He scares the crap out of me.
      He’s seen how to dismantle a democracy AND he’s smart (regardless of his irregardless)

  3. Dorsey and Zuckerberg, finally slamming their digital prison doors on Trump, along with most of the CEO’s who recently called for the President’s resignation, are hypocrites who ignored or abetted his dangerous behavior the past five years simply because he was “good for business.”

    With less than two weeks left in Trump’s term, these people suddenly finding moral backbone and ethical cojones to pretend outrage, join most of the GOP in revealing they have been, and remain, hollow.

    Have they no shame? Do they think the country will no pat them on the back, thankfully?

    1. There are many — too many to count — in the business community who abetted Trump. I was appalled to hear Nelson Pelz on CNBC, in what was supposed to be a mea culpa, say he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but voted FOR him in 2020. I mean, Nelson, were you vacationing in Anatarctica these last four years?

  4. I have never seen a party cower in fear of their own base like the current Republicans. This all started about the time of the seizure of the Malheur Refuge and the Bundy’s. Remember that? Law enforcement was afraid to engage for fear of repercussions. That is terrorism. Conservatives have been playing footsie with White Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Confederate worshippers, anti-Semites and filthy foreign cash for a long time. Long before Trump started to gross people out (who weren’t Trump supporters).

    William F. Buckley kicked the John Birchers out of the GOP. But the White Nationalists, the Confederate worshippers, and the anti-Semites get “love” from Trump. Is no one in the Republican party repulsed? Why has no member of the GOP condemned a movement that runs around with pro-Auschwitz neo-Nazi symbols, Confederate flags and making violent threats?

    Why would you belong to a party that calls these people its base???

  5. Well Jack (Can I call you Jack) you squeezed almost every drop out of all the wretched souls who follows our Liar, Bigot, Thief (and many more) in Chief. You are a CEO with real guts and yo’ Mama must be so proud.

  6. After watching Democrats and Republicans alike come seconds from total implosion in the last three years , I wonder if there is a limit to hypocrisy… Could be a strong third party would help the existing system and players to solidify a coherent message and give the voters a chance for a choice worth making…

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