What’s The Point Of Banning Trump from Twitter?
I’d rather have him on Twitter than not, just to know what’s going on with him.
In recent days, there has been a discussion of how to have President Trump’s Twitter account deleted, or banning him from Twitter. The notion of banning Trump from Twiter arose in response to Trump’s comments about the protests and his comments regarding George Floyd. I really don't think that’s the right approach to Donald Trump.
I’m not a Trump supporter, and I have been critical of him. But I don’t want to see him or anyone banned from Twitter for just expressing an opinion. If there is one thing that I do appreciate about Trump, it is his willingness to speak his mind on Twitter, even if I may disagree with him. I prefer to know what’s on his mind, than not to.
I extend that courtesy with everyone on social media. Go ahead, speak your mind. I’m cool with it as long as you’re civil about it. And for the most part, Trump has been pretty civil on Twitter. He has his moments, just like everyone else. But at least he’s giving us some insight into what he’s thinking.
So when I see people calling for the banhammer for Trump, I just sigh. Through Twitter, Trump is giving us something that no reporter will give us without dilution. He is giving his point of view.
In recent news, I heard that a college canceled the commencement speech of Ivanka Trump, too. This is tit for tat in response to Trump’s responses to the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed. It’s not a very virtuous circle. I think it’s interesting that Ivanka seems to think that what happened to her is “viewpoint discrimination”.
Trump has been grasping at ways to curtail what he perceives to be an anti-conservative bias in social media. He is trying to frame social media companies as “publishers” that exercise editorial control when they ban or limit the propagation of conservative viewpoints. Trump’s recent executive order has no teeth and any effort to change policy at Twitter, Facebook, etc, will fail in the courts, as they usually do. Did you notice how Trump wanted the government to intervene here? Yeah, he likes to talk a good game about the free market until his sacred cow is gored.
But even if the social media companies have the right to manage their operations, and can limit the spread of certain ideas, I don’t think that the government should get involved. I also don’t think that they should be banning any viewpoints. Yes, I think they should moderate for violent content, violence promoting content, and sexually inappropriate content, but social media should be a crucible for all views.
When I see something in social media that I don’t agree with, I don’t get offended and call for a ban. I don’t even complain. I just post a reply with facts that contradict the views that I disagree with. This is far more effective than the banhammer. This is called civil discourse. I know, it seems really novel. But in order for our society to work, we must find outlets for our expression. To be clear, I’m not saying that posting on social media is a 1st Amendment right, for social media is a private forum. I’m just saying that there is little to be gained by banning or even blocking content we disagree with.
When we post anything on the internet, we can expect that someone will disagree. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, or to post agreeable replies to my articles or comments. I don’t even expect to change anyone’s mind. I write articles and posts on social media because what I say has a tiny but measurable effect on the course of the world I live in.
To put this in perspective, long ago, I wrote a letter to a carmaker, complaining of some problem with their car. I mentioned this to a friend, and he said that they’ll listen because they know that 1 in 500 will write about their complaint. They give it more weight because not everyone will complain, much less take the trouble to write a letter and mail it.
Now we have the internet. We have social media. We have algorithms to measure how we think as a culture. We have a multitude of sources to choose from for our enlightenment and education. We get to choose what we want to read and hear. If I disagree with one source, I can always find a source of information that I agree with. I can choose to be an emperor with invisible clothes, with friends, family, and employees who tell me what I want to hear.
Or I can choose to read what the other side has to say. I can read points of view that I disagree with to check my assumptions, facts, and my own views. I can read other viewpoints to see if they have any good ideas. When it comes to ideas and facts, I’m agnostic as to the source. If Trump has a good idea, I will admit that I agree with him on that idea. Just because I agree with a few of his ideas doesn’t make me a Trump supporter. I’m always looking for common ground.
I don’t believe in cancel culture. I don’t believe in banning anyone just for their views. Should we ban people who harass others? Sure. Should we ban people who promote violence? Definitely. We want social media to be a safe place for people to express their views. So I don’t ban people. I don’t block people. I’ve tried that and I never really liked how I felt after doing any of that stuff. I just post a reply with facts that support my views. I make a statement of disagreement.
Information wants to be free. If Trump didn’t post on Twitter, he’d go somewhere else, and so would his followers. So I don’t expect that Twitter will ever block, ban or delete Trump’s account. President Trump is a huge draw to Twitter. Trump may not like the way Twitter does business, but he has used Twitter to great effect to promote his agenda, his views, and his plans. There is a mutual benefit between Trump and Twitter, a sort of symbiosis.
That symbiosis extends to the rest of us. We use these forums to share ideas and to enlighten ourselves. We use social media to vent our frustrations or to share our success. Social media has become yet another outlet for cultural expression, and we needed it, or we wouldn't have it. The market found a need and responded in kind.
There is no need to ban Trump from Twitter. As far as I can see, Twitter is providing a public good by giving Trump a forum for sharing his ideas. If I disagree, I can let him know with a civilized reply. I can even say that I agree with him, without shame. At the very least, I can say that I have participated in an exchange of ideas with a president, and that is something that I could not do if he were banned from Twitter.