It is no secret that President Trump likes to tweet. Not only can he share his deepest thoughts with the entire world, but it’s a great exercise for his big, strong hands. He has sent thousands of tweets before taking office and thousands more since swearing the Presidential oath. He has used countless of words to attack the news media, several more on Congressmen he loves or hates and he’s written a small 140 character book going after anyone who challenges anything relating to his presidency. So is there meaning behind the madness? Is President Trump actually trying to use Twitter for something more than what appears to be a public diary? Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, claims that Twitter is a direct line to the people without a media filter.
But is this the true story? To what extent is the President genuinely trying to connect with the people versus mindlessly spewing his thoughts and schedule to the world. Is there an actual message he is trying to send or is he simply exercising his first amendment right? Besides the occasional scripted tweet, the majority of the President’s Twitter is the filled with attacks on anyone who may pose a threat to him, his administration and ultimately, his legacy.
Twitter is a relatively new form of political communication, beginning to have a significant presence during the second term of Obama’s presidency and was a focal point in the 2016 Presidential election. Since announcing his campaign to run for President the Summer of 2015, twitter has been instrumental in publicizing Trump’s political ‘agenda.’ Anyone who challenges Trump’s ideas, platform, intellect or hand size will face the wrath of his Twitter fury. This is unbecoming of a prominent businessman but for a Presidential candidate, this is unprecedented. However, we do know Trump has a knack for theatrics.
Written off long before election time in November, people said this country wouldn’t elect a man like Trump, claiming there’s no way he could win. Fast forward a year later and here we are. The same man, the same Twitter, the same message, the same attacks. A constant stream of ego soaked tweets in an attempt to protect his pride. While this action may be acceptable by your average Twitter user, Trump isn’t speaking as a private citizen, he’s speaking for the entire country. Our country.
In order to understand the importance of our President’s tweets, we must consider the reach of them. To start with, @realDonaldTrump has 41.2 million twitter followers. It should be noted that countless of these accounts are fake-bots or inactive users. Nevertheless, the amount of social media influence he has is critical to the survival of his presidency, but more on that later.
The President’s tweets typically involve either something he or his constituents have accomplished, an attack on someone who challenges him or a love-fest with right-wing commentators. But the context behind these tweets is usually thrown out the window as with the nature of Twitter, an instant messaging service created to allow college kids share random events with one another. While the lack of proper context may be inconsequential when friends tweet what they ate for lunch, context is crucial for communication from the President of the United States.
Since 2006, Twitter has evolved to its own form of communication, no longer a service but rather a medium, much like newspapers and television. Unlike other news broadcasting systems, Twitter was not intended to be an actual news source. It played a key part in the Arab Spring protests and now provides communication between leaders and citizens.
The argument of free speech has been raised. Can countries censor twitter? Can Twitter censor countries? This grey area is where the President utilizes bully tactics the best. While American speech is protected by the first amendment, Twitter is a global company and requires users to agrees to The Twitter User Agreement before they can start tweeting.
So, should Twitter censor the President? In their terms and services, Twitter has the authority to delete or suspend any account violating the agreement or actively tweeting negative and hateful speech. This was witnessed on Nov. 2, for 11 minutes, when a Twitter employee played fast and loose with the rules when they deactivated Trump’s twitter on their last day with the company. While this action is isolated and ‘unlikely’ to happen again, it raises the question of what constitutes as hateful speech, and who has the power to define it? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, and this is no longer a legal question of whether Twitter has the authority, but a political quarrel. Twitter cannot afford to censor one of their most controversial users, that’s just bad for business.
Twitter is a publicly traded company, and while there’s a long, complicated explanation about why that matters, the simple answer is stockholders. Twitter, at all costs, cannot anger their shareholders, even at the expense of their internal moral standard. As a matter of fact, having President Trump constantly tweet is a great advertising mechanism for Twitter, since every news network frequently quotes or analyzes his tweets, which in turn drives more traffic back to twitter.
Twitter has an exponentially growing user base, which is perpetuated by having Trump use their platform to say every thought that comes to his mind. In other words, while Twitter may have the grounds to bar President Trump from using their platform, they have an economic and political investment in keeping him around. However, this inaction by Twitter does not mean they condone or condemn his use of the service.
While this may be the smartest move for Twitter in terms political capital, there is substantial relationship between what the President tweets and America’s international reputation. I detest hypotheticals as much as the next person, but for argument’s sake: Hypothetically, what would the Founding Fathers or even presidents before Twitter was invented, think about what our current President is saying? As in the nature with hypotheticals, there is no way to ask dead presidents and political figureheads. While living ex-presidents, including Clinton, Bush, and Obama have implied disapproval of Trump’s actions and speech, none of them have directly attacked his use of Twitter.
In a recent speech President Bush said “We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”
This was a just a snippet of his speech, where Trump wasn’t directly named, but seemed to be the target of his rebuke. Bush’s implication that Trump is not an adequate role model for America’s youth may be one of the more damning things ever said about a sitting President.
Children are the raised with the notion that the President is leader of the free world. A good, honest man like the ones read about in their history books. However, when our President is tweeting controversial statements and launching personal attacks against individuals or groups, on a public platform, in an age when children have overwhelming access to information, is not only undiplomatic but may be the most egregious offense committed by a sitting President (that’s not already a crook). This is not a legal offence nor does it directly jeopardize American interests outside of the States, but it does dramatically throw America’s future into uncertainty.
Our future is directly related to our own moral standard. Treat your neighbor has you would yourself. Work hard and live the American Dream is what is ingrained into our national heritage. Nonetheless, this idea is only as powerful as the ethical code we hold ourselves, ours neighbors, and our President too.
At the end of the day, this world is all we have. In my lifetime at least, there is no ‘escape plan’ to planet paradise and start over. And if society continues to evolve, then the fact that a single man can jeopardize the future of America’s humanity by poisoning hearts and minds may be the end of us. Not the Republican Party, not just America, everyone. Every human that lives or will live during a time where meaningless, hateful speech is permitted by one of the most powerful men in the world will forever be a victim of our own undoing.