A Fate Worse than Ouster Calls

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 10, 2020

In the olden days, maybe a week or two ago, Donald Trump was holding up important coronavirus aid and money to run the government over his insistence that social media companies be held to account for what they publish — the so-called Section 230 waiver.

In the wake of Insurrection Day, Trump got what he thought he wanted — but upside-down, like any good irony.

It’s turned into an all-out war by the social media companies on Trump’s own words — in the name of upholding free speech so long as it falls short of inciting more violence.

As we now know from the silence from @realdonaldtrump, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram have all barred Trump’s tweets permanently as dangerous to the public. Google and Apple have dropped the hammer on Parler, warning the preferred outlaw alternative chat site that they were eliminating Parler from app stores for failing to monitors postings calling for violence and planning for more attacks on the Inauguration, the Capitol, state houses and public officials.

For Trump, banishment from Twitter likely was a fate worse than Congressional calls for his ouster.

Beyond the official wariness from the military about any orders coming from the White House and the speeding train towards a second impeachment, the public marketplace is moving as quickly as possible away from Trump. A book publisher has canceled a book contract with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., the senator who led the elections result challenges prompting the riots, Reddit dropped “r/DonaldTrump,” one of the company’s largest political communities dedicated to support for Trump, Lehigh University and two others revoked honorary degrees for Trump, and a lengthening list of business and trade groups and news organizations, including the Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets, are distancing themselves.

Reigning Social Media

For years, Trump has made social media his chosen tool for insult and incite, and attacked Big Tech companies for silencing the far right. It has allowed Trump — and others — a totally unfiltered megaphone to millions without the distortions he sees by news media coverage of the presidency.

Now the social media Empire has struck back, way too late to avoid the Insurrection at the Capitol, as a “forceful repudiation” of Trump’s messages too “often filled with falsehoods and threats.

That news reporters are Trump’s “enemy of the people” targets was made clear again in the rioting by Trump thugs at the Capitol, who physically attacked reporters and photographers. It’s the logical outcome of a multi-year attack on any Truth that was not seen as supportive of whatever propaganda Trump wanted to spin on issues of grave importance or the silliest point of personal style.

Even Fox is insufficiently supportive, Trump has told us, and he has left broad hints about starting his own channels for continuing bombast.

Fake News

Of course, we’re replaying the free speech versus propaganda wars that have dogged Trump forever. “Fake news” is what we’ve heard over and over from Trump about any legitimate news coverage.

But all that was blown to bits by Trump, on camera, sending his troops towards the Capitol exhorting that weakness will never win the day for him, or for his attempts at overturning election results. Every television station is seemingly reveling in replaying hours’ worth tape of out-of-control mobs turned violent, even fatal, inside the Capitol.

Each minute further undercuts Trump as deranged, uncaring, even apparently gleeful to be reported being glued to his own TV, watching people literally fighting for him against perceived enemies.

But seeing thugs with zip ties presumably to take hostages, actively trying to crush a police officer, smashing their way into House and Senate chambers has its price that Trump is paying in the open social media world. Even these media companies, who have vigorously resisted government rules to tell them what they can and cannot post, realizes that yelling Fire in a crowded posting space goes too far.

For too long, social media companies have rejected normal publishing standards, insisting that they are more like telephone companies that take no responsibility for the content of callers. Now, with some retrospective irony, they rise up with considerable opprobrium to insist that Trump and his followers need to do so.

Trump fans continue to reject news or Truths that they do not find supportive; Trump is a convenience for pursuing conspiracy theories that align directly with racism, white supremacy, anti-institutionalism, and anti-government sentiments. Those feelings are not going away, and we can be sure that they will invent a new medium to spread un-humanistic hate and calls for attacking democracy.

In the meantime, strap in for more feistiness on all sides.



Journalist, musician, community volunteer