Let’s Make Our Own
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 11, 2021
So far, everything we’ve heard about Donald Trump launching his own social media alternative to Twitter, Facebook and the rest who have barred him from spreading “disinformation” has raised a host of financial, ethical, practical, and legal questions — even before the network has posted a single opinion.
The only surprise is that he is moving ahead despite regularly making himself heard without the expense and hassle of running a network.
That someone domestic or foreign is giving a former and would-be president a billion dollars in play money is raising obvious questions about ethics and pressures for public policy promises.
What hasn’t been discussed so much is this penchant, not just from Trump, but seemingly anyone who is upset, to just invent whole new arenas if the real ones are proving problematic.
Clearly Trump finds the myriad, if now usual communications channels frustrating because they have either seen the light or been pressured into shutting down his truth-resistant voice. So too have his closest Republican allies who complain regularly that conservative voices, so loud in our society, are being discriminated against and kept silent.
So, the next step for Trump is to create his own channel. Hey, he invented his own university, his own vineyards, his own airline, and now says he will create a book-publishing company to feature books about himself. These ventures mostly bombed, but Trump could be satisfied at least that no one within them disagreed with him.
Picking Devin Nunes, a conservative who apparently cannot be reelected who has absolutely no experience in running an electronic network business, seems perfect. All that matters is his clearly expressed loyalty to Donald Trump.
Let’s Put on a Play
Unaddressed is whether a tweet or a Twump, whatever he will call posts, will have to be pro-Trump to be published on this alternative social media, whether posts from outwardly Left-leaning individuals will be treated equally or whether there will be rules about publishing at all. Trump and allies have consistently rejected the idea that Twitter and Facebook have rules about distributing “misinformation,” though the record shows the difficulty of enforcement.
Republican congress members have threatened to remove liability shields from social media over exclusions. So what will the operating rules be for Trump Social?
Looked at more broadly, the Trump-fanatic Republican wing has been inventing a new Congress, in which actual governing or committee work, or fact-finding is unnecessary. Projecting a majority win, they want a new Speaker who can throw out the rules of ethics and punish anyone who steps out of ideological line.
Trump voters want to reinvent education and the teaching of history to ignore slavery and race, sex, and gender, and go light on science. Believers in an open gun-toting society want to ignore mass shootings in schools and theaters. The right-leaning Christian evangelical movement seems to want to re-invent a country without church-state separation.
In short, our culture wars have stepped up a notch even from denial to just abandon reality for an alternative, created world.
Why bother trying to make this actual world work at all? It’s as if we’re all supposed to disappear into our avatar computerized game world where there are no nuances. Maybe there are no personal and public ethical balancing acts, no pandemic, no immigration issues, nothing but pure pursuit of personal profit and leisure.
Nice work if you can get it. Just don’t tell me as a voter or a neighbor that you should be a leader in my actual world with real problems.
Legal Questions Abound
Meanwhile, in creating his alternative world, Trump seems to have legal questions galore about the entire launch of this social media enterprise, from its odd construct to the hidden monies behind it. It also has business experts wondering aloud if the enterprise will happen.
Per Axios, federal regulators are investigating the planned merger between Digital World Acquisition Corporation and Trump’s social media business, as outlined in a recent filing. The enterprise is being backed by start-up special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a kind of a “blank check” shell corporation designed to take companies public without going through the traditional IPO process. As The New York Times reported, the head of that SPAC talked with Trump and priced it before it was clear what the investment even was about. That has triggered investigations.
The Trump Media & Technology Group was always bound to be controversial, but it’s inviting extra scrutiny by keeping basic details secret and making promises of profit based on who knows what.
The filings to date have avoided naming Trump and now Nunes or the sources of what it says is a committed $1 billion in financing, or even what is planned beyond some basic Twitter-like screens. Nevertheless, the filings to day project $3.6 billion in revenue by 2026, which would put it on par with Twitter’s current business, 40 million streaming subscribers by 2026, which is roughly the same size as ViacomCBS’ streaming subscriber totals today.
Trump says the Securities and Exchange Commission inquiries into all this are “just a continuation of witch hunts.”
Of course, if Trump dislikes the SEC so much, he might just create an alternative.