My earliest published position on Donald Trump being removed from Twitter was staunchly against. Rule number one volume one page one of my personal Rules of Democracy is that Democracy is hard. Exercising our own personal freedoms of speech and movement is the sumptuous meal we get to enjoy. Having to endure the intolerant exercise of those same freedoms by the hateful and the ignorant is us getting presented with the check. Rule two is if you can’t afford the bill of fare then find another restaurant.
I make exceptions to those rules reluctantly. The exceptions come when freedom of speech and freedom of movement are used to provoke violence or the credible threat of violence. For those reasons, Donald Trump’s removal from Twitter is long overdue. His hateful tweets — and let’s face it, the vast majority of his tweets are hateful — are too often characterized by two disturbing traits: that of hate against individuals, and that of hate intended to provoke violent unrest among the mass of fools who support him. The former causes great stress and anxiety among many of his tweet victims and their families. The latter causes the kind violence and rioting we witnessed on Wednesday.
Even though I am a user of Twitter (@RAHarrington) I am no apologist for them. I find their timing bad and their resolve puny. They shake their tiny fists at the president of the United States and inform him he’s out of the club until a week from next Wednesday. Any organization with an ounce of backbone would have banished him for life. If that’s Twitter’s way of saying that since the rest of America must endure twelve more days of a Trump presidency then they are prepared to suffer right alongside us then I, for one, can do without the company.
Even so, I come to this point with a vestige of ambivalence. It was useful having access to Trump tweets because it kept me apprised of what he was up to. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” as the saying goes. Also, each Tweet represented an official record of his lies and incitements and, as the Miranda Card says, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Trump has been busily hanging himself with Twitter for four years now, what’s twelve more days?
I assume that on 12 noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 (a date that seemed so far away for so long that it appeared almost mythic!) that Twitter will restore Trump’s account. I think that is a mistake. I think he will immediately start using Twitter to rally his legions of hate. Nothing provokes violence like the incitement of the once powerful. Without Trump in power his MAGA legions will become even more deadly and therefore dangerous. We saw what they were capable of on Wednesday, a shameful tour de force with the contemptibly insouciant resistance by the DC Police.
If by reading between the lines you surmise that, in my view, Twitter should have left Trump’s account intact until 20 January then removed him for life, then you are correct. Twitter has got it exactly backwards. Had they done it that way Trump’s most provocative Tweets could have been taken down individually until then, or at least issued with warnings. If we can’t get rid of this monster with the 25th Amendment or impeachment then at least we can keep an eye on him until he’s gone, and use what he says in the meantime as an unequivocal record of his ongoing crimes.
In their spinelessness, Twitter has done it precisely wrong. They can partially redeem themselves if they take the decision to commute his temporary ban to a permanent one. It’s not enough to bind Donald Trump, we must now also gag him. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.