I have to say that I am impressed with Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. He appears to have taken a stance and he’s not backing down. He is apparently not intimidated by Donald Trump’s horse and pony show in the Oval Office Thursday, when he signed an executive order, with an eye to removing legal protections from social media.
Trump made an appearance on Twitter shortly after midnight his time Friday morning and posted two tweets regarding protests in Minneapolis, after citizen George Floyd, a black man, died after a police officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for seven minutes. Trump said he would “send in the National Guard,” apparently unaware that the Guard had already been deployed half a day earlier, and Trump quoted a now-deceased Miami cop, who said in 1967, “When the looting starts, that’s when the shooting starts.” That quote was promptly hidden, because it violates a Twitter rule against “glorifying violence.”
I believe it is safe to say that Trump will resent Twitter enforcing this rule, or moderating his account in any way, shape, or form. Trump doesn’t seem to be a person who is used to being treated like any other user of social media platforms. He expects to use the platform as he sees fit and rules are for other people.
This is how Trump’s tweets appear now.
Twitter hides one of the two Trump tweets from tonight for “glorifying violence.” pic.twitter.com/ngPtw7g0m3
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) May 29, 2020
The move prevents replying to or liking the “looting … shooting” tweet, engagement numbers are gone, and people can only quote RT it now. pic.twitter.com/CuetvQVJnn
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) May 29, 2020
This is responsible behavior. Trump’s words are still there, if somebody wants to know what he said. However, Twitter has made it clear that they don’t want people advocating violence, certainly not “glorifying” it. In removing the ability of other users to just automatically “like” the violent prose, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” it gives time for people to pause and reflect upon what’s on the screen.
I find it admirable that Dorsey has taken this action. It will be interesting to see how Trump reacts to it. Again, I think it is a reasonable speculation that Trump will resent the action and feel persecuted by it. I also think it’s too much to expect that Trump might find the move sobering, and perhaps reflect a bit upon his own actions and what he might do better in the future.
Trump has lived a consequence free life, in part because he’s been able to bully people into doing what he wants, or pay them off in some fashion for ignoring his bad behavior. This is probably a rare moment in his 73 years, coming up against another businessman who is powerful in his own right and who is enforcing the rules of the road on his own platform — which he has every right to do and had the right to do so sooner. Dorsey’s forebearance has been duly noted, by others, but not by Trump. Fpr Trump, this is somewhat of a unique moment, I would imagine.
Many thousands of people have written millions of words about Trump’s foibles, but if I had to pick one which is first and foremost, it would be that he doesn’t know — or perhaps just doesn’t care — where the lines are drawn. He’s going to fix it so that he’s in charge.
Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, recently wrote about Trump in a piece published on Medium, “Absence of conscience gives Trump the license to invent his own rules, define his own reality, declare victory in any competition, and insist on his superior expertise on subjects about which he knows almost nothing.” Trump invented his own rules of how to use Twitter and now the owner, Jack Dorsey, is saying, uh uh. It’s my house and you will conduct yourself like the other guests do, while you’re there.
For the rest of us, this is business as usual. We hear it every day, we adjust ourselves accordingly in any number of situations, whether it’s the traffic cop letting you off with a warning, or the computer repair guy saying your machine won’t be ready until three. We don’t even blink at these considerations. Life is made up of rules and accomodations. But not for Donald Trump. For him, he alone “calls the shots” one of his favorite phrases, for himself and for everybody else. To him, that’s the way it should be. Trump rules.
Trump loves to use Twitter, just like he loves it when Fox News does what he wants. When Fox doesn’t, or when anybody doesn’t, Twitter is Trump’s go-to arena to vent. Twitter is his digital shrink, his private newsletter, his drinking buddy that he tells all to, plus or minus the booze. I don’t know if social media could be considered a substance, but if it would be, Trump is addicted. Trump needs Twitter more than Twitter needs Trump.
Trump railed at the press conference Thursday, that if he was able to shut down Twitter, he would. But he can’t. But Twitter can shut him down. And frankly? I think that terrifies Trump. Dorsey is approximately the same age as Donald Jr., but right now he’s giving Trump a parental lesson in boundaries. It’s a crying shame that there weren’t more Jack Dorsey figures in Trump’s past. He might have grown up.
There have been a lot of adults in a lot of rooms, attempting to advise Trump on how to do the right thing. But none of these adults were talking about anything that Trump particularly cares about. He cares about Twitter. That’s his favorite toy. And the fact that somebody can take it away from him, if he doesn’t play nice, kills Trump. Unless I miss my guess, Trump is going to stress every brain cell he’s got, trying to figure out a way to turn this around and dominate Dorsey. Because it’s either that, or follow Dorsey’s rules and Trump is constitutionally incapable of following rules. This is going to be something to watch.