Today’s Trumptrums on Twitter were mild compared to the damage an out-of-control president with direct access to social media could wreak. Demagogue-elect Donald Trump’s doubly unconstitutional call to make flag burners stateless and his assignment of the burden of proof to CNN to debunk his lie that he won the popular vote show the urgency of limiting his access to the 140-character social media behemoth.
Since, clearly, nobody in the incoming administration will play Daddy and take away the future president’s text addiction for the sake of the country, the rest of us have to. Twitter’s 317 million users need to demand that the service ban Trump for life.
Twitter has permanently suspended users in the past, most prominently rapper Azealia Banks and right-wing gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos – for tweets containing racially tinged, slur-filled, and other abuse. After all, Twitter is a private company. It can ban anyone at any time for any reason. It can boot people whose names begin with A, or Texans, or veterans. It can certainly ban the President of the United States when his use of their service flirts with national disaster.
And disaster could be just a tweet or two away. What if Trump announces an embargo on trade with China? What if, in a pique, he calls for Fed Chair Janet Yellen to resign? What if he promises the Treasury Department will halt all government checks until Congress repeals Obamacare?
Americans would watch helpless as markets crashed – or worse.
What if he declares Iran “will face full retaliation” for an anti-American speech by its leader? Or insults North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s appearance?
The fact he may be joking (and who really knows with Trump?) does not alleviate the danger. In the summer of 1984, Ronald Reagan joked into a microphone during a sound check that he had “signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever,” adding “We begin bombing in five minutes,” and the Soviet Union’s reaction was serious indeed. Its Far East Army went on high alert, and its TASS news agency condemned Reagan’s “unprecedented and hostile attack.”
Well, Twitter is the ultimate hot mic. Even the statements of a responsible, cautious president need vetting by aides so he doesn’t – as Trump did today – propose two unconstitutional measures in the space of 24 words. During the last few days of the campaign, Trump aides succeeded in taking away the candidate’s access to Twitter, but within 48 hours of the election he was at it again, complaining of “very unfair” protesters of his victory.
An occasional four-day Twitter fast is not enough to muzzle Trump – and protect the nation. He needs a permanent filter, and since his administration cannot force one on him, Twitter must end its complicity in his recklessness. Think about it: the Twitter account of an impulsive, unpredictable president is a supremely succulent target for pranksters, malefactors, even terrorists. Hackers have already done serious damage through Twitter. A 2013 fake tweet about explosions at the White House injuring the president caused the stock market to fall 100 points in just two minutes.
This proposal restricts nobody’s freedom of speech. The First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law…”) limits only what the government can do. It actually protects the right of private people and businesses to say – and not say – whatever they want. The country will be safer if Twitter permanently closes its most famous account – and if it wants to, it can do so tomorrow.
Americans will be relieved – surely none more than Trump’s aides.
Agree? Take a minute and try it: #BootDonald.