It’s interesting to me that so much attention has been paid to the question of whether former President Trump will get to resume sending smears and incendiary tripe on Twitter as soon as Elon Musk completes his deal and takes the company private.
There is a bigger question here as the right and the left continue trying to punch one another out on social media, even as social media tries to find a way to, if not censor, at least tone some of the talk down.
Why are we afraid of anything Trump might say?
I don’t like what’s happening with this. After 40 years of working in all kinds of news media and even running websites (a challenge for such a geezer) I concluded quite a long time ago that people are motivated by something stronger than words.
Were they not, logical, calm and thoughtful writers could simply present well reasoned arguments on any subject and win over armies of supporters who would be working for truth, justice and the American way.
But that’s not how America works, and media masters all the way back to the founding fathers have known it. They were always concerned that someone beyond white male property owners might pollute the political system, and for a long time they tried to preserve that thought.
Not any more, thank God.
We have to recognize that it has always been easy in this country to gather a following by appealing to extremes, and that those groupings reflect only themselves, not the much broader society. After all, Nazis still organize festive marches, complete with torches. That doesn’t mean we are all Nazis.
A test for that.
When Donald Trump was president, did you believe everything he said about any subject from drinking bleach to attack Covid to unleashing a police and secret service army to beat a clear path open so he could pose with a bible on the steps of a church across from the White House.
Most people, I would argue, were either stunned by the stupidity of the man’s statements or aghast that he would unleash such violence on his own people, and that’s not even addressing his role in the January 6 mob attack on the Capitol that he encouraged and, I believe, also applauded.
But some people think he was exactly right about everything. Plenty of them still think the last presidential election was somehow stolen, primarily because he said it and spread it on any platform that would give him time and space. It was all bullshit for his own mob, the people who still think of him as a good president.
So no, the mob doesn’t define anything but itself. That’s why it’s a mob, after all.
This is the indirect way of settling on what will most likely be an unpopular point among my many friends on the left (which is where I sit on the spectrum).
I don’t think there should be any limits on what Donald Trump says anywhere. We still live in a free country that cherishes its First Amendment protections of free speech, free assembly, religion and so on, even though that standard may not apply in a lot of places.
It’s still something we have always believed.
And it endangers our democracy to try to limit how people express their beliefs, all beliefs, not just the ones that are cozy and fuzzy. There is, of course, a handy way to deal with Trump and his backers.
Ignore them now and vote against them later.
People seem to have lost grip on a big reality about media: You are not obliged to pay attention to any of it. You don’t have to await anyone’s latest tweet. You don’t have to listen to raging assholes on talk radio. You can find plenty of reputable sources of information without yielding to the cacophony of Twitter or the performing parrots and adorable kittens and puppies that seem to be big menu items on Facebook.
All that stuff is there because YOU respond to it, share it, “like” it, whatever measure you want to use to assess the growth of a market to which you can pump ads for weight loss miracles, magic pills that make your brain work better, perfect pants and Gawd only knows what other stuff that gets pushed that you probably think you need, but actually, NOT.
So we’re about to head into another political season and the vultures and media parasites are already trying to smear President Biden and the Democrats so they can have the advantage in the midterm elections.
I don’t think they should. But the way to counter that effort is to show up at the polls in such vast numbers that that other mob, the bad one we all know about, doesn’t take the day.
And no matter what you see of Trump, and how his rhetoric leans to fabrications about crowd size and support, remember this: The man is a liar. About everything. Especially himself.
That’s just my opinion, and I am happy to have it!