by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Rich Lowry of National Review Online documents the social media giant’s influence on American political culture.
Donald Trump was the president of Twitter.
What radio was to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and TV was to Ronald Reagan, communicating 280 characters at a time on a social-media platform that is a watchword for hyperactive inanity was to President Trump.
It is symbolically appropriate that the effective end of his power after the siege of the U.S. Capitol has coincided with the suspension of his Twitter account.
He may well get impeached a second time, but for now, the punishment that really stings is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey deciding, after sitting down with his woke colleagues, that Trump must pay the ultimate price for his post-election misinformation and agitation.
This judgment is as arbitrary as Dorsey’s worst critics would expect, and it will be impossible for Twitter to enforce anything resembling a consistent line following its Trump suspension (the platform didn’t seem particularly exercised by all of the voices valorizing last summer’s riots as an “uprising”).
But there’s no doubting Dorsey’s power. He has rendered the president of the United States practically mute.
Trump remains in the Oval Office and, in theory, commands the biggest megaphone on the planet. He could still make statements, hold press conferences, sit down for interviews, or meet with his cabinet. In his reduced and isolated state, though, none of these options are as appealing as letting his thumbs do his work for him, one outlandish tweet at a time.
Now that this avenue is foreclosed to him, he’s less of a presence, even as the political world continues to be obsessed with him (in particular, the manner of his exit from office).
It’s not exactly a slow news environment. Yet, without Trump’s tweets stirring the pot at all times of the day, the nation’s political debate feels a little less fevered.