Like the canary in the mine, sensitive to the emanations of firedamp, the little bird that represents the Twitter logo has suspected the risk of combustion of Donald Trump’s messages on the Internet. The social network permanently suspended the Republican’s personal account on Friday, after doing so cautiously for 12 hours as a result of the assault by a horde of Trumpists on the Capitol on Wednesday.
The little bird that warns of the pestilence and the risk of explosion in the gallery has considered that, in view of the harangues of the United States’ chief tweeter, “the possibility that he continues to incite violence” is remarkable. The White House, through the official government account, charged against the decision to limit freedom of expression enshrined in the First Amendment, and the shares of the company headed by Jack Dorsey fell 3% after the announcement.
An inevitable disagreement? A late and insufficient closure after inflaming public opinion for four years? Or the perfect symbiosis of a president who has used Twitter to govern, and a company whose value has been fed back by the volume of inputs because of him? “After an in-depth review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context surrounding them, we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement to violence,” the company explained. In the small print of the ad was the information: that his supporters plan, “on and off Twitter,” a second attack on the Capitol and other official buildings on January 17.
During his four years in office, and even before, the real estate mogul turned president has ruled from Twitter, like a mirror tailored to his narcissism. Announcements of impeachments, draft measures, comments about foreign leaders, retweeting of memes to discredit adversaries, of mainstream media, climate activist Greta Thunberg; insults in bulk and above all lies, many lies, or at least alternative facts, as defined at the start of the presidency by their court advisor Kellyane Conway.
In his first 11,000 tweets at the White House, there were more than 1,700 messages tweeting or retweeting conspiracy theories and false information, according to an analysis by The New York Times. All this, without the social network having put a stop to excesses until its messages about the covid-19 curled the curl of disinformation. That’s when Twitter glossed over the president’s trills with comments of “potentially misleading information,” hardly a warm cloth for the magnitude of the misrepresentation. In November the corrections were repeated, to clarify their messages about the alleged fraud of the vote by mail or the alleged theft of the elections.
When he announced his bid for the presidency in 2015, Trump had 2.98 million followers on Twitter. The figure rose to 13 million when it won the elections in November 2016. On Friday, before it was closed, it was followed by 88 million. Trump has been the great master of Twitter, just as Obama was of Facebook in his day, John F. Kennedy of television or Roosevelt of radio. His personal account has turned the two official profiles (@potus and @whitehouse) into comparsas, despite the numerous criticisms received for perverting his institutional function with verbal incontinence and the individual’s drives. His use of social networks “is not presidential, it is MODERNLY PRESIDENTIAL,” he argued, capital letters included, another of his usual histrionic tics when it comes to tweeting.
Because the great success of Trump, which explains that 74 million Americans voted for him in November and that the Republican party has not been able to abjure him, is to convert citizens into an audience, offering them a binary framework, like Sesame Street, so easy to digest like a commercial or a reality show, the area in which he forged his communication strategy and, by extension, politics. In addition to a cataract of outbursts, screams or kicks to reality and language, his activity on Twitter has been the organic nexus and instrument of polarization of half the country. Not even judicial rulings have stopped him, such as the one that in 2019 considered that he had no right to block critical followers because doing so would violate freedom of expression; or the complaints in February 2020 from the attorney general, William Barr, about excessive noise caused by his tweets, which prevented him from doing his job (to which Trump responded by affirming his legal right to “intervene in justice”).
“Trump uses social media to control the information cycle,” George Lakoff, professor of Linguistics at the University of California, wrote in 2018, also on Twitter, following a very clear scheme: to frame an idea , divert attention from real affairs, kill the messenger -the traditional media- and, as icing on the cake, the probe balloon, to test public opinion. This is how it has managed to set the agenda for four years, to the detriment of the media, and thus aspires to continue doing so if the information from Reuters is confirmed that it intends to create its own platform. After throwing the stone and hiding the hand, generating snapshots for history like the infamous onslaught of vandals on the Capitol.