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How @realDonaldTrump Changed Politics — and America – POLITICO

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Donald J. Trump’s removal from Twitter on Friday night might have been one internal decision by one tech company, but it was a seismic event in the history of American political media. At the birth of the @realDonaldTrump account in 2009, Twitter itself was still a tech-world curiosity, covered only by the mainstream in the event of an embarrassing controversy or noteworthy celebrity announcement. By the time of Trump’s ban last night, the platform had become American politics’ main forum for speech, drawing millions of people each day to its white-hot center of attention. Almost always, @realDonaldTrump was that center.

As a lone-wolf celebrity developer, Trump never learned to manage government bureaucracy the conventional way. But Twitter—and his willingness to use it impulsively, even recklessly—gave him a management tool as immediate as anything a CEO could want. He used the platform to tell Cabinet secretaries they’d been fired and to jawbone big corporations by name; he used it as a tool of diplomacy, if you could use that word, to threaten war personally against the president of Iran and brag about American nukes to intimidate North Korea. He’d set policy with his thumbs, or try to, as when he decided to ban transgender Americans from the military and left the entire Pentagon flailing for a follow-up move. And, of course, he offered a powerful megaphone for messages from far-right conspiratorial fever swamps, recklessly retweeting anything that insulted his enemies or flattered him personally.

It was easy for critics to complain about how Trump’s every tweet drove conversation and decision-making in America’s top newsrooms, boardrooms and dinner tables, but there was a good reason: Disconnected from, and uninterested in, the details of actual policymaking and management, Trump used Twitter to govern from outside his own administration, setting its moral, aesthetic and ideological terms post by post. He was the first gadfly president—taking the outsider style of talk-show callers and internet commenters and turning it into the voice of American political power.

At the same time the account made its mark on politics, so did it color American culture. Trump’s pithy, idiomatic speech patterns translated to Twitter in a manner that became comic shorthand in American life, whether earnestly or ironically: “Sad!,” “WITCH HUNT!,” “STOP THE COUNT!” He even added a new word to the English lexicon, a simple typo that became effective shorthand for his administration’s endemic confusion and lack of professionalism: “covfefe.”

Trump’s Twitter account didn’t do anything novel in its own right. But it exemplified, at the largest possible scale, the twisted incentives at the heart of the platform that gave it life: to generate spectacle and action without regard for truth, context, or collateral damage.

One of the most remarkable and revealing things about Trump’s dominance of the platform is the fact that the septuagenarian president is as far as one could be from a “digital native,” refusing mostly to ever even use a computer. He has no particular calculating genius about social media, just the standard set of opinions and aesthetic preferences that a particularly bigoted member of his generation might hold, combined with a helpful lack of restraint. That biliousness and shamelessness, combined with his baked-in celebrity, found their perfect outlet in Twitter, where outrage is currency.

Before he became president, Trump deployed his narcissism and bile to more petty, and sometimes downright bizarre, ends. He issued his first tweet on May 4, 2009, reminding its followers to tune into CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” for a cursory appearance from Trump, then the star of a declining reality show. It was a long road from there to Trump’s using the account to rebrand himself as a pugilistic, reactionary populist, elevating him from cable news gadfly to Republican party gatecrasher to, eventually, leader of the free world.

In its early years, @realDonaldTrump served as mostly a promotional tool for its owner, seeking to bolster his flagging celebrity. It was also a vehicle for his quixotic and seemingly arbitrary cultural fixations. He attacked such sacred cows as Coca-Cola, calling it “garbage” despite pledging to continue drinking it; provided repeated, unsolicited relationship advice to “Twilight” teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson; and unaccountably threatened legal action over a nominally flattering musical tribute from the late rapper Mac Miller.

But most of all, he was fixated on the man he would eventually succeed in the White House: Barack Obama. Trump repeatedly assailed the former president via Twitter, deriding him for a perceived lack of transparency and excessive golf habit, but first and foremost propagating the false conspiracy theory that America’s first Black president was actually not born in the United States, making his presidency illegitimate.

Such tweets made Trump a star in the burgeoning world of online conservative media. While his commentary was treated as a sideshow by the mainstream, including a fateful in-person roast from Obama himself at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, his tweets were cited frequently by far-right publications such as Breitbart, InfoWars and the Gateway Pundit. Improbably, and at first to some ridicule, he parlayed his Twitter stardom into a Republican presidential primary campaign. The Twitter account soon proved an invaluable resource in combating Trump’s better-funded, more professionalized rivals, revealing the extent to which social media had already upended the worlds of political communication and civic engagement. He used it to coin a series of monikers for his political rivals some of which will long out-live his account, and likely even the man himself: “Low-energy Jeb,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Little Marco,” “Sleepy Joe.”

Once Trump became president, he used the account to in effect drive a policy agenda without having to bother with the bureaucratic details of governance. It also served as daily inspiration for a legion of loyal followers who relentlessly pursued vengeance against anyone who would criticize the president; it brought a much higher profile to the longrunning, unresolved debate over the definition of online harassment. It also gave politicians, particularly elected Republicans, a new tool to dodge questions, used over and over in response to his messiest and most reckless attempts to rule by tweet: “I’m not on Twitter.” So common was this excuse that reporters on Capitol Hill took to printing out Trump’s latest missives so that they could physically show them to senators who professed ignorance.

That only became more difficult over time. Long before last week’s Trump-inspired violence at the U.S. Capitol, the account’s most outspoken critics, both serious and less so, argued that @realDonaldTrump’s combination of a massive platform and brazen disregard for the truth was a menace to civic health — fueling a pipeline of disinformation that’s resulted in violent and bizarre crimes across the nation. Although its owner claimed ignorance, @realDonaldTrump repeatedly retweeted posts from overt white-nationalist groups and accounts, spreading their message to a far, far wider audience than it otherwise would have reached.

In its final months, @realDonaldTrump became a touchstone for the burgeoning debate over the extent to which technology platforms should be liable for the speech they publish, exemplified by the president’s own politicization of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Under that law, internet services are not legally liable for the content published by their users, allowing them the freedom to moderate it on their own terms.

And moderate they did on Wednesday, ending @realDonaldTrump’s long run as one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. Over the past two months, the president’s time in the spotlight has been coming to an end, the miracle of the meme presidency waning in both novelty and actual power. So, finally backed into the proverbial corner, he decided to reverse the polarity of Marx’s famous quotation and turn farce to tragedy.

With his fate sealed, having shown the world the power of this combustible, ungovernable new technology, the president met the inescapable fate of the terminally online: to tweet and rave at close of day, to post, post, against the dying of the light… resulting in his being hounded by moderators to the bitter end. Given the odd strictures of Section 230, one could call it a form of law and order.

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Opinion | Peterborough letter: Women treated differently in local politics – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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Much has been written in the last few days and weeks about the tone of our local, provincial and federal politics in Peterborough and the surrounding Kawartha Area.

If you have missed it, recently Mayor Diane Therrien and MPP Dave Smith got into a war of words over housing. The mayor pointed out that Mr. Smith was missing from the housing conversation in Peterborough, which then spiralled into a war of words on twitter.

However, while Smith’s statements are misleading, and the mayor’s frustration with Smith’s response (seen in her response on twitter) obvious, I am instead writing to address a consistent issue related to the way we frame political discourse in this community.

Simply put — there is a double standard when it comes to tone policing in our local politics.

Smith has repeatedly targeted the mayor, MP Maryam Monsef, and even Dr. Rosana Salvaterra in local media and on Twitter. In relation to the recent incident, after the mayor made a legitimate criticism of Mr. Smith, many called her comments unacceptable, but viewed Smith’s response as a “defence.”

However, when the mayor or Monsef defend themselves publicly, or criticize colleagues on policy, they are called out in articles, letters to the editor and on social media.

Reading Facebook comments on any post that mentions politics shows a disgusting slew of ad hominem attacks directed at the mayor and the MP, filled with derogatory terms. When posts are made regarding Smith, these types of attacks are largely absent.

It is clear that sexism runs rampant in relation to political leadership in our community — and even the media is guilty of this same double-standard.

Should our discourse be less vitriolic and more related to policy across the board? Absolutely, 100 per cent. But when tempers flare, we must remember that it takes two to tango, and not tone-police in one direction.

We must be cognizant of how we treat women in power in our community, lest incredibly qualified leaders that happen to be women shy away from taking up the political gauntlet in the future.

Dane Bland, Community Advocate, Peterborough-Kawartha

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Opinion | Power, Politics and Sexual Misconduct – The New York Times

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Readers discuss their own experiences dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace and what the consequences should be for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To the Editor:

Re “As Scandals Sap His Political Strength, Cuomo Resists Calls to Resign” (news article, March 3):

Now 79 years old, I experienced my share of minor sexual harassment through the years. When I was young, I had to tolerate it or suffer significant consequences and more “teasing.” But now women do not have to tolerate crude jokes, butt pats, breast grabs, unwelcome kisses, sly sexual remarks. Only in the last few years have women’s complaints been taken seriously.

Women my age took a lot of crap. The sexual bullies won. Gentlemen: Women are now complaining and making it stick. The rules have changed. If your behavior was “playful,” realize it was probably no fun for the woman. It’s time to clean up your act. Now.

Mary Beal
Chicago

To the Editor:

I am certain many women, especially those involved with the #MeToo movement, will disagree with me, but since when did women become helpless victims? I worked for a number of elected officials, as well as other employers, when I was young.

On many occasions I experienced inappropriate gestures and comments that might in today’s world be considered inappropriate. I handled them. I would simply say “Please get your hand off me” or “I am sorry, but I find what you are saying offensive.” In all cases, the offender backed down.

If women want to be treated as equals we need to take some control over these situations, rather than just being passive. Speaking up will empower us. We should be teaching our daughters to speak up about these matters when they happen, rather than waiting and making public accusations.

Angela Reichek
Garden City, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct — including assault and rape — by at least 25 women. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of an unwanted kiss and sexually harassing comments.

Granted, any type of harassment is intolerable. But are these accusations equivalent? Might there not be degrees of such misconduct? Should they be treated differently? Will Mr. Cuomo lose his job, while the former president bragged about predatory behavior with impunity?

Edward LaFreniere
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I am a liberal Democrat and feminist. I have worked for a state legislature, for Congress, for many dozens of elected officials and candidates to elective office. I think the outpouring of condemnation against and demands for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo are ridiculous and scary.

His misguided flirtatious behavior warrants a sincere apology and promise to cease and desist; that’s all. No one is perfect. To demand that every utterance, every action of public figures, be perfect is absurd. Asking too personal questions is not equivalent to threatening a person’s livelihood. Placing a hand on a person’s back is not equivalent to groping someone’s private parts. Asking to plant a kiss is not equivalent to raping someone.

People, what’s called for here is a sense of perspective.

Carole Lieber Glickfeld
Seattle

To the Editor:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s disgusting behavior toward others is the result of his belief in the false privilege of rank held by so many politicians — that you are exempt from the rules of decent behavior and from punishment for your misbehavior. Thus, not only was it wrong for Mr. Cuomo to reportedly make the “strip poker” remark to another state employee, but wrong as well for him to believe that this did not warrant punishment.

His deeds are abuses of power and inappropriate conduct and are grounds for removal from office.

Stephen V. Gilmore
Charlotte, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign” (column, March 2):

Michelle Goldberg notes that “many Democrats are sick of holding themselves to a set of standards that Republicans feel no need to try to meet.” I completely understand this dynamic but greatly regret the result.

After all, morality that is contingent on your adversary’s expected behavior under similar circumstances is not morality at all. Rather, it is mere political gamesmanship. And that is a real shame.

Paul E. Greenberg
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

I don’t want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the middle of a pandemic. Too many lives depend on his leadership. Yet I also want him to become aware of what he said and did to these women and understand why his behavior shouldn’t continue. How about he stays in office while working on his behavior?

Mr. Cuomo should hire the best sexual harassment prevention trainer and work with that person one-on-one or in a group setting. He should go through a journey of awareness publicly, but remain in office, leading in a crisis, to keep us from letting another talented leader fade into obscurity.

Carrie Wasser
Gardiner, N.Y.

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Jamie Nye: Athletes and politics do mix, and that's OK – CKOM News Talk Sports

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If Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to collect his millions in soccer and keep quiet about political issues, he can go right ahead.

But then he should take his own advice and shut up and play.

Instead, the Swedish soccer star has taken it upon himself to criticize big-name athletes who are using their platforms to try and improve communities, lobby politicians and become leaders outside their realm of sport.

LeBron James is Ibrahimovic’s main target. Ibrahimovic believes athletes should be athletes and let the politicians be the politicians.

That’s all well and good but a caller to the Green Zone nailed it when he called the soccer player’s comments trash.

The caller simply stated that maybe more athletes would stick to athletics if the politicians were any good at being politicians.

I really couldn’t have said it any better than that.

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