If Twitter enforced its cyber-bullying, hate speech and fake news rules, it would probably close Donald Trump’s account. Too often, the daily firestorm includes all of the above, which demeans the presidency.
(Yesterday, the First Lady, in a classic example of irony, said it was up to adults to “take the lead” in helping children develop positive social-media habits, even “limiting their time online.”)
Plus, last week, The New York Times found that Twitter remains a hotbed for Russians eager to destabilize the U.S.
Given Trump’s divisive rhetoric, he’s doing a good job all by himself. Shouldn’t we hold the President to the same standards applied to the Russians?
Despite the partisan climate, the president has a singular role to play. He represents us as a nation. Democrat or Republican, the Commander in Chief should reflect the best of the American spirit and stand up to our enemies. Exacerbating tensions is not in his job description.
Why not unite us around common values?
Failing that, what if network TV issued a moratorium on Trump’s daily barrage of tweets, which often double as agitprop? Factcheck.org and PolitiFact.com would not have to correct the daily trough of misinformation — and viewers could watch news reporting and analysis from seasoned journalists and experts discussing the actual news — not an explosion of tweets crammed into a Mar-a-Lago weekend in between rounds of golf.
As many historians have noted, and The Washington Post detailed in an analysis of Trump’s campaign speeches and inaugural address, his rhetorical style is vastly unlike previous presidents.
Trump favors the language of violence and destruction to those who oppose him; he rarely invokes democratic values or striving for the public good in the service of moral progress.
That same tendency is found in his tweets. WaPo reported January 10 that the president had made 2,001 false or misleading claims over 355 days, an average of 5.6 whoppers a day. That’s the true definition of fake news.
Be it the school shooting in Florida, or the Robert Mueller indictments, Trump’s tweets often bolster his ego and reflect his pugnacity. They did not comfort the mourners in Parkland. They do not champion the fundamental institutions that sustain us.
If Trump wants to relay his thoughts, The White House can issue statements, hold more press briefings or televised presidential addresses. All can be scrutinized.
But let’s not repeat the sins of 2016.
Billions in earned media fueled the Trump juggernaut — Hillary Clinton didn’t receive nearly as much TV coverage. Moreover, she was scrutinized; he was given a pass. Aside from a few slogans, did we ever know his positions on key issues?
If the TV industry wants to atone, let’s have a lockdown on tweet coverage. The media can focus on its traditional role — a watchdog to power. Journalists need to challenge government decision-making, suspected illegality or abuse — in every administration — to protect the public welfare.
A free press can help produce an informed electorate; it should not become a partisan tool for warring political factions.
As Thomas Jefferson neatly put it: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
I wonder if he’d be as adamant about Twitter. Or TV news.