The following is from a Lebanese contributor to the NCF, Ragheb Malli. The Next Century Foundation prides itself on adhering to the four freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, and last but not least, Freedom of Expression. The following article is therefore key in our view. It is a subject which we shall address again later this week:
To the shock of many, last week Trump was banned from major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, Snapchat and Instagram; with YouTube removing various videos and claiming his channel was treading on eggshells. This of course, following the Capitol Hill incident. Ironic as it maybe, considering his success was a result of creative social media campaigning and where he rallied a huge number of supporters, the idea remains that we -the people – have the power to plug and unplug those who, supposedly, have the ultimate power – or do we? EU commissioner Thierry Breton described the events on Capitol Hill as “the 9/11 moment of social media” and, “the fact that a CEO can pull the plug on Potus’ (President of the United States) loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing” . The ethics behind the silencing of Trump is up for debate, but what is not, is the very fact that social media played an immense power in the rise and fall of Trump. Although what’s even more powerful than social media’s role in his downfall, is his very own use of social media that initiated his downfall to begin with.
There is no denying that Trump was a brilliant, and still is, user of social media. The whole orchestration of his account united huge numbers in a call to “make America great again” – in other words, the elevation of white supremacy – a notion nobody thought would have prevailed. He created phrases and words his followers, as well as ‘haters’, incorporated with their own phrases- “fake news”, “Sad!”, “haters and losers”, always making sure that every character of every tweet was impactful despite all those who called out his lunacy and child-like demeanour. “The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent, ” said Trump after he won his candidacy. Most notably Twitter was his preferred outlet, most successful outlet and an outlet to finally silence him after years of standing by.
However, much like Franz Reichelt – the tailor who created the first coat parachute and died testing it from the first deck of the Eiffel Tower – Trump destroyed himself in his attempt to further push that which he had already achieved. Most politicians Twitter accounts can be described as grey, yet what made Trump’s account colourful was the very fact that he decided to use Twitter just as ordinary people use Twitter, including spelling errors, long child-like rants, informal tones, outright insult of others and constant repetition of the same conceptions that obviously annoyed him. This was completely negligent as it ended in an assault that got several people killed. Although we all took light of the things he said as if they had no impact; we finally saw that actually they did. Unfortunately, it was too late, yet to prevent any further harm, he was shut down – something this social media genius could have avoided – which ultimately concluded his gradual descent into insanity.
To blame or praise social media in his demise is questionable. However, it would be more accurate to blame the man himself. Yes – we have the power to unplug even the highest of the high, but only if the plug is handed to us.