LAST March 6, Beau Willimon, better known for creating the political TV drama “House of Cards,” proposed that US President Trump’s account on Twitter be shut down.
In a 16-tweet thread, Willimon listed arguments, which range from making violent threats, harassment and hate speech to endangering national security and provoking sovereign states.
Trump’s staff can pad the list, the most disconcerting of which is that being unfiltered, a tweet, usually made at dawn when there’s no adviser around to caution him, can bring more harm than good. He can cause similar damage though, his critics say, on whatever platform he communicates.
The president hasn’t given up tweeting rashly, which he stepped up during the election campaign. The high office he now occupies has even enhanced the danger, given “the real and significant impact” of whatever a president says.
It does give him direct access to his constituents. Bypasses the media that he hates, especially when it doesn’t praise him. Combats, in a way, negative publicity.
But it also opens the gate to outlandish, false and crazy ideas with no gatekeeper to regulate content and flow. It also blows up the blooper and spreads it across the world.
Media is familiar with the barriers and screens that protect the president’s image. Shouldn’t journalists welcome an unfiltered president?
In a way, yes, but not when Trump uses it to confound and distract the issue. US journalists, as citizens, must cringe when their president comes out as a liar or a buffoon in his tweets, when he could’ve used it as a helpful tool, not to cause self-inflicted injury.
Terms of service
Willimon and others who’re concerned about Trump’s tweeting habits have asked Twitter, under its terms of service, to suspend or close down Trump’s account. But Trump is more than a celebrity; he’s the most powerful leader in the free world. Twitter grapples with the issue of free speech versus responsible conduct. And this: it’s the president whom Twitter is asked to gag. Drop @realDonaldTrump and @Potus?
Besides, requests from Willimon and other critics may be directed to Trump himself who, before he assumed office, already talked of taming his tweeting habit. He must know the pitfalls of unrestricted and ill-studied public pronouncements by a US president.
What would it take Trump to regulate his tweeting?
Not for tweeting last week “covfefe” (“Despite continued negative media covfefe”), which he must have intended for the word “coverage” but he dozed or wandered off. He later exploited the apparent gaffe to tease and egg the public on a search for its meaning: “Enjoy!”
Maybe a tweet that would burn and scald would finally prompt prudence in firing off his messages.