Monday, January 30, 2023

The tweets that got Trump banned were far from the worst

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I have always thought that if Donald Trump were banned from Twitter, it would be for one of two reasons. Either he would tweet something that crossed the line even for him – an explicit death threat, for example – or he would leave the White House and stop benefiting from Twitter’s lenient rules for public figures.

Neither storyline shows how Trump’s career on Twitter ultimately ended. Friday night, with only 12 days remaining in his presidency and two days after a mob of his supporters stormed the United States Capitol, killing several, Twitter said he had permanently suspended Trump’s account “because of the risk of further incitement to violence.” The pair of tweets that did it, however, wouldn’t even break its glaring thousand pluss:

“The 75,000,000 great American patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and Make AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a giant voice in the future. They will not be looked down upon or treated unfairly in any way, form or form !!! “

“To everyone who has asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on January 20.”

To understand how these seemingly innocuous (by Trump’s standards, anyway) tweets caused the President of the United States to quit Twitter, we have to go back to Wednesday’s murderous chaos. Hours after the siege on Capitol Hill, Trump released a short video telling rioters to “go home.” But in the video, he also repeated the false claim behind the riot that the election was stolen from him. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all removed the post. In their eyes, the video was more likely to provoke violence than to suppress it. On Thursday, Facebook and Twitter froze Trump’s accounts – finally taking the dramatic step they had avoided throughout his presidency.

Like I wrote Thursday, the striking thing about account suspensions was that Trump hadn’t really crossed any new lines; scandalous as his message is, he has at least told his supporters to step back. The rest was just classic Trump. Falsely claiming voter fraud and praising even his most despicable supporters is just what the man is doing, and he has been doing it for the past four years. What has changed, then, is not Trump’s behavior on platforms, but rather the facts on the ground: with the Capitol trashed and bloodshed, the assumption that Trump’s language could incite violence had been replaced by the simple fact that had.


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