The day of January 6, when he threw the lightning bolt that threw Donald Trump off Twitter and into darkness, should have been @ jack’s debut as an Imperial overlord. But @jack never seems to flinch. It can be maddening. Just when you want him to act Churchillian, @jack is more reluctant than ever, a number, more Sphinx than Zeus. Last summer, The New York Times asked Jack Dorsey if he was “one of the most powerful people in the world”, and his voice was like a tone: “No.”
On January 13, @jack spoke ambivalent about Trump’s ban, ruminating on how to deal with the “offline damage resulting from online speech” while knowing “the lofty purpose and ideals of the open Internet ”. He left his thoughts unfinished.
Dorsey doesn’t typically use Twitter to tweet. “I use it to listen, observe and understand our world and my world and myself,” he told the Times. At the same time, he sees Twitter as a cosmic truth, a force that mysteriously predates its co-creation in 2006. Twitter “isn’t something we really made up. This is something that we have discovered. Like suffering, like samsara, Twitter was just still there.
Forty-four-year-old Jack Patrick Dorsey, the reclusive and peripatetic maxibillionaire of St. Louis, presumably exists in time and space, somewhere behind his Twitter handle. But it’s @jack, that numinous avatar, who is credited with endowing his kingdom with the relative well-being, tranquility and order that only seems to bless us when Donald Trump is in exile from civilization. The nation would get to know these unknown sensations when President Biden was inaugurated, weeks after @jack, or someone acting on his behalf, declared the excommunication. In retrospect, @jack wasn’t just decisive and quick; he was prescient. We could therefore forgive him for giving a press conference on football. But in the weeks that followed, he remained just as elusive as Q. Or the Holy Spirit. Or Shiva the destroyer.
And so it has been for four strange years. @jack is everywhere and nowhere. He is either the emperor of geopolitics or a lost druid. The relatively small but boisterous slice of Twitter that is preoccupied with US politics has come to imagine @jack, the author of our collective Twitter, as all-powerful. We call him, but he remains silent. We beg him to strike the trolls; he does nothing. We beg him to exile the Nazis; he retired to a meditation cushion. Sometimes (like in 2017) it add characters to our rations. Sometimes (like in 2020) it features Fleets, which nobody asked for. Because, like other deities, he’s temperamental – and often doesn’t seem to exist – we’re stuck with tea leaves: what he likes, tweets, retweets. None of this matches. All that can be said for sure is that @jack in general likes a laissez-faire Twitter – whether it’s Buddhist acceptance of what is, cheerful indifference, catch-all libertarianism, or worry about its own. inexperienced capacity for moral discernment.
When embodied, as in occasional appearances and paparazzi photos, Jack Dorsey does little to deny the online fantasy of him. In October, while he testified before Congress via video, he wore a gray-brown beard a foot long and a gold ring in his left nostril. Once a model and handyman from Missouri enchanted with dispatch technology, then a slender billionaire on the TED-Davos tour, Dorsey has now gone to Elminster Aumar. Her deep eyes can still be called piercing, and the vanity of her first blue steel pose is not lost. What is lost is the look of complacency that defines the young founders in search of capital. Dorsey, like @jack, isn’t delivering to anyone anymore.