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Twitter deranged our politics

By Rich Lowry on

Donald Trump was the president of Twitter.

What radio was to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and TV was to Ronald Reagan, communicating 280 characters at a time on a social media platform that is a watchword for hyperactive inanity was to President Trump.

It is symbolically appropriate that the effective end of his power after the siege of the U.S. Capitol has coincided with the suspension of his Twitter account.

He may well get impeached a second time, but for now, the punishment that really stings is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey deciding after sitting down with his woke colleagues that Trump must pay the ultimate price for his post-election misinformation and agitation.

This judgment is as arbitrary as Dorsey's worst critics would expect, and it will be impossible for Twitter to enforce anything resembling a consistent line following its Trump suspension (the platform didn't seem particularly exercised by all of the voices valorizing last summer's riots as an "uprising").

But there's no doubting Dorsey's power. He has rendered the president of the United States practically mute.

 

Trump remains in the Oval Office and, in theory, commands the biggest megaphone on the planet. He could still make statements, hold press conferences, sit down for interviews or meet with his cabinet. In his reduced and isolated state, though, none of these options are as appealing as letting his thumbs do his work for him, one outlandish tweet at a time.

Now that this avenue is foreclosed to him, he's less of a presence, even as the political world continues to be obsessed with him (in particular, the manner of his exit from office).

It's not exactly a slow news environment. Yet, without Trump's tweets stirring the pot at all times of the day, the nation's political debate feels a little less fevered.

Twitter is Exhibit A for Marshall McLuhan's axiom that the medium is the message. There is plenty of worthy news coverage and real-time commentary on Twitter. But that's not where the emotional center of gravity is, as one would expect of a platform built for instantaneous, unfiltered reactions.

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