Prologue: Trump as Big Brother
You do not need me to tell you that Donald Trump has a distant relationship with the truth. The man says what he needs to say at that particular moment as if nothing he said in the past ever happened. The truth is what he says it is on any given day and we have always been at war with East Asia. Well, the social media machine fought back. Some context first, then I want to look at Twitter’s response: the fact check. This is a serious Pandora’s Box. But some background first.
Background: Trump as Liar in Chief
Trump posted a Tweet stating that mail-in ballots will be ‘substantially fraudulent’. Two points here: first there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are any more or less fraudulent than in-person voting. Second, the last time an election used mail-in ballots for a special election, the Republican won. It truly is remarkable how quickly Trump can utterly contradict himself. Vote by mail is totally fraudulent but the Republican won. Amazing. This is analogous to his 2016 claims that the electoral college was a disaster for democracy – when it looked like he would lose.
He is such a child, turning on a dime for purely selfish motives. He truly has the mentality of a toddler: all he can see is his own desires. Anyone who meets his demands is his best friend (for now) and anyone who stymies him in any way is the worst person in the history of the world. He is a pathological liar: a glance at anything he has said in any forum since his time in office will reveal at least one exaggeration, misleading statement or outright lie. Anyone with the gall to call him on his lies is ‘fake news’, best understood as any coverage that is unfavourable.
A Look at Trump’s Lies: The Gish Gallop
Now you might say all politicians lie, and that is true. But there is a dimension to Trump’s lies that is unique. His claims are so outrageous that any attempt to fact check him would require so much effort and resources that it is counterproductive. This Presidency is a Gish Gallop. That term comes from a religious apologist debater named Dwayne Gish who would say so many things that were so wrong that the opponent would spend all their time correcting him and not be able to make their own case. Trump revels in this: he sets the narrative (or has it set) through his symbiotic relationship with Fox Noise and dismisses any criticism as Fake News. To return to the toddler analogy, this is the equivalent of fingers in the ears ‘la la la la la la’ nonsense; from a 73-year-old man. Seriously
Twitter Responds: The Fact Check
In a recent article, The New York Times discussed the introduction of the Fact Check. Twitter introduced it following Tweets from Trump implicating former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough in the accidental death of an employee in his office. She died of natural causes related to an undiagnosed heart condition, but Trump never let the facts get in the way of a good vendetta. Her family was, as we might expect, outraged and appealed to Twitter. The company would not remove the Tweets but did apologise. When Trump tweeted about the mail-in ballots, the rationale was that misinformation about voting could cause confusion and thus warranted a correction.
Naturally, Trump and his campaign were outraged at someone stymying Trump’s ongoing campaign of BSing the electorate. Trump himself went so far as to accuse Twitter of interfering in the election and of ‘stifling FREE SPEECH’. A Fact Check of my own, if I may: the First Amendment prevents the government from restricting freedom of speech.
The issue for the rest of this piece (and possibly others to come) is this: Does Trump have a point?
Publisher or Platform: What is Twitter?
In a recent segment on Rising, Saagar Enjeti raised the fundamental question of What is Twitter. If it is a publisher, there are certain restrictions on what it can put into the public domain. If, however, it is merely a platform, a sort of ‘bathroom wall’ where anyone can write as they please, then the situation is different. Is it the place of Twitter or any other social media site to ‘fact check’ the posts that are made? Who is qualified to make such judgements? And who watches the watchers?
Do you hire a physician to fact check anti-vaxxer claims? A climate scientist to fact check climate-deniers? An actual economist to debunk trickle-down? This gets very close to what Saagar called Technocratic Oligarchy, that is the rule by a few experts. Even if I think that claim is somewhat exaggerated, I can see the point. In particular, Saagar notes the presence of an openly anti-Trump ‘fact-checker’ on Twitter. This clown actually said that states that voted for Trump are called ‘flyover country’ for a reason. He also compared the Trump Administration to ‘ACTUAL NAZIS’ – which, for all their flaws, they are not.
Who are The Fact Checkers?
Who is qualified to check facts as I asked above? No matter who is chosen, whether a left-leaning outlet like Kyle Kulinski, TYT, Sam Seder, or a right-leaning outlet like Ben Shapiro or Rush Limbaugh, all of these people have their bias. But they would not even be considered as potential fact-checkers since they are not ‘authoritative’, a term best understood as the establishment. An example of a fact-checking piece is this one from CNN on Trump’s claims about mail-voting. Keep in mind this is the same CNN who peddled the Russia-Gate nonsense for four years. This is the same mainstream media that quite openly does establishment propaganda. Are these the people we wish to have as ‘fact-checkers’? Do we really want Bernie Sanders or AOC’s claims about M4A to be ‘fact-checked’ by CNN and MSNBC, networks openly hostile to the idea? This is not about checking facts, this is about control of information.
Conclusion: He Who Controls the Past Controls the Future
The year 2020 has officially turned into 1984, with Twitter as the Ministry of Truth. Anyone on the ‘resistance left’ supporting this has a severe case of shortsightedness. Such a policy can easily be turned against any group when Wrongthink becomes the order of the day. The original purpose of Twitter was as a platform. Now I am as pro-fact as the next person, but until First Contact with the Vulcans is made, pure impartiality is not possible.
Twitter needs to abandon this policy quickly. Not because Trump is the President subject to a different set of rules, but because a platform is just that. A blank canvas onto which people put their ideas. The response to factual errors is to have the media (laugh along with me) point them out and put correct information (facts) in place of the erroneous statements. Twitter fact-checkers set a dangerous precedent and should be abandoned quickly.
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