President Trump’s laughable claim of worries about free speech risks is not the reason he has refused to co-sign an international clarion call by France, New Zealand and top social media firms to combat online extremism. (See New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statement at Paris news conference starting at 21:00 in video below.)
The real reason for the president’s caution is that he’s worried tamping down extremism on the web might also tamp down the metastasizing power of the hate-mongering, racist, xenophobic bigotry that his supporters spew across social media to broaden and turbo-charge his virulent political brand.
It’s a large part of how he got elected, and an important perpetuator of his corrupt presidency.
What, me racist?
Keep in mind that the president has labored mightily before and after he was in office to not be held accountable for his patently racist views, which his supporters share, amplify and spread worldwide.
If you still don’t think the president has strong racist leanings and tendencies toward hypocrisy:
- Remember his full-page New York Times add many years ago denouncing New York City’s so-named “Central Park Five,” who he demanded be punished for allegedly raping and beating a female investment-banker jogger (she remained comatose for 12 days) — and continued to demand even after the all-black suspects were fully exonerated (in the real sense of the term, not the one the president ignorantly uses)?
- Remember his contention that Mexican immigrants were predominantly “rapists” and “murderers”?
- Remember during his campaign when he refused to reject the endorsement of Ku Klux Klan ex-Grand Wizard David Duke by lying to reporters that he didn’t know him (when he knew him well)?
- Remember his castigating immigrants from “shit-hole countries,” and much preferring white people from, say, Scandinavia?
- Remember his characterization of neo-Nazi thugs as “fine people” at the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia, gathering in 2017, in which a skin-head racist killed a bystander by running over her with his car?
- Remember his clueless recent claim that mounting anti-Semitic bigotry and killings in the U.S. and abroad is just the work “of a small number of people with serious problems” and not the broad epidemic it actually is?
- Remember his hiring for decades of undocumented aliens and paying them squat, after creating illegal employment documents for them — while spending most of his first two years in office holding the country hostage while he tried to force Congress to build a huge, unneeded wall on the southern border to keep immigrants out?
- Remember when he had immigration officials separate children from their asylum-seeking alien parents at the border, and then incarcerating the kids in cages?
- Remember how he still made sure his immigrant wife’s parents were formally welcomed into the U.S. under the same “chain-migration” policies he has attacked for years and vowed to dismantle?
Social media: Trump’s big stick
The only reason Donald Trump has evaded accountability for his unconscionable, bigoted behavior is the tens of millions of Americans who unfathomably voted for him and continue to glorify his every utterance and act.
And most of this slavish support happens on social media and in “dark web” sites elsewhere.
The president knows full well that his political power would be reduced in direct proportion to a curbing of his internet devotees’ ability to spread nationalist, white-supremacist hate, bigotry and misinformation in his name.
If only the “Christchurch Call to Action” initiative announced this week in Paris could also target Fox News. The initiative is named after the New Zealand city where an Australian white-supremacist extremist on April 15 murdered 51 Muslims in two mosque attacks and injured 50 more. A Jewish woman was killed in a similar hate attack on an American synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27.The White Houser issued this statement regarding this week’s “Call to Action” initiative:
“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”
‘Credible, alternative narratives’
As if his virulent supporters are susceptible to “productive speech” or “credible, alternative narratives.” They are intellectual one-trick ponies.
President Trump, who has a clear vested interest in bigotry, knows full well that his political survival rests entirely on squelching all such speech born of objective critical thinking that might threaten his personal goals and desires.
Such “alternative” speech likely to come out of this Christchurch initiative would presumably try to more robustly identify and crush all clear hate speech online and elsewhere that incites violence. Which would likewise tend to crush much of the president’s political support.
Of course, Republican senators, in particular ones up for re-election in 2020, will continue to slavishly support the president, probably even if he shoots someone in broad daylight in Times Square, as he is fond of saying.
Let’s hope the “Christchurch Call to Action” will at least reduce virulent online hatefulness and the killings it continues to spawn, whether this president unconscionably refuses to support such essential action or not.
All indications are that he will continue to withhold his support.
For instance, on Wednesday, the Trump administration publicly invited social media users to tell the White House if they believe their free speech is being infringed due to their conservative political views by companies such as Facebook and Twitter. They even offered a convenient “share your story” form to the president’s 18.5 million Twitter followers.
Considering this is not an issue of free speech but of online incitement to violence and terrorism against “others,” you can see where the president is coming from.
For selfish reasons, he doesn’t want it to stop.