Politics: The banning of Trump and Parler – Game Changing?
January 11 2021
2020 was a truly remarkable year and for all the wrong reasons. We all know that it will go down in history as the year that saw some of the most basic freedoms taken for granted by almost everybody around the globe (and certainly in the west) removed by the diktat of the state, the power of government. The reason – or as many say, the excuse - of Covid-19 has seen businesses compelled to close down, people forced out of their jobs, imprisoned in their own homes and unable to go out unless carrying an official document giving permission to do so. Permission that will not be granted unless the state, or perhaps more accurately, an anonymous state official, approves of the applicant’s reason for going from their home to somewhere else.
(US President Donald Trump - Shealah Craighead/The White House)
It hasn’t got quite that bad in the UK yet but one could be forgiven for feeling confident that it will at some point because ten months after Covid-19, a disease brought on by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first arrived in the UK, we and many other countries are still locked down, still unable to travel within our own towns, never mind elsewhere in our own country or (horror!) to another. Keeping firmly on the path of accuracy however and at least within the confines of the UK, the current lockdown is actually the third. Which does of course, raise the immediate question; if the previous two didn’t work (which they didn’t), why will this one? It seems to be a consistent theme to the efforts of handling Covid-19; if something doesn’t work, keep doing it regardless until it either does or society has crumbled completely and there is nothing left to save.
Which seems to be more or less where we are now; a crossroads of some kind or perhaps even the entry to a junction with multiple roads ahead and none of us really know which one to take. Not knowing what to do is certainly applicable to the UK government and the other political parties of the UK. But that is a story of itself and one to which we will return another time. For now we need to learn some lessons of the past, something that humankind is notoriously bad at, which is why history repeats itself and lightning does strike not only twice but numerous times. Mixed in with all the other storms of present day life was the United States Presidential election on November 3 last year.
The MAGA strap-line struck a chord with many American voters when Donald Trump ran for office four years ago
(Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.)
Many commentators – including this one – predicted President Donald Trump would be a one-term President. US Presidents can serve only two terms of office as leader of their country and not securing a second period is often considered by some to mean any one-term President is a failure. This was certainly the case when Jimmy Carter was President from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981. But there are more of them than is often thought. Leaving aside those who either didn’t last a full term or who did but didn’t see out a second (for whatever reason) there are thirteen of them, Trump being the thirteenth. Whether or not the number has any bearing is one for others to comment on but there are also thirteen who did serve two full terms, including one – Grover Cleveland – who served both non-consecutively, the first being March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889 and the second from March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897. There is of course one other who served more than one term worthy of mention, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won four successive elections from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. Roosevelt passed away two months and twenty-three days into his fourth term. Today the US constitution indicates that a President may serve for just two terms but even though a one-term President is considered in some quarters to have been less than successful, against that is the counter-argument that presidents who win a second term in office are often referred to as ‘lame ducks,’ and the race to succeed them often begins even before their inauguration to a second term.
And here is where things get interesting. Whatever else may be said of him, Donald Trump is no lame duck. Had he won a second term, there is little doubt that he would have been determined not to merely see out the time, especially the final year but to do things and to be seen to be doing them. That of course is not a bad thing but it is the how and why of the man that says how matters might have – or might yet – play out.
I do not know Donald Trump. I’ve never met him, I’m unlikely to, so can only comment on what I see, read and hear. Preferably from a sound source and the horse’s mouth as it were, is as sound as any. Donald Trump’s use of social media, Twitter especially, has seen him be blunt, sometimes rude and not very diplomatic. Of itself that’s not a bad thing; watching his inauguration four years ago was fascinating as he tore strips off the established order during his acceptance speech as members of that order sat behind him looking uncomfortable. This is the key – it is one thing to be straight-talking, to come directly to the point. That is to be welcomed in politics, but there are ways of doing it without needlessly upsetting people. Donald Trump’s biggest flaw has been his inability to find the right way to handle adversity and his opponents; his failure to be diplomatic, his lack of talent when it comes to building relationships.
Whether or not there was fraud in the US election is a matter for the American people to comment on and decide what to do about but at such times, it is not a smart move to further alienate those opposed to him, as Trump undoubtedly did with his tweets about a crooked election. Whether it was crooked or not is not for me to say, except to suggest that the fact the question arises to begin with, is a matter of huge concern. That Trump was within his rights and indeed right to comment on the possibility of fraud and vote rigging and to seek proof along with redress is indisputable in any free society. So is the right for him to be offensive and for others to be offended. But there are ways and there are ways…
The result of Donald Trump’s methods has been threefold; the first we saw last week as the heart of democracy and government in the USA was overrun by a mob. This cannot be condoned. It is not the way to bring about change, whatever the cause. The second are the highly disturbing moves to prevent Trump from having his say via social media – to ban him from using it. If one is going to set up a social network website and make it free to use for everybody, then it must be so for everybody – including President Trump and his opponents. This does not give licence for people to say what they want, however they want and it is also right that when people are gratuitously offensive, they should be called out for it. But just as on-off, continual lockdowns are not the answer to Covid-19 neither is simply banning a person from speaking their mind. Doing both is the mark only of the dictator.
The third aspect to this is the most sinister. Governments generally do not like social media. They do not because it gives ordinary people a platform to say their piece; to build relationships with others of like mind. This can be good or bad, depending on how it is used and the nature of those using it – humankind has a remarkable ability to take a good thing and turn it into a bad thing, but the net result of the commentary from some quarters, and the manner of that commentary, has been government pressure worldwide on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to name just three, to compel them to rein in their users. This is why huge numbers of accounts have indeed been banned by social media in recent times, Donald Trump being the latest.
The same applies to Parler. Seen by many as a beacon for free speech and an alternative to Twitter when it began deleting accounts, Parler grew rapidly but as it did so, also becoming (as some opposed to it described) a nest of far-right extremism. There may be ‘some’ truth in this as I found when I used it briefly. It is of course, for individuals to decide for themselves to use it or not but one of my final posts on it was to say that unless users posted with more care, Parler would come under the same pressures as the others already have. And I’ve been proved right with the news that the site’s host will stop providing it with its service, effectively shutting Parler down until and unless it finds another host.
Many immediately blame the host but perhaps they should look closer to home. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right but with it comes responsibility. Not a responsibility to refrain from being offensive necessarily but a responsibility to yourself. For where does your voice go if, by your own actions, you end up cutting yourself off from communicating with the world? Once that happens, it really will be the era of George Orwell’s book, 1984. And that will be the saddest, most game-changing and most tragic outcome of all.
© Kevan James 2021
Opinions expressed on KJM Today are those of the authors concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views or official policies of KJM Today.