Donald Trump Has Weaponized Twitter Against People of Color. Trivializing It Reeks of White Privilege.


At the Democratic primary debate on Tuesday, Kamala Harris challenged Elizabeth Warren - who has called for breaking up big tech companies - to join her in calling for Twitter to ban Donald Trump because of his incendiary, violence-inspiring tweets. “No!” retorted Warren, before launching into her campaign line about antitrust enforcement. Harris pressed the point a few times to no avail.

Much of the media, and especially Warren’s fans, subsequently berated Harris for arguing about Twitter’s terms of service, which Trump violates daily. The gist of the barrage against Harris, put in the best light, dismissed her narrow focus in what they claimed is a much broader and further reaching public policy debate. Why is Harris worked up about banning Trump from Twitter based on the social media platform’s own terms of service when there is a much bigger debate to be had about corporate power and market control of the social media giants?

CNBC’s Lauren Hirsh characterized Harris’s position as a “bait”, which she praised Warren for not taking. The Week’s Bonnie Kristian joined in, adding that Trump’s tweets serve to expose his vile nature to the American people, so they are better left up. Jon Lovett, founder of liberal outlet Crooked Media, belittled Harris’s point as a spur over “system admin”, and Tommy Vietor, cohost of Pod Save America and the other founder of Crooked Media insisted it was “small ball.”

This is emblematic of the horrifying dismissal of the real lives of people of color that has been commonplace in white left-leaning media, gatekeeper progressive activists, and the progressive intelligentsia at least for the past decade. It is no surprise that the belittling of Harris’s call is dominated by white progressives, in support of a position taken by a white liberal running for the presidency.

And in truth, it would appear that the dismissive candidates and commentators are the ones out of touch, as 74% of Americans support social media platforms either suspending or banning the account of a US president when they post or share offensive content.

Kamala Harris is not calling for Trump’s Twitter account to be suspended willy-nilly. She is not even attempting to enforce Twitter’s rules to the contravention of free speech - even though social media platforms, as private companies, are not bound by the First Amendment and often do limit speech that the government could not ban. Harris’s call to suspend Trump from Twitter is about the physical safety of those Trump regularly threatens on the platform: things like the call to illegally unmask the whistleblower who went through proper channels to reveal corruption, tweets that inspired the worst terrorist attack in history targeting American Latinos by a white supremacist terrorist, and tweets threatening civil war.

When Chris Hayes of MSNBC asked the question to Sen. Harris face to face, she obliterated the smugness off Hayes’ face. “Free speech does not protect threats to the safety of other human beings,” Harris declared. Watch the full exchange:

Lots of people have been kicked off social media for a lot less. Presidents and public officials ought not be allowed to incite violence simply because they are presidents and public officials, nor should different sets of rules apply to members of the general public and those who are charged with serving the public interest.

Twitter, in the meantime, has defended its decision to continue to allow Donald Trump to incite murder and violence by making itself the arbiter of the “public interest” and creating a “world leader” exception to its rules, but that’s a subject for a different post.

But let’s get back to the subject at hand: white-dominated self-anointed progressives’ propensity to delegate Harris’s call against violent weaponization of a social media platform to a “system admin” debate is, unfortunately, yet another example of how white privilege permeates the liberal intelligentsia in this country.

This is not a joke to black men being killed by police officers while gasping for breath as the president embraces and defends their actions. This is not a joke to transpeople of color being attacked and killed as the president dehumanizes them and seeks to purge transpeople whose only crime is to want to serve our country in uniform. This is not a joke to Latinos who are targeted daily for harassment, physical danger, and as we have seen in El Paso, terrorist attacks. This is not a joke to Muslims who are shot up in their place of worship at home and across the ocean and the president of the United States matches the language of the shooter and calls immigrants ‘invaders.’

People are dying at the hands of white-supremacist terrorists. People are being harassed and their safety threatened. People who do the right thing are having their legal protections threatened by a president. Members of Congress who dare to stand up to Trump are being mailed pipe bombs by white terrorists.

This is not a joke.

Except, it seems, to white progressive gatekeepers who are so blinded by their white privilege that they do not see the real threats to the lives, livelihoods, and safety of their fellow human beings. They are so wrapped up in the idea of checkbox socialism that to them, the “bigger” issue is the academic debate about how big and rich the social media companies are and shouldn’t be, and to them it is “small” to talk about the clear, present, and immediate danger from a president’s use of social media. They are so blinded by savior politics that they believe it is enough to condemn individual instances of white supremacist violence while failing to thread together the dangerous, unsafe environment of white supremacist terrorism that black and brown Americans live - and DIE - in fear of every day.

This is not a joke. And this is not a drill.

It’s time white gatekeeper progressives checked their privilege at those gates. It is time they asked their candidates why those candidates are unwilling to address a current and fast-moving danger to the lives and safety of people of color. And it’s time for all candidates to join Sen. Harris’s call to save lives.