Donald Trump is one of the most potent threats to democracy anywhere in the world. He has appalling views and prejudices, not least towards people of colour and women. Soon he may formally launch his own personal political movement, with a speech at the CPAC conference.
He is a very dangerous man. That is why he should be back on Twitter.
Why do I want him on my Twitter feed? Precisely because Trump is dangerous and because he still matters. He is important, though he does not deserve to be. I want – need – to hear what he has to say, even if it is offensive. Especially if it is offensive.
You can’t get rid of Trump by silencing him on one social media platform, particularly the one on which he’s most likely to be challenged. The only thing that happens is that he and his followers retreat into more and more extreme virtual echo chambers.
When Twitter banned Trump they had every right to do so, but I thought it wrong at the time. As Twitter had already showed, it was possible to add warnings and delete the messages that broke their guidelines, and indeed the law, or the norms of common decency.
The outright ban on Trump was disproportionate and played into his absurd self-image as the underdog fighting a corporate conspiracy on behalf of left-behind Americans. It was the wrong way to deal with him. Now that his impeachment has failed and he’s been acquitted, Trump should be allowed his say, though with safeguarding.
Do not get me wrong: I would much rather Trump was not at large and that he’d taken the heavy hint the American people dropped last November. He was subsequently found not guilty of incitement to insurrection by the United States Senate. Formally and legally, that is the end of that matter, though we all know he is capable of anything.
We need to know about this menace to society, and directly. Uncomfortable as it is, he is still adored by millions of Americans. They believe the election was stolen (even if Trump secretly doesn’t and is using them). They’d vote him in again tomorrow or in 2024. Kicking him off Twitter makes little difference to that, except to make them feel more victimised and marginalised on his behalf.
If Trump lashes out on Twitter with some piece of race hate, Twitter can, should and will delete it. If he rants on about Joe Biden selling out to Iran or China, that’s fine, and that’s part of free speech.
There’s a way of dealing with Trump over the next few years but it means learning the right lessons from the horrible experiences of 2016 to 2020. A total and complete shutdown of Trump on Twitter never made much sense, but it makes none at all now.