Sunday, January 10, 2021

Hey, Twitter, Are You Sure About This?

 It's John Harris, no stranger to the need for alternative media, at Politico, which he co-founded:

For a half-century, the trend in political culture has been inexorably in one direction: toward the steady loosening and eventually the near-obliteration of media filters.

If someone has a voice that other people want to hear, that voice is going to be heard. No smug editor at the New York Times or damn anchorman at CBS News is going to get in the way. Who the hell elected them, after all, to decide what points of view were worthy of dissemination, what facts or rumors or even flat falsehoods should reach average citizens, who could decide for themselves what to make of it?

The erosion of traditional establishment filters — first by such mediums as direct mail, talk radio and cable, later and most powerfully by social media — has been a primary factor in the rise of potent ideological movements on right and left alike.

It is why the election and bizarre presidency of an insurgent disruptor like Donald J. Trump — inconceivable in the 20th century era of establishment media—was eminently conceivable in this era.

And it is why the decision Friday night by Twitter to permanently ban Trump from its platform is a signal moment — a historic move, even before we know the consequences that will flow from it.

It represents an effort to reassert the notion that filters have a place in political communication and that some voices have lost their claim on public legitimacy — even when that voice has 89 million followers and is just two months past receiving the second-highest number of votes in U.S. election history.

Twitter’s announcement was made with a righteous air, as the company said it was acting “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” after Trump’s raucous lies about a stolen election inspired backers to take over the Capitol on Wednesday. Across a wide spectrum of politicians and commentators, there were exultations of relief, many mingled with it’s-about-time exasperation.

Twitter’s move is plainly an effort to act responsibly in the face of Trump’s irresponsible words and actions.

Even so, the question seems unavoidable: Are you sure about this?

Still more.