Editorial: Trump can’t block out criticism
President Trump can’t block his opponents from his Twitter account.
That’s not because of last week’s federal appeals court ruling that upheld a lower court’s decision calling the presidential blocks unconstitutional.
Trump has just shy of 62 million followers on the social media platform. He has used it to reach past spokespeople and reporters and anchors and speak directly to people via tweets that have included official announcements and teases for upcoming action.
According to the court ruling, you can’t use social media for official purposes and simultaneously cut off those who don’t agree with you. The court has a good point.
But the court is also just wrong. Not about the law, but about the mechanics.
No one can be blocked from reading Trump’s tweets because they are unavoidable. To be blocked, you need a Twitter account. To find out what the president tweeted at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, you only need exposure to a TV. It will be covered relentlessly. It will be read to you, analyzed for you and debated for you.
Which brings us to responding to those tweets, because that’s the part the ruling really addresses — the First Amendment rights of the people to respond.
For multimillionaire “influencers” or trendy celebrities, blocking isn’t a First Amendment issue because individual citizens have no obligation to listen to what detractors say. The right to tell the guy in charge why you think he’s wrong is what we celebrate every Fourth of July, though, so the president or another elected official doesn’t have that same prerogative.
But observation tells us it is as impossible for Trump to block out his detractors as it is for the common folk to do the reverse. And for the same reason.
The president, whose own communications staff has said he has a pugnacious tendency to punch back at any perceived slight, is a voracious consumer of televised news.
He may have been able to block out Jane Doe or John Q. Public in the past, but those were individual voices in a crowd. Trump was and is absolutely aware that he has critics and what they are saying.
….Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party. Weak, ineffective & stupid are not exactly the qualities that Republicans, or the CITIZENS of our Country, were looking for. Right now our spirit is at an all time high, far better than the Radical Left Dems. You’ll see next year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2019
He has not blocked out the recent criticism of former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, or the linked-arm sisterhood of Democratic congresswomen known as “The Squad.”
Even if we never heard from the president’s critics, we would know who they are because of his responses to them.
He can’t block them. And he can’t block himself.