The world, or at least Twitter, awoke Saturday morning to an extraordinary series of retweets from the site’s most infamous user, @realdonaldtrump.
Among those he retweeted: Paul Joseph Watson, the controversial Alex Jones adjacent; Lauren Southern, the right-wing internet celebrity and filmmaker, and for good measure, an account called ‘Deep State Exposed’ which seems most intent on exposing Islam’s quest for global dominion.
Or giving a handful of giant partisan corporations the power to decide who has free speech?
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) May 2, 2019
‘Lmao [laugh my ass off],’ said Southern, in a missive, again, retweeted by the president of the United States. ‘At establishment conservatives who think they won’t be labeled the new “dangerous” / “extremist” voices when those to the right of them are all banned. Good luck with that one guys.’
This could be revered as a watershed moment. The renegade president has taken the side of the internet sans culottes – and embarked on a new crusade against Silicon Valley.
Until this week, most bans have been meted out by Twitter – the province of reporters and late-night Riesling drinkers. The clampdowns on Facebook are arguably the most significant. This, remember, is the internet platform on which, to the ownership’s horror, Right routed Left in 2016.
Trump’s early morning sop to the internet Right is a concession, if not a calculation: he thinks he needs these guys, and at some level, he knows he owes his ascension to them. Doubtless he is playing with fire – as this White House has been vexed by lingering associations to the alt-right. But Donald Trump relishes risk.
A source close to the White House told me that administration allies were preparing potential presidential Twitter responses to the latest round of digital purges all Friday. Trumpworld knows this is an issue which exercises the base.
Is the president trying to goad Joe Biden, his most feared rival, into defending the unfettered might of the social media giants? Will Biden take the bait?