I have been watching the Netflix series “Anne with an E,” an adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic book “Anne of Greene Gables,” and I have become a fan of Anne.
Anne is intelligent, endlessly curious and able to find beauty and joy in elements of life that most of us would consider mundane.
She is also a tireless chatterbox. In the book she says, “I know I chatter on far too much… but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don’t. Give me SOME credit.”
I am thinking about Anne now as we sort though the controversy of President Trump and Twitter. Trump, like no other, has effectively used the social media platform to communicate directly with his supporters. He can dramatically shift the news cycle just by tapping out a few words on his phone.
But sometimes he goes too far.
One of Trump’s most recent examples of excess in 280 characters or less came when he suggested in a tweet that former Congressman and MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough murdered a former intern. There is absolutely no evidence of that, only wild conspiracy theories.
Even conservative media called out the President.
The Wall Street Journal opined, “But Mr. Trump is debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.” The Washington Examiner said Trump’s allegations were “incompatible with leadership” and “vile.”
Trump also tweeted out that mail-in ballots in the California election will be “substantially fraudulent” and that the election will be “rigged.”
The tweets caused Twitter to begin fact-checking the President’s tweets. “This decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month,” said Twitter. That prompted Trump to accuse Twitter—on Twitter—of “stifling FREE SPEECH” and thus violating the First Amendment.
As constitutional law experts Laurence Tribe and Carl Loeb point out in the Washington Post, Trump is mistaken. “The First Amendment applies to the government—not private actors like Twitter.”
So Twitter cannot violate the First Amendment. However, Tribe and Loeb say, Trump can be in violation if uses the power of the government to censor Twitter.
What a mess.
Trump supporters have a point when they argue that Twitter seems to be singling out Trump for special scrutiny when mountains of tweets of questionable accuracy fly through the Internet every second. Frankly, that bolsters the defensive crouch of some Trump backers who believe the media and the “deep state” are out to get him.
But the President continues to be his own worst enemy. Just like Anne, Trump would get more credit if there were a lot of things he wanted to say and didn’t.