The POTUS kicked off the new year with a nuclear threat, or if you prefer, “nuke-tweet.”
It made for breaking news and major headlines. The notion of Trump cavalierly tweeting about nuclear warfare raised a red flag. Let’s just say that when the schoolyard, cyber-bullying rhetoric ventures into uncharted territory, people tend to get a little squeamish.
An organization called “Resistance SF” reacted by projecting images onto Twitter corporate headquarters.
Their objective was to call out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and hold him and his company accountable. They’re worried that some of Trump’s more provocative tweets could incite violence. They contend that some of his tweets should be removed for not adhering to the twitter “fine print” social media standards. Others are calling for the suspension of Trump’s twitter account altogether.
“You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”
Not many people actually read those lengthy e-disclaimers, but that’s the precise jargon for twitter’s code of conduct. From a legal standpoint, the wording seems a little vague.
Jack Dorsey has defended the @realDonaldTrump account, claiming it’s “newsworthy” and there’s a “legitimate public interest in its availability.” He also maintains the importance of high level conversations being transparent, as opposed to secretive.
But Resistance SF fired back, “@jack breaks the rules of his own company, Twitter, to amplify a madman and endanger the world. Jack Dorsey must resign or ban @realDonaldTrump.”
I think you can make a reasonably fair argument for both sides. But it seems to me there’s an entrenched conflict in play… and it isn’t going to magically resolve itself anytime soon. That’s the prospect of Trump’s twitter feed being “weaponized.” And when I say weaponized, I’m not being metaphorical. I’m specifically referring to the prospect of people getting killed due to an errant Trump tweet.
Alright, let me walk you through some of the trends.
Let’s take a look at three statements. One posted on twitter. The other spoken on the campaign trail. And third, a carefully scripted, recent statement to the press.
This certainly sounds like Trump is contemplating the death, or at the very least, the political elimination of Kim Jong Un and his foreign minister. It’s either that, or he’s considering the incineration of North Korea. Not sure it makes much of a difference. If it’s intended as a joke, it doesn’t sound particularly humorous. And at a bare minimum, it’s incongruent with twitter social media standards.
Here’s a memorable comment from a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa:
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
The thought of being gunned down by Trump? I’ll tell you one thing. It makes me less inclined to stand in the middle of 5th Avenue. Now granted, I’ll concede he didn’t tweet this. But what if he posted a link? Redirecting you to the speech in its entirety? How exactly does that work? What’s the official twitter policy on hyperlinks. Does twitter adequately monitor all of those pesky redirects? Every day, there’s a total of around 6,000 tweets per second. That’s 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. And that’s just the tweets. What about all the memes, the hashtags, the links, the websites, and so forth? My hunch is that 100% of all this electronic drivel is NOT being carefully monitored under the guise of public safety, let alone national security.
On January 4, 2017, the Trump administration released a statement regarding a newly published book about chaos and dysfunction in the White House.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Making an accusation about an individual’s state of mental health and framing it in the form of a disease? Do you remember the official twitter guideline? “You may not wish for the serious physical harm or disease of an individual.” Of course, Trump hasn’t posted that material on twitter… yet.
Takeaway — Regardless of how you perceive these tweets, lines or written statements. Whether you think they’re honest and non-scripted. Whether you think they’re dangerous or eye-dropping. I think it’s safe to say that they are, at the very least, a “departure from the norm.” Now ask yourself a simple question. Is this situation likely to deescalate and improve? Or is it more likely to devolve and implode? Call me a critic, but I’m going with the latter. You might recall the ubiquitous 1970’s bumper sticker… SHIT HAPPENS. Well that’s because… it does.
Back to the nuke tweet. Most people viewed it in terms of apocalyptic consequence. To be so flippant about the prospect of millions being radiologically annihilated is indeed a conundrum. Tone and tenor are difficult to decipher with messages of limited character(s). Adding to the dilemma, Trump isn’t exactly known for subtlety or the ability to convey nuance and complexity. Most everything he tweets is either blatantly antagonistic or audaciously self-congratulatory.
But even as preposterously terrifying as it is, my concerns really aren’t about the nuke tweet. I believe there to be “alternative Trump twitter scenarios” which are both dangerously realistic and realistically dangerous.
For example, Trump is well known for decrying the fake news media. He often singles out specific journalists. What if one of his most fervent supporters felt he was getting the green light to murder a member of the press, an enemy of the people? In the aftermath of the intentional killing of a high profile journalist, one whom Trump ostensibly demonized on twitter… would the company take a more proactive stance in actively monitoring, and if necessary, censoring, further future pugilistic tweets?
Trump occasionally makes disparaging tweets directed at Fortune 500 companies. Coincidentally, sometimes stocks go down. If Trump tweeted something bizarre and it had a crushing impact on the company’s bottom line, well… that just might resonate with employees. Hey, if you lose a significant portion of your life savings or 401K, it’s bound to have a detrimental effect on the company’s collective psyche. Let’s just hope that Trump’s doesn’t antagonize Smith & Wesson. There could very well be some ugly workplace ramifications. Even worse, Lockheed Martin.
Protests are another area of concern. Increasingly common in the era of Trump. What if he tweeted a suddenly unexpected, time-sensitive daytime curfew in order to break up protests that were already underway? I seriously doubt Trump has an extensive grasp of the freedom of assembly provisions in the First Amendment. And I’m not so sure he’d think the rules apply to him regardless. After all, he’s the duly elected commander in chief. He’s the boss. He calls the shots. Right? And what about future tweets? Future protests? How would all of that pan out?
What if Trump tweeted that he was ordering the National Guard to be stationed throughout “trouble spots” in Chicago? What if such a pronouncement resulted in spontaneous looting and random violence in the streets? Where do we go from there? What’s the official twitter strategy?
All of these scenarios have one thing in common. Based on historical evidence, they all fall within the spectrum of that which is reasonably predictable.
But hands down, my biggest concern is an “X” event (black swan). It stems from Trump’s twitter obsession and his perpetual feud with the National Football League.
What if Trump witnessed something “disrespectful” during the national anthem of Super Bowl 52? Maybe a player taking a knee, or wearing a “Trump is a Loser” ballcap, or not adequately conforming to his perceived sense of patriotic nationalism? It really could be anything.
And what if he lashed out during the Super Bowl with a twitter tantrum? Seriously, Trump isn’t exactly known for his measured analytical capabilities. His most passionate tweets tend to consist of time-sensitive, knee jerk reactions. What if he impulsively tweeted a temporary evacuation order to the concourses?
For the fans who truly love America, our Flag, our Anthem and have respect for our fallen soldiers! The time has come to take a stand!!! President Donald Trump is calling for everyone to leave there seats! NOW!!!
(Note: I purposely used the wrong “their” in order to enhance the believability factor).
I seriously doubt that Trump has been briefed on stadium emergency evacuation protocol and the related incident command structure. To be blunt, I just don’t think it would interest him. And I gotta be brutally honest. I’m not sure he’d care. I just don’t think Trump knows… that he is NOT allowed to evacuate an NFL stadium via twitter. I doubt anyone has sat him down and explained the potential consequences and ramifications. Why? Because such a conversation infers the potential for killing people without conventional weapons, a/k/a, an artificially generated stampede. From a plausible deniability perspective, such a briefing would be a national security paradoxical nightmare, especially with this president.
Here’s a question you might wish to ask. Based on Trump’s extensive twitter history, is it reasonable to assume, that in the future, something emanates from his twitter feed that correlates with an unanticipated outcome (innocent people getting killed)? And if so, in the aftermath of such an event, is it reasonable to think that investigators would seek to find out exactly who has access to the @realDonaldTrump twitter handle? Mark my words, at some point during this administration, there will be an official inquiry into the “degree of access” to his twitter account. Eventually, the real-world law of averages start to kick in. It’s nothing personal. Just a speculative, common sense numbers game.
There’s a word that emerged in 2017-18… “weaponized.” I’m not referring to the nuke tweet. That’s just the unsettling, electronic cannon fodder for the masses. Try thinking of this in larger terms, something akin to “wireless McCarthyism.” But this ain’t the 50’s. Nowadays, in the current twitter blasting environment, everything unfolds on a daily basis. Some would argue an hourly basis. My greatest fear — that things unfold on a real-time basis. And isn’t that what Trump’s twitter feed is really about? Attacking people, companies and countries… in real-time? So what exactly makes the Super Bowl off-limits? Why would the #1 televised event be “out of bounds?”
Just something to consider.
Oh, and by the way, what if Trump’s twitter account gets hacked? Oops, didn’t mean to go there. Maybe I should have started from that angle. Hey, coulda saved you 15 minutes! It really doesn’t matter though. These days, reading comprehension skills are on the decline. Don’t believe me? Just ask #45.