Twitter’s Totalitarian Path

With the impending end of his presidency, there were hints that the irrational hatred for anything associated with Donald Trump—the chronic ailment that became known as Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS—might soon be cured as well. Portland’s Democratic Mayor, Ted Wheeler, openly acknowledged that Antifa existed, was violent, and needed to be stopped.

Democratic lawmakers and the media have adamantly denied this fact ever since the president called out “violence on many sides” in 2017. Denying photographic evidence to the contrary, his opponents insisted that only neo-Nazis and white supremacists were responsible for the melee in Charlottesville. Or as Maxine Waters famously put it, “No, Trump. Not on many sides, your side. #Charlottesville.”

This past summer, CNN quoted “local authorities” denying that Antifa had taken over streets in Seattle, at least until the shooting started. Portland’s city council announced that, rather than quelling the riots that made defensive measures necessary, it was fining the federal government $2000 per hour until it removed fences protecting a federal courthouse. Wheeler calling for federal law enforcement to help fight Antifa was a 180-degree reversal—and recognition of the foundational need for law and order in a civil society.

Wednesday’s atrocious attack on the U.S. Capitol demonstrated, among other things, that any hope for a return to civilized norms proving a trend rather than an aberration is fleeting. I am not only speaking about the horrifying scene itself or the assault on the seat of government. I am speaking, as well, of the desire to attribute blame where it does not belong, and the resumed demonization and censorship of those with different political views that has followed.

I gave up on the president weeks ago. He continued to push allegations of fraud unsupported by judges, has turned on his allies, and even lost the Senate (and endangered his legacy) by suggesting that Georgia votes wouldn’t be counted properly anyways. I also missed both the riots and the online outrage until the breach of the Capitol was well underway.

By the time I learned the president was locked out of his Twitter account, I could no longer see why. I reached out to multiple friends and on Twitter itself, hoping to hear something more reasonable than the claim that “go home, we love you, you’re very special” was incitement or support for violence.

Someone wrote back. He indicated that the president said protesters needed to “show strength,” that “we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… our Republicans, the weak ones… the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” But my correspondent agreed with me: there’s no there there. Nothing the president said could be misconstrued as endorsing riots. Yet CNN reported as fact that Trump was “inciting [a] mob,” Facebook has frozen his account until the inauguration, and Chuck Schumer has called for him to be removed immediately.

Clearly, TDS is still with us. Where, in reality, did these rioters get the idea that such behavior was ok? It wasn’t the president who gave the green light to those attacking federal facilities, even threatening federal law enforcement for protecting them; that was the Portland city council. It wasn’t the president who said that violence and arson are “mostly peaceful” when they express a grievance; that was CNN, and others who characterized those standing between the president and a firebombed church as “peaceful protesters.”

That leading Democrats and media figures would join in to promote such an obviously false narrative, and silence the president on that basis, has terrifying implications for the future of America.

This threat to free speech precedes the Trump presidency; it has been cultivated by the Left for more than a decade, growing in strength year by year. It is something to which, as a Jew, I am very sensitive: in 2017, an LGBT celebration in Chicago banned Jewish Stars, claiming they were “offensive” and “made people feel unsafe.” Israeli officials and Ben Shapiro have been prevented from speaking by those falsely claiming they promote hate and endorse brutality—and, based upon those false charges, their left-wing opponents engaged in both loud and violent disruptions. 

No one claims that every student biased against Israel is personally responsible for attacks on Jews. No one says that every Democrat implicitly supports Antifa. But many would like to claim that the actions of no more than 740 knuckleheads, and probably more like 74, reflect upon the president and the 74,000,000 voters who supported him. That’s less than one one-thousandth of one percent.

As a nation, we can do better than that. And we must, because the quelling of free speech is the quickest route to totalitarian control—and the false claim that the opposing side is promoting hate or violence is a proven method to start this process. Twitter has shown them the way.



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About Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest Rabbinic public policy organization in America.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images