The Twitter critique of democracy
First off, my apologies for infrequent and inconsistent posting lately. The fault is my laziness, more than anything, but more precisely, work is hectic right now and involves a lot of writing (and some thinking), so I have been dealing with a scarcity of energy lately. It feels like a poor excuse as society moves closer to disintegration, but bringing home the bacon takes a bit of precedence now that the short term battles are won. Rest assured, I will get back on a schedule (and hopefully with higher quality content) as soon as possible!
The big news this past weekend was Elon Musk’s poll on whether Donald Trump’s twitter account should be reinstated. Considering the latest thing is supposed to be the virtues of democracy, at least if the news cycle did not pass me by, the results are about what one would expect: everyone is unhappy.
General displeasure with pure democracy is not new, but usually the side that wins the day can celebrate. Brexit, for example, was one of those rare moments where the people actually got a choice in foreign policy. The celebration and the resulting backlash were both spectacles to behold. However similar the results, Musk’s poll was different, and that’s what makes it interesting. With this vote, we are getting into the heart of why pure democracy is a problem. As the saying goes, “two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner”.
On one side of the divide, the Orange Man Bad crowd truly believe that Trump incited a riot, which would be one of the first times these types were against riots. This, of course, ignores Twitter’s initial rationale for Trump being banned from the platform, which had nothing to do with inciting riots. The rationale, rather, was the following two tweets:
On January 8, 2021, President Donald J. Trump Tweeted:
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Shortly thereafter, the President Tweeted:
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Obviously, using these tweets as a rationale for banning Trump was thinly veiled pretext. Even if their confirmation bias had confirmation bias, it would be difficult to see how either tweet could be seen as inciting riots or as a violation of Twitter rules, but then again, the rules seem to change depending on who is looking at them and who is being assessed. One should not be surprised to see that this has not changed.
Rather than taking a unique opportunity to clarify the boundaries of free discourse on the platform, which could have been accomplished by lifting or upholding the ban, Musk chose the coward’s route of kicking the decision to the public square.
Do you remember the unpopular kid in elementary school? That kid learned the hard way that there are a lot of factors that can make someone unpopular and depending on the environment, few of those factors are in the kid’s control. By choosing to leave it up to popular vote, Musk is saying that only popular kids should be given free speech, and the kids that “smell funny” or “look orange” better watch themselves.
The reason, as it turns out, that so many of those who voted “yes” are upset despite the result of the poll is that there should have never been a poll in the first place. Some things are best left without a democratic option, including the “rights” (loosely used in regards to Twitter) of individuals operating within a system. This is necessary to avoid the tyranny of the mob imposing their will on anyone who gets in their way.
More to the point, if only the popular are able to speak, then only the popular dictate the terms of discourse. Anyone who holds a contrarian view should save themselves the trouble and take the hemlock.