Skip to main content

It has not been a good week for anyone frightened about the future of the planet.

The menacing presence of U.S. President Donald Trump has once again darkened our doorways, creating even graver concern that the fate of the world lay in the hands of an unbalanced, paranoid control freak. On Tuesday, the President took to his favourite social media platform, Twitter, to taunt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, over whose nuclear arsenal was the biggest and most effective.

This was in response to Kim Jong's statement on Monday that the U.S. was within range of a strike and that a nuclear button was always on his desk.

Story continues below advertisement

"Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my button works," the President tweeted.

The gallows humour that Mr. Trump's Twitter missives often incite has largely been absent this time around. Nothing about the situation in which we now find ourselves feels funny any more.

"Not in the mood for Twitter jokes," conservative commentator David Frum tweeted. "This is dark & dangerous. I shudder for every parent of a son and daughter in uniform – and for all of us."

Of course, we don't know if Mr. Trump will succeed in taking us over a cliff after mocking someone as unstable as Kim Jong once too often, unleashing a firestorm of pain and unimaginable loss in the process. If it does happen, however, there will be blood on the hands of many people, and many institutions that stood by silently while the President laid the groundwork for chaos and destruction.

Among those who will have plenty to answer for are the powers that be at Twitter, which has allowed Mr. Trump to use the social media platform as his own bully pulpit from which he has harassed, threatened and used fear to silence voices of opposition in violation of the company's own code of conduct rules.

And on this front, Mr. Trump has been a multiple offender.

Among other things, Twitter has allowed the President to retweet anti-Muslim videos from the right-wing extremist group Britain First. It has tolerated the President making deliberately false and misleading statements, particularly about the U.S. media, arguably eroding the state of democracy in his country for self-serving purposes.

Story continues below advertisement

Twitter's policies designed to protect its users are laughable. They apply to everyone, it seems, except the most powerful person on earth. Yes, their guidelines state there may be "the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behaviour which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability. Each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis."

But the company has never censored the President, not once. There is no such thing as a "rare occasion" in his case.

I suppose, in the most recent instance, Twitter could argue it's doing a public service by alerting people to the fact they should all be building bomb shelters now. I wish I was joking.

The fact is, the world would be a happier, safer place, if Mr. Trump were not on Twitter. But here is the truth that will surprise no one: the company won't kick him off because he's unbelievably good for the bottom line. Forbes magazine has estimated the President is worth about $2-billion (U.S.) to the company. When you bring in that much business you can do whatever you bloody well like, including starting a war, potentially.

I don't subscribe to the notion this is a free-speech issue, that the President should be able to say what he wants in the public square that Twitter imagines itself to be. Except Twitter isn't. It's a social media club, and there are rules to join and to stay a member. And there should be no exceptions.

Then again, unless there is a backlash to Trump's tweets, one that hurts Twitter where it counts, in the wallet, then the company will maintain the status quo. And as long as we all continue waking up each morning to check in on what nation or individual the President has insulted or derided now, surely nothing will change.

Story continues below advertisement

In fact, it will only continue to encourage the man, with all that entails.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.