Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shower Thoughts And Twitter Bans

Why President Trump Is Wrong To Block Chrissy Teigen (Or Anyone Else, For That Matter)

I, like many individuals in the Millennial age bracket, do a lot of thinking in the shower. So-called shower thoughts are altogether profound and yet very simple in reasoning. They produce an “aha!” moment in your head as you have them, and then oftentimes, hours later, you end up saying to yourself, “Well, yeah, that’s so obvious now that I think about it.”

(Don’t even try explaining them to your significant other.)

My most recent shower thought involved President Donald Trump. I’ll get to it in a minute, but it involves his habit of blocking people from his Twitter account, which I’d like to explain a little bit more first. The latest (famous) victim is supermodel Chrissy Teigen, who has provided years of commentary to Trump’s tweets, yet was only blocked this past weekend for such a ridiculous reason.

Teigen wasn’t blocked for her pointing out a hypocrisy made by the president, or for noting a flaw in Trump’s policy positions. She wasn’t even blocked for threatening the safety of the president. She was blocked for sharing these five simple words:

“lol no one likes you.”
Chrissy Teigen has the right to free speech, of course, and her post about how a majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s time in office thus far (at least, that’s how I analyzed it) isn’t wrong. But it did earn her the ire, apparently, of President Trump.

The question is, does Trump have a right to block Teigen, or any other citizen for that matter? Free speech does require us to understand there are consequences to what we say, but should one of those consequences end up being restricted access to the president’s opinions?

We may soon find out. A group of citizens is suing the president for similarly being blocked on social media by him. Although they do not have the same clout as Chrissy Teigen, they do consider this blockage by the president a violation of their rights, namely their access to information disseminated by the him.

While there isn’t an enumerated right to access the president’s Twitter feed (an unforeseen circumstance by the founders, to be sure), they may have a point: the right to know what your government is up to is one that may fall under a penumbra of rights that do exist in the Constitution, and may possibly be connected to the Freedom of Information Act.

But one may argue, “aren’t some of these users engaging in harassment or bullying?” That’s hard to say, but it may not matter. Which brings me back to the “shower thought” that I alluded to earlier, which goes like this:

“The president is not my great aunt, and neither should treat me the same way as the other does.”

I’ll try to explain. When family members or friends on social media get annoyed with your commentary, and they feel the need to respond, you are certainly within your rights to block those individuals from seeing your posts. They may whine and bemoan your decision, but nothing other than your own choice to change your mind can alter what has happened.

But there’s something different about the president doing that — he’s the most public of all public figures, after all, and his words (be they spoken or thumb-typed) deserve the scrutiny of everyone who lives in this country. While your great aunt may not need to know every public utterance you make, what the president has to say in public does matter a great deal to millions of Americans.

Admittedly, my shower thought is a bit lengthy, but I think you get the point: there may be circumstances that do warrant a “presidential ghosting” on social media — perhaps when harassment goes beyond words and into the realm of leveling threats against the POTUShim — but those instances should require tangible proof that they’re necessary for the protection of the president, his family or other members of his administration. It shouldn’t need to be said out loud, but social media blocking by the president shouldn’t come about as a result of a minor annoyance, disagreement or grudge that the commander-in-chief holds against you.

Every citizen deserves access to the official communications of the president, which the White House has deemed Trump’s tweets fit under that category. Even citizens who are annoyingly hounding the president should still have access to what he has to say. And the president, even if he’s feeling a bit grouchy that day, doesn’t have the right to limit your access to official government records.

The advent of social media (which is still a relatively young invention) brings about new thoughts and theories about what is permissible or not for private and public spheres alike. But on this issue, the ability to access the official word of the White House should not be restrained, whether it’s through traditional print media or through the president’s social media postings. No matter how short his temper is, Donald Trump doesn’t have the right to block you from seeing his public postings.