US President Donald Trump realizes his defeat, but he did not want to walk out quietly. To better understand his perspective, one needs to look back at the past four years. The political battles and bickering between Trump and his opponents never stopped. That is why he wanted to delegitimize President-elect Joe Biden before his inauguration just as the Democrats questioned Trump’s legitimacy and attempted to remove him from office when they claimed that the Russians helped him win the election.
All that is acceptable in the world of partisan conflict, which is a world far from morality. It is like a muddy boxing ring, on which a bloody match agreed upon by both parties takes place, without any rules.
In the 2016 election, when Democrats leaked an audio recording of Trump speaking in an explicitly sexual way about women, he appeared on TV with five women who accused former US President Bill Clinton of harassment. On January 6, Trump mobilized his supporters to demonstrate in front of Congress, a protest that spiraled out of control when his supporters stormed the US constitutional establishment. Trump quickly distanced himself from that mistake by giving a speech in which he condemned the aggression and threatened the attackers. But this mistake hurt his reputation even from a Republican perspective. He went too far, and he realized this. So, he tried to ease the tension and spoke with a new, calm language. He admitted his defeat and said the transition of power would happen peacefully.
Two days later, Twitter presented the wounded and defeated president with a precious gift. The company suspended his account for good. Trump has now gone from being an aggressor to being a victim. The most important weapon was placed in his hand. Not only will he be a victim of fraud, as he claims, but also a victim of the large, tyrannical tech companies that are trying to silence him. Without giving it much thought, it is easy to guess that this will be the slogan of his next speech or political campaign, if he intends to run again in four years.
The question now is this: is Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s account justified?
The answer was quickly provided by Republican lawmaker Lindsey Graham, who said: “How can Trump be suspended and [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei allowed to tweet?!” Not only Khamenei is allowed to tweet, but also the entire dream team of terrorists and militia leaders such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others, who tweet without even having to hide their identities.
It is difficult to defend this decision, especially that Twitter previously took part in the political conflict by deleting the US president’s comments and placing comments and links on tweets, thus changing its position from a carrier of content to a participant in creating it. Critics said Twitter must therefore review and edit millions of questionable tweets. This prompted the owner of Twitter to step back and put the blame on some employees.
Despite all the rationale for criticizing Trump's raging tweets, these tweets remain within the realm of freedom of expression. The suspension and permanent closure – instead of blocking or deleting some of the tweets – reinforces the criticism of large tech companies. Criticisms of bias, taking part in political conflicts, and siding with the left to the detriment of Republicans and conservatives who are now looking for other platforms after they realized they are exposed and lack adequate mediums to communicate their muffled voices. Another accusation is that these companies have become superior, playing the role of the big brother, and restricting opinions that do not go along their owners’ liking.
Twitter’s argument is not a solid one. Deleting the account of a head of state that is followed by millions can’t happen without casting doubt on the company’s integrity and principles. But why did Twitter do it, regardless of the unconvincing charges it made? Clearly, its goal is to weaken Trump and completely remove him from the popular scene, thus ending the phenomenon he has created over the past four years. This is a smart move as Twitter is Trump’s most powerful medium for communicating with his audience and mobilizing his followers. Disconnecting Trump will have him talk to himself in a dark room. Twitter realized that this was the right moment to end “Trump” and paralyze his ability to return to the spotlight, which is now not possible, at least not in any traditional way.
Trump is now besieged by the giants: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. His success in the upcoming period is reliant on creating a new dependable platform that will reunite him with his lost supporters. He has lost his last messenger pigeon, so it will be very difficult for him to rise again, but who knows!
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al- Awsat.