What do facts have to do with anything?
What do facts have to do with anything?

Reporting on Donald Trump’s mood swings sometimes feels like noting that local pigeons are fighting over an abandoned half of a hamburger bun. Is there any intelligence behind this conflict, or just raw dumb instinct that will be forgotten the moment another piece of trash catches the participants’ eye?

Today’s storyline concerns Trump’s tweets about mail-in voting. He wrote yesterday that voting by mail is prone to fraud, which isn’t actually true but is something that is fun for him to believe. Twitter placed some fact-checking links under his Tweets, which threw him into a rage and now he’s threatening to regulate Twitter’s speech. Sure, great, okay, why not try this flavor of fresh hell?

Trump tweeted that mail-in ballots would be “fraudulent,” which, just to be clear once more, is only true in his imagination. Twitter added a link at the bottom of his tweet reading “Get the facts on mail-in ballots,” which didn’t so much as debunk Trump’s claims as lead to a rabbit-hole of additional links and Twitter sub-threads and fights. Ultimately, that will likely lead to more user-time-on-site, so great job Twitter. Thanks for the additional noise!

If there’s any upside to any of this (and by “this” I mean life in general) it’s imagining the apoplectic fury that Donald must have experienced upon seeing that debunking label. In a good and just universe, that would have caused an important vein to burst, but oh well. Instead, Trump’s response was to call the link “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election,” as if that is not something Donald himself does every day, to accuse Twitter of “stifling FREE SPEECH,” and then to threaten to stifle free speech himself by closing down social media platforms.

On one hand: Hahaha, the awful man is angry, that’s nice. Also, hahaha, he doesn’t have the authority to shut down social media, that’s ridiculous.

On the other hand, just because it’s not legal to do something doesn’t mean that he won’t do it. He is rich, after all.

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It’s hard to imagine Donald shutting down Twitter—somehow—but it’s less difficult to imagine him ordering regulators to bother social media companies until they just let him have their way so he leaves them alone. Or for conservative donors to pay politicians to pass some kind of leave-Donald-alone law. Or for Jack Dorsey to be like, “Hey, do whatever the President says.”

We are not the humans observing the pigeons fighting over the hamburger bun; we are the sesame seeds on top.

When I started looking into this whole dumb situation, I had just the slightest glimmer of hope that it could lead to Twitter getting shut down, which would be the only positive contribution Donald Trump would ever make to human civilization. Instead, it’s looking like if this situation has any impact at all, it’ll be to make Twitter even worse.