I love Twitter—it's the best place for jokes and memes and subcultures and out-and-out weirdness—but it's taken a bit of a dark turn of late (darker than usual, at least).
Most of the jokes on Twitter these days are of the apocalyptic, we're-all-gonna-die-lol variety. It's gallows humor of the mushroom-cloud variety and if you're apt for spiraling, the current state of Twitter is a hell of a tool for picking up a higher rate of speed.
It stems from one place: Donald Trump, the president of the United States. He's steering the country toward nuclear war with North Korea—and his infamous Twitter account is infecting the rest of the site with his latest proclamations of impending doom (for whom it remains unclear, but the doom feels imminent).
The latest 138-character missive from Trump Friday morning read: "Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" And you have to worry: first the missives, soon the missiles ... and we'll all die... because of a website.
A quick tweet from SB Nation's Charlotte Wilder got me thinking this morning: "Just shut twitter down we won't miss it," she posted.
She's got a point. Wouldn't we all be better off without @realDonaldTrump in our lives? I don't see Twitter being shut down entirely—as long as there are hopelessly out-of-reach profits to chase, those profits will likely be sought—but can't we just... ban Trump?
It's a question the New York Times' Farhad Manjoo asked in December—just eight months and an eternity ago—when Trump was president-elect. Simply put: Twitter can, without question, erase Trump from their platform, but Manjoo, at the time at least, argued it shouldn't. The argument was effectively: allowing open dialogue was more important than preventing Trump from sparking hate speech—and while it was not ideal language coming from a future president, it would not be worthy of a ban from a normal citizen.
But now it's August and we no longer live in the limbo-state of President-elect Trump—we live in the very real state of Trump as president, no ifs, ands or hyphens about it. With that position comes a black briefcase and the ability to convict millions of people to a fiery death.
It's obviously not out of the question to ban people on Twitter. Right-wing personality Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, is out for life because he led a crusade of racist attacks on Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones.
Banning Trump from Twitter might prove unpopular with some folks, especially the people with cartoon-frog avatars who also frequent the gutters of 4chan. And, to be fair, we do learn a lot about what the president is actually thinking through his tweets. But a lot of Americans across the political spectrum wouldn't particularly care if Trump were banned, and many might just breathe a sigh of relief. While Trump might claim only the "Fake News" wants him off Twitter, recent polls found 69 percent of Americans thinks he tweets too often and 59 percent thought his usage of the site was a bad thing.
The White House has openly said Trump's Twitter account will be a part of dealing with North Korea. It doesn't have to be. It's not an exaggeration to say its possible an ill-advised 140 characters could end us all.
"The real threat is stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula by misunderstanding or miscalculation. Inflammatory rhetoric on both sides will make that more likely," nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker told the Washington Post this week.
Twitter is Trump at his most unfiltered, and the president is prone to bluster and muddling a message (remember "covfefe," or the Comey tapes threat, or the Mika bullying, or any of the other countless examples?). Consider that he spends his his fair share of mornings tweeting in a fit of rage, leaving a mess for his communications staff to sweep up throughout the day, tasked with jabbering a loss into a win. But nobody wins a nuclear war, and there is no sweeping up a mushroom cloud.
If the president decides he is going to nuke someone, or if North Korea's Kim Jong Un decides he's going to nuke someone, there isn't much we can do besides curl into a ball in a basement and wait for the white flash.
But perhaps the least the powers-that-be at Twitter could do is make Trump tell his staff to call a press conference so he can threaten nuclear annihilation instead of putting that unchecked power at his fingertips. (Let's just assume he doesn't know how to use his Facebook or Instagram account, which, judging from the content on the pages, I feel is a fair assessment.)
I'm not an expert on free speech or nuclear war, so I don't know if Twitter should ban Donald Trump. It would certainly prove controversial. But I'm not talking about silencing political viewpoints—I'm talking about taking a small act to try to prevent mass death.
I don't know about you, but when a couple of guys with nukes, overflowing ego and no filter start threatening to bomb the bejesus out of one another, I tend to believe them out of an abundance of caution. Banning Trump might be a bad precedent to set. But with an accidental nuclear war on the table it begs the question: Who gives a shit about precedent?