President-elect Joe Biden’s twitter field on January 11, 2021. (Twitter)
By Robert Carroll, NY Daily News
President-elect Biden, on Jan. 20, you have the power and authority to make one simple decision to make it clear to America that a new era has begun and that you are serious about healing our nation and starting the long process of recalibrating our political discourse. All you have to do is delete your personal and presidential Twitter accounts.
Donald Trump is inconsolable because he has lost his browbeating disinformation megaphone. You can begin to bring decorum and restraint back to presidential correspondence by taking the bully pulpit off social media.
Twitter and its constant frenetic noise reward hyperbole, division and lies. You have proven through your life of public service that you believe in reason, unity and truth. For you to be an effective president and save the soul of our nation, as you say you want to, you will have to show that there is a way to lead our nation without lowering yourself into a sandbox where the most powerful voices are those of celebrities, cranks and sloganeers. You and your allies will control the White House, both chambers of Congress and a popular mandate; you don’t need hashtags.
Of course, our nation was susceptible to conspiracy theories, nationalism and plain hate before Twitter, and it will unfortunately be susceptible to those forces after Twitter — but Twitter and other social media platforms have turbocharged those looking to spread these pernicious messages and they should not be given the veil of credibility by having the leader of the free world using their service.
We know that disinformation spreads faster on Twitter than fact. That’s a feature, not a bug. Neither you nor the creators of Twitter can control it. The only power you have in the face of this social media Leviathan is to walk away. This does not mean unilateral disarmament. Nor does it mean you cannot use intermediaries to spread your message via social media. But the last few weeks have proven that the president cannot be a direct combatant on the social media battlefield. Your neglect will not be benign; it will be devastating to the worst political voices of our time.
Twitter is not the printing press, or radio or television. Those are mediums that have editors and allow for longer-form discourse. Social media is intended to be freewheeling and doctrinaire. The government should not try to encumber protected speech on social media platforms, but our most important leaders should be very discerning about how far they wade into the muck.
If our nation is to solve big problems again, we will need leaders who understand that instant gratification, righteousness, and dunking on one’s political opponents is not the way to a better country or democracy, even if it is politically advantageous.
Let senators and House members be craven and use social media for their own self-interest. You are already on the mountaintop. You know that the only way to solve our problems is to bring people and politicians together to have long, thoughtful and difficult conversations. That is impossible in 280 characters. Social media is an echo chamber that cements group think — not a portal to new worlds or complex ideas.
When the world witnessed the Arab Spring and saw how social media helped propel that people-powered democracy movement, many were hopeful that social media would empower the world’s better angels. Instead, social media has become a tool of demagogues and was the most effective tool to spread Donald Trump’s disinformation, his message of hate and the attempted coup against our government on Jan. 6.
Social media isn’t disappearing, and it shouldn’t. Senators, House members, state and local elected officials, the Kardashians, sports stars and everyone else will continue to use the platform. But President-elect Biden, you can lead by example, making clear that certain topics are too big to tackle through tweets.
Your example will remind Americans that our leaders should be sober and thoughtful, and the instantaneous nature of social media does not allow for that. A half measure won’t work. Don’t think that you will be able to change Twitter or that your tweets will be dignified or mundane and thus you won’t fall prey to its division, hyperbole and mendacity. Twitter is rotten and it will poison your presidency if you take part.
President-Elect Biden, I’m on Twitter; I’m a member of the state Legislature. I know from experience the political debate even in overwhelmingly blue New York is hurt by Twitter. We need a leader to build a bridge to a new political future and discourse, help us, you’re our only hope.