Just because the twit can’t tweet, doesn’t mean his big mouth is silenced | Opinion

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Carl Hiaasen
·4 min read
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To all the fools who actually believe we’ve got a constitutional right to a Twitter account: What constitution have you been reading?

Twitter is a private company that can shut down you or me anytime it chooses. Same goes for Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but it doesn’t force others to publish, broadcast or otherwise disseminate every asinine thing we might have to say.

This newspaper, for example, would refuse to run any column I wrote that advocated a violent attack on Congress. Also, I’d get my dumb ass fired.

That’s not censorship, or a “cancel culture,” or an assault on constitutional freedom. It’s simply a private corporation telling me to take my whacked-out, dangerous ideas somewhere else.

Look at the case of crybaby Donald Trump, recently ousted from Twitter and other social media for encouraging throngs of supporters to march on the Capitol and disrupt the legal certification of Joe Biden’s election.

Contrary to the claims of Trump and his apologists, the future ex-president hasn’t been muzzled by a vast leftist conspiracy. His constitutional right to free speech remains completely intact.

If he wants to be heard, he has many options. Call a press conference, or address the nation from the Oval Office, or — as he did the other day — stalk out of the White House and grump to reporters while his Marine helicopter is warming up.

Nobody has silenced the Big Orange Trumpster. He can print his own newspaper, start his own TV network, or launch his own internet platform and call it Twiddle or Flubbermouth, whatever. He can stand on Pennsylvania Avenue and bellow at the top of his lungs, and every invective would reach every corner of the nation.

He remains free to say whatever he wants, no matter how untrue or inflammatory. He just can’t do it anymore on Twitter, his favorite stage.

He tweeted all the time, freakishly obsessed. His verbal incontinence in the middle of the night rattled his own staff; the man was addicted.

And now he’s cut off, wretched and raging like a gored warthog.

You can’t blame Trump’s millions of supporters for being stunned by the Twitter ban. He got away with so much for so long that he figured there were no boundaries, and no sanctions beyond the tepid content warning that the company began attaching to his wild lies about election fraud.

A fair question is why Twitter and Facebook didn’t act sooner. The answer is probably more about profits than free speech.

Until the Jan. 6 riot, Trump’s large online following was valuable to advertisers. Social media companies greedily indulged his incendiary propaganda and let it spread. They were hauling in money.

It was the unchecked deluge of “stop-the-steal” bull---- that triggered the harrowing domestic terrorism at the Capitol, including the fatal beating of a police officer.

Predictably, the de-Twittering of Trump is sparking more cries that “Big Tech” is biased against conservative points of view. It’s funny coming from Fox News and other outlets that are so flagrantly (and proudly) biased against liberals.

For differing reasons, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been unhappy with Twitter and Facebook since before the storming of Congress. New government regulation is threatened, and we’ll see how far that goes.

What those companies did to Trump humiliated him, but they didn’t abridge his constitutional freedom to speak. Same goes for the right-wing seditionists that once flocked to Parler, an app newly orphaned by Google and Apple.

Imagine if you sauntered into a Cracker Barrel and started shouting, as some of the Capitol demonstrators did, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”

The manager would tell you to leave and, if you didn’t, you’d be removed from the property. That same scene would take place at the lobby of any bank, the check-in counter of any airline or the produce aisle of any Publix.

It’s not a First Amendment issue. It’s the free choice of a private company deciding you’re a menace and are no longer welcome there.

That’s what happened to Trump. Social-media companies finally decided his rants were a menace to the peace of the country and virtually removed him from their virtual property.

Meanwhile, he’s perfectly free to walk out to the Rose Garden and give the speech of his life, specifically urging the QAnon goons and armed white militias that adore him to stay home for the new president’s inaugural.

Everything that Trump said would be globally reported, word for word, unabridged.

If only he had the decency to say it.