Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, July 16, 2019
Once again, President Donald Trump blew it.
His “Social Media Summit” was a combination of cowardice and crudity that disappointed supporters while still enraging critics. No white advocates were invited, even though Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow of VDARE.com have actually taken legal action against biased tech companies. No representatives from Gab or BitChute, the free speech alternatives to Twitter and YouTube, were there. The White House invited pro-Trump cartoonist Ben Garrison but then told him to stay home at the insistence of the Anti-Defamation League.
Many guests were there for spectacle, it seemed: black Trump supporters “Diamond and Silk,” Bill Mitchell, who often praises Donald Trump no matter what he does, and Joy Villa, a singer best known for supporting the President. Members of the grifting operation Turning Point USA were there, though to his credit, founder Charlie Kirk at least says tech companies should be treated like publishers.
Most guests were either conservative movement stalwarts such as the Heritage Foundation, Claremont Institute, and Sebastian Gorka, or “Alt-Lite” commentators such as James O’Keefe. No one who has actually been banned was there. As a Gab spokesman noted, “the White House has invited ‘safe’ Z-list MAGA celebrities and cheerleaders, the great majority of which have never experienced online censorship or no-platforming at any level.”
Leftists were still outraged.
- The SPLC called the summit a “gathering of groups and individuals who have no business at the White House.” It was “essentially” a “hate summit.”
- The Washington Post said it a was “farce,” adding that “claims that Silicon Valley’s liberal leaders program their platforms to hurt the right and help the left are not supported by the evidence.”
- CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote an article called “Trump invites far-right extremists to White House ‘social media summit’” and called it “the clearest example yet of President Trump legitimizing fringe political allies.” These are strong words from a former employee of Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze.”
- The Huffington Post called it “a bigotry circus” attended by “conservative trolls and racist carnival barkers.”
- Vanity Fair called it a “far-right troll convention,” adding, “Social media companies have taken steps to curb hate speech perpetuated by members of the far right, including banning prominent internet personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, and are taking steps towards annotating particularly egregious Trump tweets, though critics believe the companies have not gone far enough.” Just after hinting that Twitter was thinking of banning the president himself, Vanity Fair wrote, “There is no evidence that Twitter silences conservatives as the president claims.”
An arbitrary definition of “hate speech” is a big part of the problem. Reporters can claim no “conservatives” are silenced because only “haters” get the boot. (Self-styled “true conservatives” such as David French probably agree.) Meanwhile, Twitter allows the crudest anti-white insults, even by verified accounts.
Some of the guests were important figures who have made serious suggestions. Senator Marsha Blackburn has called for tech companies to “start embracing the spirit of the First Amendment.” Congressman Matt Gaetz campaigned against recognizing tech companies’ right to censor in international treaties. Human Events’s editor Will Chamberlain has championed the “civil right” of platform access — a compelling argument. Senator Josh Hawley spoke about the importance of removing Section 230-protection from publishers unless they support free speech.
But the event had no clear message. President Trump made vague comments about exploring “all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech.” However, he also said, “[F]ree speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad, to me that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it.” He claimed that Twitter was somehow preventing people from following him. He even said, “I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either” because it’s “crooked” and “dishonest.”
Essentially, the President was angry at hostile coverage. He did not announce concrete action, and there was no consensus about what to do. Heritage Foundation vice president for communications Robert Bluey said he opposed any regulation because “these are private companies.” This was more of a campaign rally than a summit.
The event ended in fiasco. After the meeting, attendees and “mainstream” journalists uneasily mixed to cover President Trump’s press conference on the proposed citizenship question on the census. Brian Karem of CNN (and Playboy) jeered at attendees and seemed to be inviting Sebastian Gorka to fight. Mr. Gorka called him a “punk.” CNN’s Jim Acosta omitted the first part of the exchange and tweeted only Mr. Gorka’s insult, claiming it was a “good snapshot of how press is treated by WH.” It was hardly edifying for the summit almost to end in a fistfight.
The White House’s bluster contrasts with specific threats made by Democrats. During a recent congressional hearing on “white nationalism,” Democrat congressmen demanded tech companies take aggressive action to remove “leaders like Faith Goldy.” Congressman Frank Pallone intimidated Facebook into taking down an anti-Nancy Pelosi video by warning that Section 230 protections “should not be a shield for inaction.” Kamala Harris said if she were elected president she would “hold social media platforms accountable for the hate infiltrating their platforms.”
The White House meeting was an excuse for organizations such as Media Matters to warn about the president “normalizing” extremism. Yet it was really an exercise in gatekeeping. President Trump is cultivating an “Alt Lite” network that doesn’t reach many people beyond his supporters. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump benefited from a truly organic, independent online coalition that included white advocates. Hillary Clinton’s self-destructive decision to condemn the Alt-Right and the “deplorables” gave dissidents something to rally behind. Donald Trump needs this kind of committed support if he wants to win in 2020.
Since President Trump’s election, the Left has learned. Leftists, especially journalists, are trying to cut off platforms and financing for alternative media. However, President Trump isn’t protecting his online supporters any more than he defends people who stand up to antifa. President Trump even condemns Bitcoin, one of the few ways to donate to people who have been banned by PayPal and credit card processors.
Instead of building a new support network, President Trump frets over what the mainstream media say about him. He surrounds himself with toadies rather than patriots. If President Trump were capable of a strong, consistent defense of free speech and platform access, he could defeat media foes and greatly increase his chances of re-election. Stunts like this pointless “summit” just strengthen his — and our — opponents.