Two wealthy and self-involved men are seeking the attention they crave.
Like the monster miraculously resuscitated to terrorize the heroes in a horror-movie sequel, Donald Trump is back.
No, I’m not talking about his November 15 announcement of his third campaign for president of the United States. Instead I have in mind something far more important: Twitter.
On the evening of November 17, Elon Musk—the richest man in the world and Twitter’s new owner—posted a poll asking users of the site whether he should “Reinstate former President Trump,” who was banned from the platform after his instigation of the insurrection on January 6. Musk’s followers voted in favor, though there’s no guarantee that the poll wasn’t manipulated by the same bots that Musk has spent the past several months railing against. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, and Trump’s account was magicked back into existence.
This entire incident is terrifically stupid. The story revolves around the whims of two wealthy and self-involved men who enjoy nothing more than public attention. It is an enormous waste of everyone’s time, and I resent having to think about it.
During Trump’s 22-month “permanent suspension” from Twitter, the account was obscured from anyone who tried to look for it: Typing @realDonaldTrump into Twitter produced a blank gray screen that simply announced, “Account suspended.” Now, however, Trump’s old tweets are back, preserved like the citizens of Pompeii frozen amid the ashes of Mount Vesuvius. His most recent tweet dates to January 8, 2021, the day he was banned: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” If you want a reminder of what led Twitter to block him from its platform due to “the risk of further incitement of violence,” you can scroll through the former president’s other tweets from the day of the insurrection. (But not his tweets egging on the Capitol rioters’ rage against Vice President Mike Pence or calling the insurrectionists “great patriots”—he deleted those posts before the account’s deactivation.)
Musk, though, is clearly unconcerned about the risk of future violence. His decision, the childishness of its implementation aside, isn’t particularly surprising. In May, while Musk was still locked in a legal battle over his attempt to back out of purchasing Twitter, he called the site’s decision to ban Trump “foolish in the extreme” and suggested that he would reinstate the former president.