State-funded social media. Why not?
Before even being inaugurated, Donald Trump has been able to force change through Twitter. I’m neither condemning him (yet) nor praising him for doing so. Rather, I’m just stating the facts as we’ve seen them. We can’t directly attribute Trump’s Tweets as the catalysts for actions taken, but it’s conspicuous that the two often coincide. The Republican Congress attempted to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics until Trump Tweeted his opposition to the idea. Mighty Lockheed Martin (and the rest of the defense industry) were terrified by a Trump Tweet last month saying the F-35 was too costly. Just over a month later, their CEO told Trump they’d lower F-35 costs AND add 1800 U.S. jobs. These and other examples of apparent influence that Trump has over powerful entities should make Twitter fans happy that their social network may have a bright future.
Of course, it doesn’t… not yet, at least. Wall Street isn’t happy with Twitter’s numbers. 2016 should have been their year. Instead, executives left and Twitter couldn’t find anyone to buy it. Their once-vaunted small business app is shutting down. It would seem as if the only thing going for them is that the next President gives out more information through Twitter than any other form of public communication.
Is it enough to save them? It might not matter. If it looks as if they’re not going to make it through the Trump administration, they might want to start talking to him now. If President Obama was able to bungle taxpayer funds to the tune of $2.2 billion with his failed green initiative, why couldn’t President Trump try to push taxpayer funds towards a “communication initiative”?
It sounds far-fetched. That’s because it is. The powers-that-be at Twitter would probably allow their company to shut their doors before accepting help from Trump. They generally opposed him and have a sordid history with conservatives. If they were to accept government assistance to stay afloat, many liberal celebrities would attempt to lead an exodus. Not all of them would; narcissism is a very powerful motivator for its victims. Still, enough Democrats would likely move to bluer pastures if it seemed like Twitter was becoming a state-funded Trump pet project.
Would it matter? No. Twitter could survive a user exodus more easily than they could survive being broke. Even if most liberals left, they’d still hear all about what Trump Tweeted and reactions from celebrities and politicians who remained through mainstream media. With all that said, the idea that “most” liberals would leave is ludicrous. In fact, I could see a scenario where many conservatives would leave over principle. There shouldn’t be a state-funded social media bailout any more than there should have been a state-funded green initiative. The fewer things that get funded by taxpayer dollars, the better.
Today, Trump seems to be willing to lead with Twitter as a tool to generate buzz around his ideas. Not all of those ideas have the desired effect, though. Trump’s attacks on Vanity Fair last month resulted in a spike in subscriptions. Trump’s recent attacks on Congressman John Lewis propelled his books to #1 and #2 on Amazon’s best selling list. These and other indicators have radio host Dean Obeidallah asking Trump to attack him on Twitter. We’re still waiting to see if L.L. Bean will benefit from Trump’s Tweet asking people to buy their products.
The government won’t bail out Twitter and even if they were willing, Twitter probably wouldn’t accept it. The point here is that swaying public opinion and making news through social media is legitimate. The question we need to ask is whether or not that’s a good thing.