The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
When users clicked the warning message, they received a statement that read, "On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud."
.@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, wh… https://t.co/cdSr6B9kWi— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1590536410.0
The company legitimized its actions by citing its "civic integrity policy," which prevents any user from "manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes."
President Trump promptly threatened to "strongly regulate" or close down social media platforms. "Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices," he wrote this morning. "We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen."
Twitter has been acting more aggressively with regards to Trump, whose rise is arguably owed in part to his use of the platform. Earlier this week, after Trump questioned the death of a staffer named Lori Klausutis in then-Rep. Joe Scarborough's congressional office, Twitter company heads officials/headquarters/rulers of the universe? wrote that although the platform was unable to remove the Tweets, it was "deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family." Shortly after, Twitter applied visible warnings to two of Trump's additional tweets.
Twitter's actions have raised new discussions about the power, autonomy, and even political identity of major corporations. Despite claims of neutrality, no social media platform has ever been completely neutral. (As Elie Wiesel said, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.")
Facebook's decision not to censor untruthful political ads generated a discussion about whether the company was allowing electoral interference by permitting microtargeting and blatantly false information from saturating its platforms.
Twitter's actions also received some criticism. "It's not clear how Twitter intends to move forward with its disclaimer policy," wrote Inae Oh for Mother Jones. "For now, it seems pretty untenable, considering Trump's entire social media presence is propped up by falsehoods."
In a world where brands pretend to be your friends and where corporations are viewed as people, the fact that Twitter has developed some political spine of its own may be unsurprising. But were its actions really politically biased against conservatives if they were defending electoral integrity and the democratic process? And why did Twitter decide to lash out at this tweet, out of all the false, misleading, unhinged, and deeply dangerous tweets Trump has written?
This is uncharted territory, certainly, but there is some sweet hypocrisy in Trump's efforts to censor Twitter for censoring him. Regardless, both Trump and Twitter will both maintain distended amounts of money and power while pretending to defend democracy. Meanwhile, the pandemic will continue to rage and the world will continue to burn while Trump tweets away.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.