Saturday, December 31, 2016

But to Continue

But to continue, the real question is how much power Trump tweets will have among his opponents. In some ways, they have the exact opposite effect.  When Trump denounced Hamilton, ticket sales surged.  When he criticizes the Washington Post or Vanity Fair, both experienced a sudden increase in subscriptions.  Certainly, there is no shortage of people and organizations who will regard hostile Trump tweets as a badge of honor.  Why who knows, he may be able to build careers by hostile tweets as well as destroy them.  Democratic primaries may be contests to see who can accumulate the most hostile Trump tweets.  (And, needless to say, if Trump is smart, he will be able to game the system by making the most hostile tweets against the Democrats he wants to see win the primary).

On the other hand, hostile Trump tweets may have some power to intimidate even opponents by unleashing the Twitter mob.  They are notorious for bombarding anyone on the wrong side of a Trump tweet with hostile tweets, phone calls, e-mails, Facebook comments, etc. with the vilest of insults and threats.

There is no evidence that Donald Trump is intentionally unleashing his Twitter mob on the targets of his tweets.  He doesn't know who the members of this mob are and has no control over what they do. But neither has he ever condemned the mob either.  And at some point he must have become aware of the consequences of targeting people with his Twitter comments.  Megan Kelly has dropped hints that Trump is well aware of what happens when he makes a hostile tweet about someone who has offended him.

It can take strong nerves to withstand the Twitter mob.  Of course, having a thick hide goes with the territory for politicians and journalists.  For regular citizens, it may not be as easy.  The good news is that, at least so far, the Twitter mob remains a virtual mob, that its threats and insults do have not translated into actual action.  That being the case, one has the option of not reading texts, tweets, or emails, of deleting unheard any phone messages from an unknown number, or of changing one's contacts.  Most members of the Twitter mob are too far away to pose any physical danger.  Some are not real people at all, but Russian programs.

The bad news is that there is one piece of real harm that the Twitter mob does -- it hacks into people's systems and publishes their private information online.  And the worse news is that sooner or later when it publishes someone's address, some crazy will take it as an invitation.

Let's see what happens.

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