Trump’s Twitter tantrum shows he’s no friend of free speech
It’s only been two weeks since Donald Trump was elected US president, and he’s already had his first official Twitter meltdown. Held up as the anti-PC candidate, many argued that Trump was the straight-talking antidote to the current culture of offence-taking. However, if Trump’s Twitter activity over the weekend is anything to go by, this is far from the truth.
On Friday night, Trump’s future vice-president, Mike Pence, took his family to see the hit musical Hamilton on Broadway. After being booed by the audience, Pence was addressed from the stage by the black lead actor, Brandon Victor Dixon, and asked to spread the message that the cast were concerned that his ‘new administration will not protect us’. Dixon continued: ‘We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.’
The morning after, Trump claimed that Pence had been harassed, firing out four tweets demanding an apology from Dixon and the rest of the cast, for being ‘very rude’. ‘Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theatre by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!’, he tweeted. ‘The theatre must always be a safe and special place.’
Speaking on Fox News on Sunday morning, Pence was quick to point out that he wasn’t offended by any of the comments made. In fact, he had stayed to listen after being called out from the stage. In response to Trump’s tweet, Dixon himself replied: ‘Conversation is not harassment, sir. And I appreciate Mike Pence for stopping to listen.’
So why was Trump so quick to cry foul over what seemed to be a perfectly reasonable, if a little dramatic, exchange? Why has Trump, the man who isn’t scared of saying anything, used the PC rhetoric of Safe Spaces and offence over some very polite heckling?
The answer is that Trump is, and always has been, a big cry baby. During his campaign, he frequently promised to introduce a new law which would make it possible to sue his critics. Far from being a defender of free speech, he has openly advocated restrictions on internet freedom and continuously blasted news publications as corrupt, earning him the reputation of being a ‘libel bully’. Sure, Trump is able to give it out, calling Hillary Clinton a ‘nasty woman’, and indulging in some ugly stereotyping of Mexicans, but he sure as hell can’t take it.
Some have said that Trump losing his temper on Twitter is merely an attempt to distract public attention from the ongoing scandal of his $25million settlement over a fraudulent university scheme. Others have claimed that this overreaction is merely further proof that the president-elect is unhinged. But one thing is certain: US citizens, who believe in the right to criticise and hold politicians to account, even on Broadway, should take this theatrical commotion seriously. Because, no matter what kind of a show he puts on, Trump is not, and never has been, a believer in unfettered freedom of speech. Now that should worry us all.
Ella Whelan is assistant editor at spiked. Follow her on Twitter: @Ella_M_Whelan