Source cover image: ABC News
At the Bonapartian Debate Tournament 2021, the debates immediately were spicy with the following motion:
This House regrets the decision of social media giants to ban Trump’s accounts.BDT 2021 – Round 1
The ban of Donald J. Trump from social media channels was, of course, big news. This motion discussed whether that was a good idea. Before analyzing both sides of the motion, let me emphasize that the motion is not (necessarily) about defending Trump and his ideals. Therefore, the strategy is probably more focused on the decision itself and its effects on society as a whole. The average intelligent voter, at least in the Netherlands, is generally more in agreement with the Democratic side of the political spectrum, so it is not wrong to focus on that in this case.
So you don’t (necessarily) defend Trump on the part of the proposition. I think a clever way to argue in favour of this motion is to state that much of Trump’s campaign and his rhetoric is based on the so-called “fact” that the Democrats are trying to silence him. Banning him from social media confirms this narrative. Trump’s name is linked to Twitter and that is also how he maintains contact with his supporters. So this is not just silencing but specifically on the main way that the sitting(!) president maintains contact with his supporters (still around 50% of the population). The effect of this is the speed with which this message circulates in the echo chamber of the Republican camp and its power. Especially considering that Trump can appeal to enough other media sources, for example at the time via the radio show of the recently deceased Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, and other media sources. His voice is, therefore, not completely suppressed and he can use these channels (or the channels themselves already do this) to reinforce the aforementioned narrative. This ensures that the underlying messages (e.g. hateful words and the actions associated with them) are given shape in smaller and more closed groups, where there is a greater chance of radicalization. PS: read this paper.
The opponents focus on the legitimate basis of the ban: if, for example, Trump has indeed instigated the storming of the Capitol and violence through his social media accounts, then there is a legitimate ground for closing these accounts and thus this mode of communication (with which he can reach the people faster than through other media). In addition, there is the spread of the idea that election fraud has been committed and all kinds of other false truths (AKA fake news). The problem is, many of Trump’s followers simply see and believe these statements as the truth. This is a problem in itself, but it gets worse when people take action on it and especially when they do this by breaking laws. Given that it is reasonably doable to show that Trump has participated in hate speech and incitement to violence via social media, this provides a legitimate reason to ban him in order to spare so much suffering, even if at the expense of freedom of speech.
Mike is an alumnus of the Tilburg Debating Society Cicero and has served as the secretary of the Nederlandse Debatbond (2019-2021). He was vice-chair of Cicero (2015-2016) and in that function oversaw the newly set-up international branch. He also organized the Dutch Debating Winter School, a debating training week that attracted participants of over 20 nationalities.