Donald J. Trump has 65.2-million followers on Twitter. So, whatever idea might pop into his head, no matter how crazed, he can immediately blast it out to all 65.2-million of his minions. That, is political power. It is also frightening, because it is totally unfiltered.
Not long ago, in a time before cellphones, there were the newspapers and three major over-the-air broadcasting networks controlling most of the flow of information in America. For the most part, they had professional news organizations staffed with journalists who took their craft seriously, taking care to uphold the public trust with a standard for quality journalism, while serving as a filter for their readers, listeners and viewers, ensuring a degree of accuracy and truthfulness in what Americans read and heard. The worst thing these journalists could do, and they knew it, would be to betray the public trust and lose their credibility. And so, they took their work seriously.
Consequently, when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told America that the Vietnam War had us mired in a stalemate, that the war was unwinnable and that a negotiated settlement was needed, the nation listened. Polls indicated Cronkite to be the most trusted man in America. There were calls for him to run for public office. Journalists were held in high esteem.
There were lapses of course, like “Yellow Journalism” during Hearst’s battle with Joe Pulitzer, but for the most part it worked pretty well. For the most part, America was protected by her journalistic filter. Then came cable, satellite news and the internet, and all bets were off.
And now here we are, with no filter to protect us and a highly questionable personality in the Oval Office with his finger not just on the nuclear trigger but on his massive Twitter feed as well. I’m not sure which might turn out to be more threatening to the country, or what we should do about it going forward. Clearly, what technology has given us may be more than our Democratic Constitutional Republic can handle. In a very real sense, it may be a clear and present danger.