The Danger of Trump’s Tweets

I don't think we should worry too much about Meryl Streep. Her cred can withstand some silly tweets from our President-elect, and she has chosen to live in the public eye. But this recent episode of twitter abuse is merely the tip of the iceberg and we need to think about its implications.A government should not use intimidation to suppress criticism and dissent. Private citizens are entitled to criticize their leaders without fear that those leaders will retaliate in a manner that jeopardizes their lives. Of all of the checks on governmental power enshrined in democratic institutions, this is perhaps the most important. It is easy to recognize traditional methods of suppressing civilian dissent. In Argentina in the 1970s citizens were famously "disappeared" based on their political views. In the former Soviet Union dissidents found themselves freezing in Siberian gulags, and in modern day Russia opponents of Vladimir Putin find themselves arrested on obscure charges with their financial holdings confiscated by the state. During the Mao era, China engaged in public shaming of those who stepped out of line, forcing them to offer "self-criticisms" that left them pariahs.Contemporary China is subtler. As reported in a recent edition of The Economist, China might be using technology and surveillance to build a "social credit" monitoring system that would undermine the ability of "problematic" citizens to travel and do business. I suspect we Americans are wise to this sort of governmental intimidation and are committed enough to the tenets of democratic governance that we will not let such tactics take hold here.  Continue reading...

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