Illustration by Tilly Binucci
You may have noticed the unfortunate habit billionaires have developed in recent years of literally abandoning all earthly issues by sodding off to space. We can all understand the need to get away from it all, but really? This frantic race to become the space age Livingstone takes it to extremes. Billionaires are so busy looking up at their next playground, they seem to have forgotten the one they’re standing on.
That being said, we can’t deny the cunning of Jeff Bezos’s approach. If anyone asks him why he’s choosing to set his money alight in the form of rocket fuel rather than spending it on better causes, he can just point at the sky, yell ‘look, a flying penis!’ and run away.
But just as we give up on the hope of the world’s most affluent individuals actually doing something constructive with their hordes of cash, one noble billionaire claws his way out of obscurity to herald change. Here is a man who is going to make an on-the-ground difference to people’s daily lives in what could be described as the biggest leap forward in tech since the iPhone. Yep, you guessed it. I can only be describing one thing: Donald Trump’s new social media platform Truth Social.
Just when you thought this year couldn’t throw you any more curve balls, here comes yet another tone-deaf clanger from Trump. Despite being banned from mainstream social media after his false claims of electoral fraud provoked the assault on the White House on 6th January this year, he has plumped for ‘truth’ as the most appropriate motif for his branding. Somehow, the effect is simultaneously dull and hypocritical. Really, our only surprise should be that it’s taken this long for Trump to make a desperate attempt at a social media comeback. I can’t imagine he’s a man who takes to silent reflection very well. Imagine his relief now he’s found a way to remind the world that he’s very, very, very important. The importantest.
The problem with Trump, or one of the many problems with Trump, is that he never really grew out of that childhood stage where you scrawl something faintly resembling a mutilated Mr Messy, and the doting grown-ups around you ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and declare it a masterpiece. Trump has surrounded himself with a group of professional turd polishers, dusters at the ready to buff whatever he might spout next. Take, for instance, whichever lackey encouraged him to make his statement of Wednesday 20th October, that ‘everyone asks me why doesn’t someone stand up to Big Tech? Well, we will be soon!’
Let’s get this straight. Trump is now putting himself forward as the best candidate to fly the flag of the little man in the fight against big business. Not that long ago he felt the need to remind us ‘I have a very big business.’ Donald and Goliath just doesn’t have the same ring to it, especially when Trump can’t decide which of the main characters he wants to play.
Let’s not get side-tracked by the workings of Trump’s mind. That isn’t an endeavour one should undertake lightly. Let’s return to the realm of the sane and consider some of the cold, hard facts of the matter. For a start, what does Truth Social actually look like? Well, we don’t exactly know, and it isn’t all that clear that Trump or his Media and Technology Group do either. According to the BBC’s North America Technology Reporter, James Clayton, ‘there’s no indication that the new company has a working platform yet. The new site is just a registration page.’ Hopefully, Truth Social resembles something closer to another Trump delusion.
We’re unclear about the platform itself then, but what about the people behind it? Surely Trump has got the best team of lab coats that money can buy busily innovating for him. Well, he does have Donald Trump Jr as a senior advisor for the project. According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s eldest son has used his role to urge Trump Media and Technology Group to implement secure servers so the social media platform can’t be targeted by daddy’s enemies. Now the more cynical among you might be quick to suggest that Donald Junior managed to swing such a senior role through blatant nepotism, but perhaps it was just the family intellect which qualified him for the job. For instance, he really followed through on his determination to ensure the security of the platform. After the private version of Truth Social was launched on 20th October, he managed to keep it secure for a whole two hours before it fell prey to hackers. He hasn’t quite gotten round to blaming it on Democrats or the Chinese government yet, but otherwise, what a daddy’s boy he’s turning out to be.
All in all, you’d think we could rest easy about the unlikely prospect of a redneck internet takeover. Except, I wouldn’t be so sure. It defies all logic, but shares in Trump’s media company Digital World Acquisitions surged by as much as 400% to $52 per share the day after hackers had made a mockery of Trump and the network’s security. Depressingly, there does seem to be demand for this kind of social media platform which facilitates extremist hate in the guise of ‘free speech’.
Truth Social will be in competition with other platforms such as Parler and Gab and Gettr, the latter having been launched by former Trump advisor Jason Miller. Like these other alternative social media sites, Truth Social won’t even pretend to moderate the content its users publish, unless of course they attempt to dint Trump’s impenetrable God complex. Anything which might “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm” the image of Truth Social will be taken down, which as Jillian York pointed out, is clearly “an attempt to ensure that the site can’t be used by critics of Trump”.
So what does this all amount to? A misfiring retirement hobby or another link in the extreme right’s armour? Only time will tell. For now, our best hope is that even if Trump does manage to get his amateurish social media platform off the ground, he stays true to form and walls himself in there with his extreme right chums. They can parrot their same old narrow-minded jargon to each other where fewer people have to hear it. In the meantime, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the end of Trump’s presence on Twitter, meaning statements like this are a thing of the past:
“Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”
Reflecting on such gems as this from Twitter, I’m suddenly feeling a lot better about the future of Truth Social. I’d be surprised if it has one.