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As the Trump presidency fades into ignominy, shadows concerning the stability of democracy, its institutions and the relationship between public opinion and social networks are cast on the future of the United States.
First of all, we still have in our eyes the unworthy images of the assault on the Capitol, for which it is not a pilgrim to attribute the responsibility to Trump, to his aggressive language and to his having always looked, for low electoral cuisine, to minority and subversive groups such as the white supremacists or Qanon supporters. But if these clusters threaten the institutions today, the main fault is not Trump, but the social networks that, favoring political polarization, have inflated the following.
Of course, Trump’s style, his language, are unacceptable, despite some appreciable results achieved by the president, such as with the Abrahamic Agreements and with the trade balance with China.
But as inappropriate and guilty as Trump’s words may be, the decisions of some social networks to censor him are even more dangerous. Twitter doesn’t moderate Maduro and Khamenei. Is it permissible for him to do this with Trump? After favoring political polarization, the editors of social networks are rebuilding a virginity by blocking Trump, when hatred on the net is not exclusive to the Republican right. It does not work.
It cannot be private publishers who sanction the alleged fake news uttered by politicians. And, perhaps, the situation would not be better if the censorship were carried out by some public authority.
Democracy needs the free confrontation of ideas, and none should be forgotten, however controversial, leaving citizens with the burden of knowing in order to deliberate.
Unlike the case of disinformation treacherously spread by websites for commercial purposes or because they are linked to foreign countries that aim to destabilize a democracy. In that case, it would be appropriate to sanction and censor.
But when clicks brought the money, the giants of the Web were obviously distracted.
The biggest unknown that weighs on the future of the US, however, is the general political radicalization, and the inability of institutions to resist it. Without wanting to put supremacists and #Blacklivesmatter supporters on the same level, there is no doubt that the American left has also undergone a shift towards maximalist positions.
Democracy works when the majority of people have centrist positions and recognize themselves in a set of common values, considering those who think differently an opponent with whom to mediate, not an enemy to be annihilated, because they are communist or fascist.
The shift of the electorate to maximalist positions, above all, has negative effects for the American system, not designed to manage polarization.
All presidentialist countries, in fact, suffer from authoritarian drifts or are at risk of a coup. The history of South America or Africa is there to prove it. The only country where presidentialism worked was the USA, where, not surprisingly, extremist movements were particularly in the minority. The growth of these groups and the transformation of Democrats and Republicans into something different suggests that what we have just seen may repeat itself.
And to deflate the angry social bubble blowing on the fire of sedition, it will not be enough to censor Trump, who is the symptom of a new climate, not the cause.
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