This past Friday, President Trump’s lawyer and famed former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani posted what has become a run of the mill tweet from members of the Trump administration: accusing Special Counsel Robert Mueller of using his position to negatively affect the president’s national and international endeavors. The tweet in itself wasn’t extraordinary, but a quick-fingered typo ended up causing a great deal of trouble.
A skipped space between the end of one sentence and the beginning of a second automatically created a hyperlink in the tweet to a website that didn’t exist. Or at least, it didn’t at first. Almost immediately, 37-year-old Atlanta native Jason Velazquez secured the domain and populated it with an anti-Trump message.
At this point, the prudent thing to do for Giuliani would be to delete the tweet. After all, he made a mistake, some crafty internet user capitalized on it, and the story could have been one of a dozen headlines to hit the press the next morning. Instead, however, Giuliani claimed that Twitter had “allowed” his tweet to be hacked because of their anti-Trump bias.
This is the part where I point out that Giuliani is the president’s cybersecurity advisor, and yet doesn’t seem to know how the internet works — but let’s be honest with each other. None of us thought Giuliani knew how the internet worked before this gaffe, either. After all, most 74-year-old men aren’t all that tech savvy. My concerns with Giuliani’s appointment not withstanding, my far more pressing concern is how his response offered a perfect glimpse into America’s newfound love affair with conspiracy.
Of course, America has always had a thing for conspiracies. From the JFK assassination to the moon landing and even the horrible events of September 11, 2001 — if something momentous occurs in this nation, you can be sure there will be a pocket of Americans squinting at it from behind tin foil helmets and shouting about the Freemasons. Conspiracies have always been present in American culture, though relegated to small groups that functioned just outside the beaten path. Fox Mulder’s office was in the basement, it pays to recall.
But not anymore. Today, the default explanation for whatever ails you has become “the deep state,” or “Trump’s secret Russian agenda.” If you screw up on a tweet, that’s not a silly and entirely human thing to do… it’s the social media Illuminati trying to ruin your boss. This tendency isn’t specific to the Republicans, though President Trump’s knack for signal boosting some silly conspiracies has certainly made this issue seem like a conservative mindset. No, in today’s America, the truth isn’t held in very high esteem because it simply doesn’t evoke enough of a rage-response to satiate the public. Everything needs to be punched up, every debate is a life or death struggle for our nation’s future, every mistake is proof that the other side of the aisle is the enemy rather than fellow statesmen with a different view.
I could blame Giuliani for immediately leaning into this trend when his own error stared him in the face, but that’s like picking one speeding car out of traffic and issuing him a ticket. Sure, he was wrong… but so was 90% of everyone else on the road at the time. One dumb tweet is nothing more than that — but encouraging our nation to further entrench ourselves against one another because you missed the space bar on Twitter seems like a bit of an over reaction, objectively, doesn’t it? Before you answer, my Right leaning friends, I have to ask — would you be so forgiving if it had been Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that made this mistake and then accused the internet of conspiring against her?
It’s okay to call out your own team for bad plays. I’m a Buffalo Bills fan, so I’ve had a lifetime of practice. When the Bills traded Thurman Thomas to the Miami Dolphins so many years ago, I shook my fist at the TV and uttered what may have been my first few swears. It didn’t make me a bad Bills fan. You’re allowed to be critical of the decisions your favorite sports teams make. For some reason, we’re just not allowed to be critical of the politicians on “our team” anymore.
Giuliani’s Twitter gaff is, in my opinion, a non-issue that may not warrant all the attention it has garnered — but the real issue at play here is how quick our national leadership is to cry conspiracy without any evidence to back it up. Democrats and Republicans alike know that the truth doesn’t matter anymore. People vote based on how you’ve engaged their political identities… and convincing the world that we’re “at war” is a great way to galvanize your base. Thoughtful reason takes time and consideration, but as the internet is so keen on pointing out:
Let’s start making time, because it doesn’t seem like today’s politicians are even interested in putting it on their agendas.