Did Donald Trump toss free speech under the bus yesterday? Er, not quite. This statement made a few ripples on the Internet yesterday, but not as many as it might have had Trump not also called for banning Muslims entry into the US — including, at least briefly, US citizens traveling abroad. As a result of the outrage over that statement, this one drew less attention, but it hardly passed by unnoticed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwND81FnYWs

At International Business Times, Alistair Charlton wrote that Trump suggested shutting down the entire Internet. However, that’s not what Trump actually said, nor meant:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called on Bill Gates and other technology figureheads to “close up” the internet. Trump believes this would help prevent Islamic State (Isis) from recruiting Americans.

Speaking at a campaign rally at the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in South Carolina on 7 December, Trump said he believed that “closing that internet up in some ways” would prevent acts of domestic terrorism in the US. During the same speech, Trump demanded that the US shut its borders to all Muslims.

Trump said: “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain cases, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.”

The quote in the third paragraph is more accurate, but still devoid of the context. In the lead-up to this quote, Trump was discussing recruitment on the Internet by ISIS and other radical jihadist groups, which the West has tried to counter or block with only limited success. Trump’s proposal — well, more like one of his stream-of-consciousness venting exercises — was to get experts more involved in the cyber war being conducted for the souls of Western youth. “Closing up the Internet in some ways” clearly refers to this recruitment effort from abroad, not to shutting down the Internet entirely. It’s a little imprecise, vague, and largely unexplained as is usual for Trump’s bombasts, but any fair reading of what Trump said in context would definitely put this in the context of an anti-ISIS cyber war — which we are presumably already conducting, and again without any noticeable success.

On the other hand, Trump’s proposal to block Muslims from entering the US seems pretty clear enough. On ABC’s Good Morning America, Trump didn’t back away from it even as criticism mounts:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump double-downed today on his proposal to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States.

“Something has to be done,” Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during an interview on “Good Morning America.” “What I’m doing is calling very simply for Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Trump’s plan would block all Muslims from entering the United States, with an exception for U.S. citizens who are Muslim, who would come and go as they wish. He hopes the ban “will go quickly,” as soon as “our leaders figure out what the hell is going on,” Trump said.

“If a person is a Muslim, goes overseas and comes back, they can come back. They’re a citizen. That’s different,” Trump said. “But we have to figure things out.”

Later, though, Trump seemed to suggest that the Code Red might not last terribly long:

https://twitter.com/NolteNC/status/674210563749257216

Jazz earlier suggested that Trump’s proposal might not be unconstitutional. Perhaps, but immigration policies and restrictions usually rely on criteria such as country of origin and work status. To my knowledge, the reason that courts have never disallowed a religious test for immigration is because we’ve never applied one. Even if it’s possible to set up such a test, it’s a bad idea for the reasons enumerated by Ben Shapiro:

Kiss Our Intelligence Apparatus Goodnight. We need to work with Muslims both foreign and domestic. It’s one thing to label Islamic terrorism and radical Islam a problem. It’s another to label all individual Muslims a problem. That’s what this policy does. It’s factually wrong and ethically incomprehensible. Donald Trump has just transformed into the strawman President Obama abused on Sunday night.

So no, this isn’t a good idea. It’s a rotten idea all the way around: legally, ethically, practically. Trump’s supporters need to realize at some point that knee-jerk extreme reactions to events of the day don’t substitute for good judgment. It’s ugly when it’s President Obama looking to grab guns from American citizens without due process, and it’s ugly from Donald Trump. Given the poll numbers, it’s not clear whether Americans will get wise to that truth.

Absolutely. Trump is appealing to the worst, knee-jerk instincts in the electorate, which are ripe for provoking thanks to Barack Obama’s refusal to take the threat from radical Islam seriously. That’s basically Trump’s entire campaign strategy, and the fact that it’s working makes the problem even worse. But let’s be careful to criticize Trump (and everyone else, too) for where he actually does run off the rails, and not for parsed comments taken out of context.