There’s been a minor bit of amusement running through conservative Twitter this weekend centered on an announcement from a reporter named Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza in an article published at Fortune. She’s a writer for Pacific Standard who had been badgering the President on the social media network and, in the second week of June, was rewarded for her efforts by having @RealDonaldTrump block her. While she initially seemed to celebrate this event (more on that in a moment), her attitude has soured and she is now joining in a lawsuit against the President, claiming that the Twitter blockage is “costing her” a career in the media. But as you’ll see below with a few details I’ve assembled, some of her protests ring a bit on the hollow side.
Let’s get to the actual Fortune article linked above. I was going to offer you some sort of mental health trigger warning in advance before sending you to read this tale of woe because it’s just so bizarre, but National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has already taken care of that task admirably so I’ll let him handle it.
I am dumber for having read this. Be warned, you'll feel your IQ evaporate off your brain like water on a hot skillet. https://t.co/pdQ1LOXUPq
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) July 14, 2017
Most of my writing is about the Trump administration. In fact, my mandate from Pacific Standard is “Trump and the law.” On Twitter, the bulk of my recent follower growth and new relationships with others in the politico-legal sphere have come out of responding quickly when the president tweets and engaging the threads of conversation that flow from those tweets.
So when President Donald Trump blocked me in June, apparently for suggesting that Russia influenced the outcome of the 2016 election, he harmed me professionally. Even though I knew @realDonaldTrump was important to my career, it still took me at least a few days to recognize how being blocked by the president on Twitter would affect me as a public intellectual.
The author goes on to claim that this is the driving force behind her decision to join in on a lawsuit seeking to sue the President for blocking various people on Twitter. But the substance of her claims and the damages she supposedly has incurred don’t really seem to match up with some of her other comments on the subject. Let’s take a look at a bit of the history involved here.
All of these events were apparently kicked into gear when the President blocked her, which I believe took place on June 13th. (Give or take a day.) But her commentary on the subject of being blocked really began lighting up her twitter feed on the 15th. It was on that day when she tweeted the following, detailing her guess as to why she had been blocked. The original offending tweet went out on the morning of the 13th.
Just going to share this again since it’s apparently the tweet that got me blocked by our President.
Now let’s look at the author’s explanation of how this evolved and what led to her decision. In the article, she describes how she, “didn’t think being blocked on Twitter was a big deal at first.”
But that’s not really in keeping with another tweet of hers on June 15th which appears to have been deleted. Fortunately, some other users I follow were quick on the trigger and captured her thoughts for posterity. Check this one out.
“If I meet or tweet w/ @StephenKing bc the President blocked us, it’ll immeasurably sweeten what I’d already count a resume-level achievement.”
I can see why one would want to delete that tweet, assuming it’s gone down the memory hole. You can’t very well talk about how damaging it is to your career after defining it as a “resume-level achievement.”
But returning to the pending lawsuit, how did that come about? In the article, Ms. Buckwalter-Poza talks about how her complaints over being blocked led to the fact that, “I eventually connected with the Knight First Amendment Institute and became involved in the legal effort.” She further goes on to state that, “It never occurred to me that I’d end up in court. I can’t say I’m glad I have, but I am proud to stand up for the right to free speech, which is essential to not only to individual people—and entire professions—but democracy.”
You “eventually” considered a lawsuit? You never thought you’d end up in court? That’s funny. It was after 8 pm on June 15th when you called it a “resume-level achievement” but nearly eight hours earlier, at roughly half past noon, you were already declaring your intention to sue. (This one hasn’t been deleted… at least not yet. But I screen-capped it just in case.)
If anyone finds out, let me know. In the meantime, I'll be suing. https://t.co/6eQ4XM56W4
— RebeccaBuckwalterPoz (@rpbp) June 15, 2017
“If anyone finds out, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be suing.”
I’m certainly no expert in courtroom testimony here, but some of these things don’t seem to match up. Still, having spent enough time on those tweets and threats of legal action, there are a couple of other points here which I wanted to touch upon before this column reaches the length of a Steven King novel. (A reference I’m sure Rebecca could appreciate.)
The second question here is the more serious one of whether or not a journalist can actually be “damaged” by being blocked on Twitter by the President or anyone else. What exactly is she losing out on? If you managed to make your way through Ms. Buckwalter-Poza’s Fortune article without suffering an aneurysm, you read her impassioned cries about how she has lost her, “ability to participate in the timeliest and most robust conversations around law, policy, and politics on Twitter—those around the president’s tweets.” Really? We’re talking about the @RealDonaldTrump account. Every single media outlet in the country (if not the world) with at least four employees has one of them assigned to follow that account every second of the day, retweeting, screen-capping, commenting on and blasting out every word which appears in his timeline. While it may not show up in your feed (if you are blocked) you will know about it in a matter of seconds if you’re following anyone else in your field.
And is this even a First Amendment issue to begin with? Nobody is preventing you from speaking and nobody is stopping the President from speaking. Saying there is something illegal about your inability to see a tweet the second it publishes is akin to claiming that you’ve been cheated by every press pool event you weren’t invited to because you had to wait until someone else reported on it before you had the details. If that’s what’s sinking your career then your job prospects probably weren’t all that spectacular in the first place, honestly.