From the responses on social media you’d almost think that this story was more disturbing to liberals than Trump getting the nuclear codes. Colin Daileda at Mashable couldn’t even finish his headline without including the question, What Have We Done to Deserve This? Joan Salsman at CNET took the more businesslike approach of simply stating the obvious… Trump Will Get the Power to Text All Americans. Okay… but will he really?
President-elect Donald Trump will have access to a system that can send unblockable texts to every phone in the US once he takes the oath of office.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are a program created by a 2006 act of Congress. The so-called “WEAs” can be targeted messages sent to all mobile phones in a particular area, like Amber alerts, or to all phones nationally, like an alert issued by the president, according to a report by New York Magazine’s Select/All blog.
Trump is known for off-the-cuff messages on social media, especially Twitter. Tweets and other social missives lent Trump a direct mouthpiece to his supporters, bolstering his campaign and circumventing traditional media that he sometimes claimed was treating him unfairly. But tweets have landed Trump in hot water, too.
So they’re talking about the Wireless Emergency Alerts. You probably get similar messages on your phone regularly, including Amber Alerts and the ones from the National Weather Service (which are actually on a different system) and don’t get too offended by them. Even if you’re the sort of person who might be put off at having your movie interrupted by news of a little girl that’s gone missing or a tornado bearing down on a nearby town you’re (hopefully) unlikely to go unleash a tweetstorm about what an inconvenience it is.
And now Trump will have “access” to a system which can blast out messages to every phone in the country. Fair enough. But as Mashable went on to explain, it’s not quite as simple as whipping out his phone and sending out a tweet. In fact, he’d have to get somebody else to do it.
Let me tamp down your (read: my) anxiety by saying that Trump can’t send these texts like he sends his tweets. He’d have to learn how to use the alert system, something he has not shown the attention span to do. And even if he did, he’d have to clear his messages with the people who run FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which disseminates the texts.
Do we honestly believe that, as President, Donald Trump will be running off to see the folks at FEMA at 6:30 in the morning while he’s watching MSNBC and have them send out a national alert stating that Joe Scarborough is being unfair in his description of his SCOTUS nominee? Sure, he might still tweet about it (if he retains access to his phone and Twitter account, a question which is still up in the air.) But even given his predilection for tweeting from the hip, I rather doubt it.
But he’ll be tweeting from somewhere, and that’s changing the way the press does business. If there’s one thing that’s frustrated the mainstream media about Trump from day one it’s the fact that he refuses to play by the rules. In the old days, when Trump made a decision about who he would nominate for various positions he would have had to schedule a press conference, make an announcement and sit through a bunch of questions being screamed at him. The same goes for when he would want to respond to a brewing controversy. Not so for Trump. 140 characters later and the word is out. Not only has the press lost the ability to frame his messages and decide when and how they would be disseminated, they are now forced to base much of their reporting on his tweets and then limply speculate as to what he was thinking when he sent them. It’s a new paradigm.
But as for your phone blowing up at three in the morning every time Trump doesn’t like something he saw on television? I wouldn’t worry about it. Trump will figure out how to keep some sort of access to Twitter and it won’t involve going through FEMA. Besides… Twitter gives him fifty more characters than the WEA. Who needs that sort of restriction?