Donald Trump’s new website is a fake Twitter. Meghan Markle’s new book is questionable literature. Both are crass commercial ploys for refreshing a fake persona, keeping it in the public eye, and, at least in Trump’s case, keeping the money rolling in. This is how the business of politics is done in America these days, and that explains why traditional politics, the politics of parties and ideas, is dying in America.
Donald Trump remains on social media’s naughty step as a warning to any public figure who might have reservations about the power of Big Tech. Meghan Markle retains A-list access to the legacy media because, according to the magazine Vogue, the children’s book industry has “a noted lack of diversity” and her perspective is “inevitably important to the many, many multicultural households across America”.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s Oversight Board reaffirmed Facebook’s suspension of Trump. The Oversight Board is an absurd mock-court that Mark Zuckerberg created in the hope that it could function like the real Supreme Court. When this fake Star Chamber confirmed Trump’s sentence, it recommended the possibility of parole in six months’ time. If Trump runs for 2024, the social media companies would be fools not to cash in.
“Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” the world’s biggest blogger wrote on his new website, which is modestly titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump”. The former president keeps his core audience by moaning about how last November’s election was stolen from him. But he won’t run again.
But similarly, Meghan Markle keeps her core audience by moaning about how her stuffy, racist in-laws denied her the royal perks she deserves. And just as Trump won’t become more Presidential in the future, she won’t become more royal.
Indeed, Markle’s book is a harmless assault on the canons of taste in children’s books, most of which have already been levelled to rubble by semi-literacy, sentimentality and racial tokenism. These are also the debased currency of political debate in America these days, and that shows just how far politics and entertainment have merged into a single digital pantomime of race and virtue.
The ongoing nullification of Trump is, however, a real-world danger to the already tottering edifice of American democracy – a far greater threat, in fact, than the one represented by his conspiracy theories about a stolen election. Twitter refuses to make Trump’s tweets, a key archive of his Presidency, available to the public or posterity. This retroactive pettiness is a partisan attack on the historical record by a private company. Nothing will be done about it.
The Democrats are mostly happy with these arrangements. Big Tech gave Biden a big hand before and after last November’s elections – a hand big enough to atone for social media’s role in inadvertently bringing Trump to power in the first place. The Biden administration is no more likely to enact trust-busting legislation against its partners in Silicon Valley than Dr. Jill Biden is to perform open-heart surgery.
The Republicans are deeply unhappy with the new normal, but they’re even less happy with each other. Its current drama, an attempt by the post-Trump nationalists in the House to purge moderates like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, reflects just how far from reality it has drifted.
Unless, that is, the new reality of American politics is a digitised drama of race and identity politics. In that case, the Republicans are well on track to become a party for white identitarians. That might make them the designated losers in the social-media script. But losing, as Meghan and Donald have both discovered, is no obstacle to raking it in.
Dominic Green is deputy editor of The Spectator’s US edition