The list of those invited to the White House Social Media summit this week to complain about tech bias against conversatives is slowly being revealed unironically on social media. Not surprisingly, it is shaping up to be a carnival of right-wing victimhood.
The long-suffering Trump administration is not inviting Facebook or Twitter, dispensing with any pretense that the goal is to foster some kind of semi-civil conservation about the role digital platforms are playing in civic life.
Instead, unsurprisingly, the gathering will include a narrow band of extremists and seems intended primarily to give participants a platform to explain how they are victims of the social media services which they used to become famous.
Trump will likely preside over this cult of victimhood no doubt by repeating his unfounded accusations that Twitter and Facebook are biased against conservatives. In recent weeks, Trump has lamented that Twitter is limiting his reach, despite the fact that his numer of followers has grown from 12.9 million in November of 2016 to more than 60 million.
“What they did to me on Twitter is incredible,” Trump said in a recent interview on Fox News. “I have millions and millions of followers, but I will tell you, they make it very hard for people to join me on Twitter and they make it very much harder for me to get out the message.”
It doesn’t really matter that research clearly shows that conservative voices are much more dominant online than progressive ones. No matter how much power the right has on these platforms, playing the victim is essential to their identity.
To that end, the list of the conservative oppressed at the summit will include:
Ben Garrison, a conservative cartoonist who has been accused of anti-semitism:
— GrrrGraphics Cartoons (@GrrrGraphics) July 5, 2019
Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point USA, the right wing outfit recruiting students to fight liberal bias at U.S. universities. He’s so concerned about free speech that TPUSA created a “Professor Watchlist” to track professors accused of being progressive.
Very excited to be going to the White House social media summit on Thursday@realDonaldTrump understands the threat of social media censorship and is willing to take on this issue!
I believe this is one of the BIGGEST issues heading into 2020
Time to get smart and tough!
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 8, 2019
James O’Keefe, head of right-wing gonzo journalism outfit Project Veritas, who was called by the Washington Post ” a well-known right-wing fraudster” and whose conviction record has caused problems with donors. O’Keefe’s “exposés” of Silicon Valley have been cited by other right-wing politicians as proof of tech bias.
“If legendary muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell can work alongside Teddy Roosevelt to expose and reform Big Oil,” trumpeted O’Keefe in a press release, “Project Veritas can be synergistic with the Trump administration to pull back the curtain surrounding Big Tech.”
Ali Alexander, the Texas-based tweeter who tweeted the infamous tweet questioning Kamala Harris’ ethnicity.
Never Trumpers are mad that I got invited to the White House?
I’m a policy nerd, not just a prolific tweeter. I’m fighting for the free speech and association for us all.
Get a life.
— Ali Alexander (@ali) July 8, 2019
Scot Presler, a Virginia GOP operative and Trump supporter whose 226,000 Twitter followers has left him practically invisible. He was also previously lead activism strategist for Act for America, an anti-Muslim organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an “extremist hate group.”
I’m so completely honored & humbled to share that I’ve been invited to the White House
for the social media summit.
I can’t even believe this is happening.
Dreams do come true.
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) July 4, 2019
Bill Mitchell, right-wing podcast host:
I will be attending the White House Social Media Summit on July 11th, 2019 in Washington, DC. I thank President Trump for the honor of this private invitation.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) July 2, 2019
And this dude, with 122,000 Twitter followers, who created the bizarre meme video of the Joe Biden apology that Trump himself tweeted:
Thank You @realDonaldTrump for the invite. After working out a few issues with childcare, I happily accept!
It is a great honor to have been invited! pic.twitter.com/Dg12wa9UOG
— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) July 2, 2019
The full list of attendees has not been disclosed. And the agenda is not public either. And no, we’re not holding our breath.
But it’s clear that for Big Tech, the criticism from the right is only going to mount as the 2020 election draws closer and conservatives try to push back against efforts to crack down on fake news and manipulation.
Whether any of this results in legislation remains to be seen. But reports that various U.S. agencies are gearing up anti-trust probes of big tech companies seems to signal that the Trump administration has them in its crosshairs.