After the "Storming of the Capitol" on 6 January 2021 in Washington D.C., political scientist Jan Rau and media lawyer Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann discuss what role the media play in this – and whether something like this could happen in Germany as well.
The society in the USA is divided. Some celebrate the newly elected President Joe Biden like a saviour; others do not want to acknowledge his election victory. A conflict between two realities that culminated in the storming of the Capitol on 6 January. In the US parliament, the official counting of the electoral votes in Congress was scheduled for that day. The demonstrators wanted to disrupt this final certification of Joe Biden as the new US president.
Don't Blame (Just) the Media
The storming of the Capitol was a shocking but by no means surprising event, says political scientist Jan Rau. The polarisation of US society did not happen overnight, but has been going on for many years. The popular accusation that the digital media, with their flood of fake news, are to blame for the polarisation is, in his opinion, too shortsighted. Rather, it was due to the inability of conservative politicians to keep the demagogue Trump away from their ranks. Rau believes that conservative forces in Germany also have a duty to take a clear stand against anti-democratic tendencies.
Trump and Twitter
Twitter was Trump's favourite platform for communicating with the people. His tweets regularly caused outrage. On election night in November 2020, the company reacted for the first time and put warnings on some of his tweets because of false statements. After the storming of the Capitol, Twitter deleted the user account of the incumbent president. This decision was simultaneously correct, too late and highly problematic, Matthias Kettemann comments on the suspension. This decision reflects many debates and problems surrounding the power of platform operators.
Those who complain that Twitter is curtailing Trump's freedom of expression are wrong, at least according to current US law, because Trump has no right to freedom of expression vis-à-vis Twitter, says Matthias Kettemann. Citizens in the US only enjoy this freedom vis-à-vis the state. Private companies are not obliged to grant these freedoms. In Germany, the legal situation is different: Private actors, who have a significant influence on public communication (e.g. stadiums, airports, social networks), are also bound by certain fundamental rights.
Blog article by Jan Rau on the topic
Matthias Kettemann on Trump's Deleted Twitter Account on Deutschlandfunk