In case you missed it in the midst of last week’s election chaos, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.-14) found herself facing widespread condemnation for her actions on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democrat, commonly known as “AOC”, tweeted the following on Friday, Nov. 6:
“Is anyone archiving these Trump sycophants for when they try to downplay or deny their complicity in the future? I foresee decent probability of many deleted Tweets, writings, photos in the future.”
When I first read this message, I had to pause before I read it several more times. The wordy nature of Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet tripped me up, particularly the word “sycophant.” Google defines the term as “a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.”
Obviously, President Trump is an important person. But who was Ocasio-Cortez referring to when she used the word “sycophant?” She might have intended the tweet to be directed at prominent Republicans like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, who vehemently opposed Trump in 2016 but unequivocally support him now. But that hardly matters as Ocasio-Cortez’s statement was interpreted as a direct threat to the millions of American citizens who posted pro-Trump content on Twitter and proceeded to vote for the president last week.
It is well-known that President Trump has used Twitter to make ridiculous suggestions hundreds of times. But regardless of Ocasio-Cortez’s true intention in writing the “sycophant” tweet, her suggestion that pro-Trump tweets should be saved and later weaponized against his supporters is just as dangerous as it is egregious.
Even if the establishment of a mass system of tweet archives was a good idea (it is not), Ocasio-Cortez is way out of line to suggest its creation — rather, its return. The Library of Congress actually archived the text of all public tweets from 2010-17, before Twitter’s increased character limit made the process too cumbersome. Today, it only archives tweets “on a very selective basis,” which includes the posts of public figures and anything else potentially important to the public interest.
The difference between the Library of Congress’ archival and Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal is, of course, the nature of the content being archived. Most pro-Trump tweets (and anti-Trump, for that matter) are of little interest to the Library’s archives. There are no grounds to suggest that those behind the tweets had said or done anything beyond expressing their views in a public forum. Thus, there is no reason for a member of Congress to advocate for what is essentially police work to threaten public thought.
Furthermore, the establishment of a sycophant archive is simply not necessary. This is because I am convinced that Ocasio-Cortez’s desire to hold Trump’s accomplices and supporters accountable will be fulfilled anyway. As many celebrities find out the hard way, the internet never forgets. Tweets that do not “age well” are promptly called out and reposted by various users for the public to view.
This phenomenon has shown itself in politics on several occasions. Just a few weeks ago, Twitter users directed allegations of inconsistency and hypocrisy toward several Republican senators who opposed the confirmation of Merrick Garland in 2016, yet supported Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.
Lastly, Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet carries huge political implications for today’s Democratic Party. To put it bluntly, tweets that call for the archival of half of America’s social media posts stand in stark contrast to president-elect Joe Biden’s call for national unity. In his refusal to attack Trump’s base after the election, Biden has correctly portrayed this united image; Ocasio-Cortez has not. To her I say, attacks from the far left are not a legitimate response to the attacks of the far right.