Reason Roundup

Trump Is Hosting a Very Weird Social Media Summit at the White House

Plus: Air-launched rockets, the GOP becomes the party of Trump, and Pelosi feuds with AOC.

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Our very online president is hosting a very online social media summit at the White House today.

There's no public guest list, but such pro-Trump online personalities as Bill Mitchell and an anonymous person who goes by the handle "CarpeDonktum" have announced that they will be attending. More conventional right-of-center groups such as TurningPoint USA and the Heritage Foundation will reportedly be there too, as well such Trump-friendly politicians as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.). 

Every president is trailed by a cast of eclectic characters, some of them odder than others, but typically the strangest are kept at arm's length. And as The Daily Beast reports, some of the fringiest Trump-era personalities weren't invited. Still, the guest list shows how the internet has changed political influence in recent years, allowing weirder and less mainstream voices to stand out, an effect that has probably been exaggerated by the particular quirks of President Donald Trump. 

One topic expected to come up is online bias against conservatives.

This is at least a little odd, given how well conservative media is doing on social media these days. 

Yesterday, Axios reported that right-leaning media outfits dominated news coverage following the first Democratic primary debates, with sites such as Fox News, Breitbart, The Blaze, and The Daily Wire publishing many of the stories that generated the most shares, likes, and interactions. For former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.), and former Obama Housing Sec. Julián Castro, the most-engaged-with story came from a conservative site. Whatever else may be happening on social media platforms, these outlets and their stories haven't been suppressed. 

This morning, Trump bragged about "hosting a very big and very important Social Media Summit today," even while insisting that he would probably have become president without social media. His choice of venue for the remark was typical, but still telling: He said it on Twitter. 

The question of whether social media platforms are actively discriminating against conservative figures will probably go unanswered today by the organizations most in the position to really know: Facebook and Twitter reportedly won't be at the event. (In the past, major social media companies have denied any direct bias against conservatives.) Like so much Trump-era politics, this is a party for the president and the strange collection of figures who adore him. 

ELECTION 2020 

  • Joe Biden, the nominal frontrunner for the Democratic primary nomination, is feeling pressure to campaign more aggressively. 
  • Before his dad's death, Ross Perot's son donated to Trump's re-election campaign. 
  • Haim Saban, a billionaire who gives lots of money to Democratic politicians, likes everyone in the primary except Bernie Sanders, who he called "a communist under the cover of being a socialist." 

FREE MINDS

How did Republicans, initially wary of President Trump, come to embrace an outsider president? A new book—American Carnage, by Politico reporter Tim Alberta—tells all. Via The Washington Post:  

The book is filled with vivid details and on-the-record quotes from prominent Republican officials and includes an interview with Trump, who gleefully takes credit for the GOP's shift while standing over the Oval Office desk and waving a poll that shows his approval numbers as soaring from his State of the Union.

"Can there be a question?" Trump says, smirking, when asked by Alberta if he is transitional or transformational. "Honestly, can there even be a question?"

"The tea party still exists—except now it's called Make America Great Again….The Republican Party was in big trouble. I brought the party back. The Republican Party is strong. The Republican Party is strong," he says, before pausing, according to the book. "They've got to remain faithful. And loyal."

FREE MARKETS

Private space company Virgin Galactic has successfully launched a rocket dropped from a modified 747. Via Wired:

The advantages of an air-launch system have been known for decades, but only recently has the space industry started to show interest in the concept. The exception is Orbital ATK, which became the first company to use an air-launched rocket to deliver a satellite to orbit, in 1990, and continues to use that system to this day. The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in the concept, attracting new space companies like Stratolaunch, XCOR, and Generation Orbit, as well as old guard contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Even SpaceX briefly flirted with the idea of an air-launch system for a modified Falcon 9 rocket before abandoning the project in 2012. But among the new guard, only Virgin has brought its air-launch system to fruition. 

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