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Opinion Donald Trump doesn’t know how the Internet works

Donald Trump has said many things that make no sense. But at Tuesday night’s CNN debate, he outdid even himself.

For a man with such a remarkable social media presence, he appears to have literally no idea what the Internet is or how it works.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked, “Mr. Trump, you recently suggested closing that Internet up, those were your words, as a way to stop ISIS from recruiting online. Are you referring to closing down actual portions of the Internet? Some say that would put the U.S. in line with China and North Korea.”

Trump replied:

Well, look, this is so easy to answer. ISIS is recruiting through the Internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet, and it was our idea. What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they’re doing.
You talk freedom of speech. You talk freedom of anything you want. I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth and watching the media talking about how they’re masterminds — these are masterminds. They shouldn’t be using the word “mastermind.” These are thugs. These are terrible people in ISIS, not masterminds. And we have to change it from every standpoint. But we should be using our brilliant people, our most brilliant minds to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the Internet. And then on second, we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS. And we can do that if we use our good people.

First of all: What?

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Donald Trump clearly took exactly the opposite message from former senator Ted Stevens’s “series of tubes” debacle that everyone else did.

These threats of shutting down and censoring the Internet would be more terrifying if you had any sense from these remarks that Donald Trump knew what the Internet was. He probably thinks it is a big tree full of porn that occasionally says it likes him for no reason.

You get the sense that his daughter Ivanka has to spend hours on the phone as he asks how to make the little box go away. (“No, I double-clicked it! That did nothing!”)

“I don’t want them using our Internet”? Does he think that ISIS is using our WiFi? Should we not have given them the password?

“We should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS.” Penetrate the Internet? What a phrase. (“What are you doing in there, Timmy?” “I’m penetrating the Internet, Ma.”)

This sort of ballooning overconfidence about the potential of the internet, coupled with a total lack of any sense of what it might be, is the sort of thing we have come to expect from our Boomer Adults In Positions of Power.

This is what CBS primetime dramas have wrought. You watch one once during your formative years, and you think that if you just get the right wacky hacker character on your team she can wiggle her fingers at the keyboard three times and suddenly you will find out exactly where ISIS is and a big picture will come up saying, “Here are all the suspects within a ten-block radius. And look, David just had a nasty breakup with his college sweetheart, who is lactose intolerant. And here’s a scanned newspaper clipping saying that the Islamic State’s parents died tragically in a fire when the Islamic State was just eight years old. You’d better drive to THIS ADDRESS right now!”

I am not saying that hackers cannot find information like this, but this is not how. Not even if they are “good people.”

Just out of curiosity, what does Donald Trump think the Internet is? A place? A thing? How does he think we are going to shut it down, exactly? By building a wall around it? By plugging up the tubes? Who can say.

Here’s Blitzer’s follow-up:

BLITZER: Let me follow up, Mr. Trump. So, are you open to closing parts of the Internet?

TRUMP: I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our Internet. Yes, sir, I am.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Governor Kasich, is shutting down any part of the Internet a good idea?

KASICH: No, I don’t think it is.

Simple question. Simple answer.