Twitter is Donald Trump’s weapon of mass distraction
US President Donald Trump is at a different level of invective. A creature of the media, he knows how to play it, by inflaming it. My hunch is he is using Twitter for tactical strikescolumns Updated: Jul 07, 2017 18:21 IST
By the time you read this, the American President has probably set up another tweetstorm in a covfefe cup.
Hello buttons, meet the twitchy fingers of the President of the United States. With every new tweet, he uses the medium to either massage his own ego or as missiles against the media and other assorted enemies, including many, who in previously traditional times, may have fallen in the friends and allies category.
You’ll rarely get a mundane tweet from the latest occupant of the Oval Office. As Canada celebrated the 150th year of its confederation on July 1 (and in keeping with the national ethos, marked it with apologies), Trump wished, “Happy Canada Day to all of the great people of Canada and to your Prime Minister and my new found friend @JustinTrudeau.” Trudeau, who shared little with Trump barring the first three letters of their names, responded on America’s Independence Day, with, “Wishing @POTUS and all Americans a happy Independence Day! #happy4th.” The younger leader may be expected to be more comfortable with social media, but his official feeds often read like distilled press releases. Somewhat like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s. Trump uses the platform to brandish his blandishments. Modi’s posts, meanwhile, are bland, often reading like a veritable timetable to anniversaries — births, deaths, independence days; it’s like he put his calendar on autopost.
Like it or not, Trump captures (more fittingly, perhaps, holds hostage) the essence of this medium, as it has evolved during its existence, as it hits the 11 year mark next Saturday. Agents provocateur prevail; snark replaces substance. In many ways, it reflects our times — as dialogue has given way to diatribe.
The media is among Trump’s favourite targets, obviously and that attitude appears to be reaching overseas, as French President Emmanuel Macron opts to skip a traditional Bastille Day press conference as apparently his “complex thought process lends itself badly to the game of question-and-answer with journalists.”
But Trump is at a different level of invective. A creature of the media, he knows how to play it, by inflaming it. Twitter is Trump’s weapon of mass distraction, its range amplified by the incensed. I don’t follow him on Twitter but haven’t missed a single manifestation of this incendiary device he has used to deflect attention from matters a little more pertinent like the wrangling within the ranks over healthcare or tax cuts. My hunch is Trump is using this mode for tactical strikes.
That interplay has added to the acid rain of angst that already makes for a wasteland, where courteous conversations rarely bloom. It isn’t just Trump alone: Perfectly reasonable people, in person at least, turn into trolls.
A digital detox is necessary to get all that bile out. But under the MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL system (Trump’s capitals, not mine), cleansing the body politic of the collected toxicity won’t get on the schedule any time soon.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal