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The Upstander

How @realdonaldtrump’s Twitter Account Became a Political Weapon

Clementine Havemeyer December 9, 2016 Opinion Comments Off on How @realdonaldtrump’s Twitter Account Became a Political Weapon

It defies logic that at least one person on Donald Trump’s advisory team hasn’t suggested by now that he surrender his Twitter account to PR professionals.

To be fair that person probably got fired.

From Trump’s perspective, his tweets are a defensive mechanism to deal with national media outlets like the New York Times and CNN that continue to defy him.

“If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to “tweet”. Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen!” Trump tweeted on December 3.

The quotation marks around the word “tweet” should tell you everything you need to know about this 70 year-old man’s understanding of social media, let alone the power and responsibility that comes with his soon-to-be office.

Social media platforms are full of noise, but Donald Trump isn’t just anybody. As the President Elect of the United States of America he has 17 million followers across the globe. His words cut through. They matter.

Somewhere along the line, Trump began to confuse the first amendment right to free speech with his desire to tweet whatever is on his mind without impunity, no matter how politically incorrect or reckless.

On November 29, Trump tweeted that people who burn the American flag should lose their citizenship or suffer a year in jail. Two days earlier, he claimed that he would have won the popular vote if millions of people who voted illegally in the election were subtracted, citing absolutely no evidence. Of course, there was no evidence to cite because the claim was a complete fabrication.

Twitter has long been fighting trolls but this week took a defensive stance against Trump and his elected cabinet.

The company said that it will take action on accounts violating The Twitter Rules, which prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse. “The Twitter Rules apply to all accounts,” a spokesman wrote, drawing a line in the sand for the President Elect without actually calling him out.

But when it comes to violent threats, harassment and hateful conduct on social media, it can be hard to know where the line in the sand actually is.

On Sunday November 4, Egdar Welch walked into the Comet Pingo Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC and fired warning shots after reading a story on 4Chan that claimed Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, John Podesta were running a sex ring in the basement. In what later became known as #pizzagate, Edgar showed up with an assault rifle to search the restaurant and rescue the sexually abused children.  He found none.

While no one was hurt this time round, #pizzagate should serve as a cautionary tale about propagating false news on social media. It should also serve as a stark warning to the President Elect about the dangers of reckless finger-pointing on Twitter. But three days later, he lashed out again against Chuck Jones, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 union and a union leader at the Carrier manufacturing company.

“Chuck Jones, who is president of the United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” and in another tweet “If United Steelworkers was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.”

The tweets were posted in response to an interview Jones gave on CNN, where he said Trump “lied his ass off” about the number of jobs he saved during negotiation deals with Carrier, which announced plans in February to shut down its factory in Indianapolis and move to Mexico.

Trump boasted that he had saved 1,100 jobs in Indianapolis,  but according to Jones, and later confirmed by Carrier, Trump was taking credit for 350 jobs that were never due to move in the first place and also failing to acknowledge the 700 factory jobs still moving to Mexico. Meanwhile, Carrier will receive $7 million in tax credits from Indiana over the next 10 years.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” Jones told The Washington Post on November 7. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”

Jones then started receiving threatening phone calls.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eyes on your kids. We know what car you drive. Things along those lines,” Jones told MSNBC.

Donald Trump has no appreciation for the power he wields in 140 characters. For as long as he has a petulant finger hovering over the “tweet” button, it might as well be a nuclear weapon.


Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA)

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