Social Advocacy and Politics: Eschew the Orange Tweeter
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '17:
Don't respond to the orange tweeter.
Though you may be tempted, responding to the orange tweeter is a trap. Oh, never mind. You may not see that now, but in time you will. Trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at your Twitter timeline and it'll hit you that while you were caught up in litigating every ridiculous orange tweet, he was appointing staff and implementing policies that would dramatically change the nation you live in by altering its core values....
Okay, so that's my somewhat lame attempt to riff off of a commencement speech wrongly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. The speech warned us to eschew "the white zin" because it would tarnish anyone who drank it with a reputation for bad taste. I love zinfandel. The red stuff. Big, bold and yummy. White zin - where some poor soul had to peel the skin off of all those luscious red zin grapes - is so pale in comparison. Yet it was extremely popular in its day.
Similarly, fixating on Donald Trump's tweets is also very popular. The media does it, often instead of covering the real stuff that is happening today in the policy world.
Even I do it. Yes, I admit that Trump's tweets affect me like 140 points of bright shiny lights. I'm inexorably drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
Sure, it makes for some funny tweets on my end. And getting my jabs in quickly after he tweets helps me acquire lots of followers, retweets and likes - but am I really accomplishing anything by doing this?
Trump has mastered the art of using Twitter to take control of the news narrative, stealing it away from journalists who seem to find themselves powerless to do their jobs in the face of bright, shiny, orange tweets. He did it with his 3am tweets after debating Hillary Clinton and he's still doing it today.
It seems that Trump has set upon a very simple strategy - he watches Fox News and he live tweets what he sees and hears. You might think that this is silly and worthy of ridicule, as do Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers, but there might be method to this madness.
By live tweeting Fox News, Trump is riding the wave - he's news-jacking the network that his base loves. Trump's combining the power of his own Twitter audience with the resonance of Fox News' issue framing to post tweets that are almost guaranteed to explode. And when he tweets the more provocative and less factual comments from Fox News, the mainstream news media and the liberal twitosphere go nuts.
The resulting cacophony provides such a distraction from the serious stuff going on, that we miss the substance of Cabinet confirmation hearings. We pay too little attention to how much sway over national security he's given Steve Bannon - a man with no national security expertise. We spend too much time talking about who's going to pay for "the wall," and not enough time talking about who will profit from it.
Some people think Trump proves himself inept with what he tweets, but I'm not so sure. If he is the master negotiator that he claims to be, then we ought to be very careful not to dismiss his maneuvers as he works towards his deals.
So I say, eschew the orange tweeter.
Or at least be sure to keep your eyes on the prize. You can engage the tweets, so long as you maintain a firm grasp on what's happening behind the scenes. Otherwise, you WILL look back in 20 years on your Twitter timeline and wonder how you could have missed what was coming.
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