Reading Trump through Twitter II

Naming and Name-calling

  1. As Trump’s tweets become less directly engaged with his opponents and more insulting they may have less impact on his opponents, perhaps also on the undecided, but they help to confirm his support base.
  2. Because Twitter demands brief content and allows regular and even repetitive communication, the force of Trump’s messages is easily reinforced and noted. The ‘crooked Hillary’ meme gets rapid currency and recognition. Twitter’s episodic and intermittent quality makes Twitter insults rather potent — more so, than the epithets used on the bigger but stickier Facebook platform.
  3. Twitter’s relative openness — all public tweets can be viewed and linked to by those who are not members or users of Twitter — means that mass media, print and broadcast, regularly and rapidly take stock of Trump’s often aggressive name-calling. To the extent that name-calling is a way of diverting attention from serious political choices, this distracts mainstream media from explaining these choices and the underlying issues.
  4. Twitter is only a part of an overall electoral campaign, and some aspects of the Trump campaign are even angrier and more aggressive than the tweets. For example, his public meetings, where shouts of “Crooked Hillary” were accompanied by chants of “Lock her up”, that latter phrase is not used at all on the Twitter account. However, Donald Trump was directly responsible for a large proportion of the tweets that were issued in his name — 43% of the tweets in 2016 and 70% of the “Crooked Hillary” tweets come from the Android device which is his personal phone — so it seems reasonable both to study his use of Twitter seriously and to hold him to account for all that is said in his name. Digital speech can be very personal, both in its target and in its author.

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