The art of the tweet

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

It wasn’t difficult finding inspiration for this post. Over the past 72 hours, the inauguration of President Trump has dominated the weekend news cycle. Or should that be the Trump cycle?

The 45th President of the United States was sworn in on Friday, taking the congressional oath of office on the steps of Capitol Hill before inviting cameras behind the scenes of the White House as he signed his first executive orders as the leader of the free world. Well, perhaps the press should make the most of it. It’s fair to say Trump has not been the most forthcoming with the media since the election result was announced back in November. Breaking from tradition, he chose not to give a press conference following his announcement as President-elect, instead preferring a rather more crude means of communicating with his public… The humble tweet.

Yes, the business tycoon turned commander-in-chief’s personal account on the social media platform has more than 21 million followers and seemed to elevate to somewhat mythical status over the course of his election run – much to the dismay of the world’s press.

Indeed, Trump’s decision to bypass traditional media has certainly caused controversy among journalists and, yet, ironically, it has forced them to fawn over each and every one his 140 characters. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I switched on the news and didn’t see a journalist psychoanalysing a Trump tweet.

Of course, like it not, this is exactly why Trump’s now trademark means of communication is so incredibly effective. Be it to react, distract or simply interact, the buzz surrounding each of Trump’s tweets is unprecedented. Never before has a President of the United States made policy announcements with a hashtag.

And it’s got people talking.

It’s not that Trump is particularly linguistically-gifted. In fact, a recent Sky News feature pointed out Trump’s language is rarely as sophisticated as his political counterparts. That is, Trump is not the wordsmith or the orator that Obama was, but no one can deny he is a good communicator.

As a self-confessed language geek, I have to say I find this fascinating. In many ways, comparisons can be drawn between Trump’s punchy public speaking style and the bluntness of the content he shares via social media. That is, he relies on passionate, cathartic language, often using exclamatory remarks or capitalisation to make his message resonate.

Many had debated whether his trademark tweets would stop post-inauguration, but as this clip shows, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. In fact, his feud with the media escalated further on Saturday to a full-scale “war”, following the Trump administration’s memorable first press conference in which Press Secretary Shaun Spicer refuted media reports of a diminished inauguration crowd and seemingly hinted at boycotting White House reporters altogether – stating in no uncertain terms they would “hold the press accountable”. Add on top of this his much talked about notion of “alternative facts” and it’s fair to say Mr Spicer did not make the best first impression, with the conference eventually culminating in the new press secretary refusing to take any questions from the US press corps.

This isn’t the first time a Trump press conference has hit the headlines. Ok, so they all have, but the infamous “fake news” incident just a couple of weeks ago notably springs to mind. Here, the President shouted down journalists from Buzzfeed and CNN, accusing them of reporting on false news stories. Indeed, Trump has already shown he is willing to snub established media outlets, begging the question of whether journalists should pay any attention to Spicer’s recent warning. In truth, no one knows. But they certainly shouldn’t underestimate the power of Trump’s tweets or, indeed, his administration’s ability to fundamentally change the way governments interact with their publics. Watch this space.

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© 2018 Claire Simpson​. 

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