If a picture says a thousand words, what do retweets say?
If they are related to President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, they can rapidly become an international news story about the state of the Oval Office – which he is degrading and devaluing by the day.
The President lives in a social media bubble of his own making.
When the Democrats push back on his policies, he tweets. When Republicans won’t cooperate with his agenda, he tweets. When the media dare to report on his movements – without hesitation, he tweets.
It is no surprise that major campaign promises from the President – like repealing the Affordable Care Act – have yet to get off the ground. To do so would require engaging with people in the real world, not just the 45 people he follows on Twitter.
His no-holds-barred attitude towards expressing himself on the platform has fluctuated between amusing and dangerous over the past two years – but any smidgen of joy gleaned from watching him ruffle feathers or take on the status quo has been thoroughly overridden by the problems this habit has wrought.
It is extremely unlikely that Trump knew of Britain First three days ago, of its reputation in the UK and its horrible link to the murder of Jo Cox MP last year. But without adequate oversight of his online activity, videos from the group’s deputy leader ended up on Trump’s Twitter feed, giving the oxygen of publicity to violent and misleading garbage.
This is not simply a display of gross negligence from the Trump administration. It also reveals how low the President will sink to pursue his confirmation bias.
Wherever Trump can find or stir up anti-immigration or anti-diversity sentiment, he does so, with little concern for the consequences.
He has called Mexicans “murderers” and “rapists”, attacked a fallen Muslim-American soldier’s family, berated a Mexican judge by linking his rulings to his ethnicity, and now has shared offensive videos which were made to cause fear and distrust of Muslim communities.
Maybe those videos are still on his Twitter feed because he’s too arrogant to admit his error – or maybe, just like in every previous example, it is the exact message he wants to promote.
How should the rest of the world respond? It is becoming meaningless to go through the usual process of shock, outrage, “this time it’s different”, repeat.
Calls to remove Trump from office for his brash behaviour remain unhelpful and extremely short-sighted. To impeach a president for his views, as unsavoury as they may be, would throw our democracy into chaos.
Instead, dissenting voices in the US – especially within the Republican party – need to grow louder, and start providing alternative paths in this Trump-era. The President must continuously be challenged through the robust institutions we have – including Congress, the courts, and the free press.
Here in the UK, the cards are stacked differently. While Theresa May has been right to call out Trump’s retweets as “wrong”, she is also right to resist severing ties with one the UK’s strongest allies.
Perhaps the bells and whistles can be pulled from the state visit – like Trump’s opportunity to address Parliament – but one shouldn’t forget that far bigger offenders have sat down for tea with the Queen.
To allow Trump to ruin the special relationship would be to give him far too much power and credit. Communication and cooperation should continue between the two offices, regardless of how unpleasant it may personally be.
But for those of us who do not have the direct weight of trade relations on our shoulders, we should not hold back from voicing our concerns and dissent in every peaceful way we know how.