Throughout almost two years of campaigning, in addition to his short stay in the White House, Donald Trump has become the most prolific Twitter user on the planet. Not only does he tweet almost daily, but often times 5, 6, 7, or 8 times a day. To an ordinary head of state, perhaps this would not be such a problem. After all, Barack Obama had his staff Tweet for him quite often and numerous other leaders have their own Twitter accounts as well. The problem, however, is that Trump’s tweets do not sound as if they are coming from a professional social media manger, or someone capable of running the world’s superpower. Instead, his short 140-character-or-less messages sound as if they are straight from the fingertips of a 10-year old boy with self-esteem issues.
Following this weekend’s tweetstorm from President Trump, in which he used Twitter to berate Judge Robart who recently halted his travel ban via a temporary restraining order, it was hard to believe things could get much worse from a maturity and lack of respect standpoint. Well, they just did, and I can honestly say that as a historian, I am now scared to death.
Trump has shown that he does not always agree with what many of us would call ‘facts’. For years he has touted conspiracy theories as if they were the written word of god, going as far as suggesting that the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States and only recently vaguely admitting that perhaps he was wrong. This morning, Trump took things to yet another low, lashing out against the media and pollsters after numerous polls depicted a rather bleak picture of his approval ratings.
“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting,” Trump tweeted at approximately 7am EST this morning.
Reading this tweet as I awoke from my slumber, my first reaction was to laugh, as Trump once again showed his total lack of self-confidence as well as his egotistical tendencies. But then it hit me. Trump’s actions are following a blueprint of exactly how other authoritative regimes have been able to consolidate power behind their own ideologies. Skewing his own popularity may not do much more than just boost his own ego, however, his willingness to begin to question actual data collected by professionals is a major warning sign as to what likely will be coming from this administration.
What if instead of approval ratings, Trump had stated that the unemployment rate last week, which came in at 4.8% was ‘fake news”? What if the next time American soldiers die in combat or the military kills innocent civilians, he comes out and says it’s ‘fake news’ or skews the data to fit his needs? This single tweet at 7am this morning has just brought question upon literally any key data Trump and his administration decides to release or dispute, and it opens the door to the erosion of trust in that data which is responsible for driving the very foundations of our economy, society and world as a whole.
So next time the unemployment rate decides to tick up a few tenths of a percentage point or the manufacturing index drops, can we be sure that Trump won’t be skewing those numbers to boost his own ego and perceived effectiveness as a leader? Not any longer!