Baby boomers didn’t grow up with social media. We’ve had to learn it … and some of us haven’t bothered. But the best-known baby boomer of them all has learned it well and uses it ceaselessly, and as BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes, that’s not all good.
Twitter might not yet be a big moneymaker, but it sure has turned into a big troublemaker.
This twist in the tenor of Twitter, which was born as a harmless social network, doesn’t require profound analysis. Just two words: Donald Trump, a leading-edge baby boomer who has taken to this new channel of communication with relish. Trump tweets to brag and bamboozle, to berate and belittle, to proclaim that news is fake and wars are forthcoming.
The past week or two proves the point. When he evidently got up on the wrong side of the bed Sunday morning a week ago, the president let loose on retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who had said of the Trump presidency, “I think Secretary (of State) Tillerson, (Defense) Secretary James Mattis and (White House) chief of staff (John) Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
Them’s fightin’ words if you’re the Tweeter-in-Chief (and creator of chaos). Trump’s first tweet across the bow: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’.” The second one: “He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS’.” Then, “Didn’t have the guts to run!” And the final foray in the fusillade: “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it.” I thought it was Barack Obama, but apparently alternative facts say otherwise.
Corker, though, got off the most toxic tweet when he shot back, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” Funny how Trump manages to turn certain Republicans some of us never much liked into political heroes.
Funny, too, how his older son Don Junior proves the adage — admittedly adulterated — that the twit doesn’t fall far from the tweet. Young Trump’s own tweet last weekend — after Vice President Pence left a football game to protest players still taking a knee during the national anthem — raises the question, does any American alive have less legitimacy to proclaim, “After almost a decade it’s great to have leaders who have pride in our country again.”
The answer is no, because this is the same young Trump who had so much pride in our country himself during the American presidential campaign that he welcomed Russian collusion to help Dad win. You remember how reluctant he was to swallow his patriotic pride and take that help, don’t you? Three words, all his: “I love it.”
Then there is hurricane-leveled Puerto Rico, beginning with Trump’s tirade of tweets angrily attacking San Juan’s mayor after she complained, “We’re dying here” and begged for more help from Washington. The president’s tactful tweet in response? “Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan.” And apparently that didn’t sate his appetite for tweeting. Just a few days ago he poured more fuel on the fire: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” Maybe we can’t, but is this really the kind of thing you tell American citizens when most still have no electricity, no health care, no clean water to drink, and a death toll that keeps going up? (And especially when you haven’t said the same thing to hurricane victims in places like Florida and Texas.)
The president’s proclivity for tweeting has propagated like cancer, although only selectively. A chart published a few days ago showed that while those frightful wildfires were destroying lives and homes and livelihoods in Northern California, Trump never tweeted about them even once … but transmitted three more tweets insulting Senator Corker. And if you filter out the slaughter the week before in Las Vegas, the rest of the news that week came in bursts of 140 characters or less. The most alarming: Trump’s tweet that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time” looking for a way out of war by negotiating with North Korea. Is Twitter really the place to undercut your own chief diplomat?
The president’s Twitter account itself is suspect. He now claims something like 40 million followers. I use “claims” because if you take the time to Google “Trump Twitter Account,” you’ll find all kinds of stories about Team Trump electronically creating millions of fake accounts — nearly half the total, according to Newsweek. If true, it’s just to give Trump bragging rights, and that’s not fake news.
But it doesn’t really matter how many followers the man has. He only needs a few hundred: the journalists who cover all things Trump, because Twitter is how the president usually chooses to make news and make trouble, and there’s no ignoring how much he makes.
That’s why now, when you think of Twitter, inevitably you think of Donald Trump. And inescapably you think of trouble. But it’s all quite presidential. Trump has told us that. In tweets.