Trump in Office: 100 Days of Twitter and YouTube Messages
On Monday (21 Nov.), Donald Trump released a YouTube video in which he outlines his policy plans for the first 100 days in office. While the traditional way is to give a press conference, Trump used a YouTube video to communicate his views, “bigly”, as he would say. He thinks mainstream media are dishonest and prefers social media.
What stands out, in the video, is his emphasis on creating millions of jobs and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). “Whether it’s producing steel, building cars or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, in our great homeland: America — creating wealth and jobs for American workers,” Trump said. But how he will accomplish getting Americans real jobs is still a mystery. In the video, paradoxically, he mentioned cutting regulations and corporation tax, something that will increase inequality and the wealth of those already wealthy at the expense of workers. In terms of cancelling the TTP—a trade deal which was agreed in 2015 and its aimed at promoting economic growth among the US, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico—such a move will either benefit China to America’s detriment, or would betray America’s Asian allies such as Japan and Vietnam. In addition, the TTP includes clauses on the protection of the environment and workers, whose rights he promised to defend. But the big question here, is what is the alternative? In his short video, Trump finds it easy to say yes or no to things, but he offers no answers or solutions.
What’s missing in the video is also the familiar “passionate” style he exhibited through his campaign. With the fanfare of election over, he now needs to present a concrete plan for his administration. Perhaps, knowing the difficulties ahead, he has adopted a more compliant and calm manner. On Tuesday, in an interview he gave to The New York Times, he seemed to be retracting many statements he made during the campaign. He no longer feels “very strongly” about prosecuting Clinton and he is keeping an “open mind” about climate change. While, as an elected president, you shouldn’t fail to honour the promises you made to your voters before the election, this shift might be seen positively. Some of his “alt-right” supporters feel betrayed, while others are awaiting his next move.
Melania: Trump, you are spending too much time on Twitter!
Although he doesn’t have time for a press conference, Trump seems to have had plenty of time this last week attacking the press or criticising the cast of the Broadway musical, Hamilton. When his Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, went to see the musical, the audience booed him, while the actor Brandon Dixon delivered a message, especially for him. The hip hop musical is about the story of the founding of America by colonial rebels, so it was particularly appropriate to address Pence and the Trump administration, urging them to work on behalf of all Americans, immigrants included. Trump’s mom and wife are immigrants after all.
At the end of the Friday show, Brandon Nixon, said: “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
Trump soon turned the incident into a Twitter feud, while his supporters’ tweets called to #BoycottHamilton, and were trending during the weekend. Trump’s tweets focused on how “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” And demanded an apology: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
Trump: Hmmm, Press conference or a YouTube video? (fingers tenting)
Since his election, two weeks ago, Trump has been communicating with the public through his Twitter, and, since yesterday, by releasing this two-and-a-half-minute video. Unlike other elected presidents, who usually hold a press conference, Trump favours social media. Although he was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and CBS News, he has a dislike for traditional media such as newspapers and TV appearances, and prefers the new, fast and DIY path of social media platforms. The YouTube video is his first attempt to address the public directly.
President Obama had used previously such videos, but he also held a formal press conference. Trump’s video is a safe way to address people without being questioned by the press. But, sooner or later he will need to engage in democratic dialogue with people who might disagree or question his beliefs and motives.
While his YouTube video can be shared, liked, posted and circulated, this eventually doesn’t generate real participation or engagement, but only clicks and traffic, which can’t translate into dialogue, questions, fruitful exchanges.
Trump’s disastrous meeting with the media
On Monday, when big news anchors from all the networks congregated at Trump Tower, the president-elect didn’t hesitate to tell them how he hates their networks and what liars they all are. The New York Post reported that a source said that “Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed.’” Another source said: “Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars.”
Trump thrives in online environments where he can hide behind the personae of Trump the billionaire or Trump the president-elect. Online he can reproduce his image and views, in his own words. But like Narcissus, if he stares at his image too long, falling in love with his power, he might lose sight of what his important duties are. But, judging by his recent change of character, he might pleasantly surprise us.