The tweeting president

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Farmers in Tracy, a rural town in south-western Minnesota, predominantly voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. But even some of them criticize the president for his late-night Twitter rants. We discovered this during our three-day visit to Tracy last week. All four Trump supporters I spoke to told me more or less the same: the president should get rid of his bad Twitter habit and focus on what is really important – for example tax reforms. 

Trump’s love for Twitter is known all around the world. Michael O’Donnell from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., decided to take a closer look at that. He analyzed 350 tweets posted by between June 8 and August 8 this year. 

According to O’Donnell, who presented the results of his work to the WPI fellows on August 16, 42 of these tweets referred to Obamacare. Other top categories were: international (32), economy (27) and the Russian investigation (27). O’Donnell claims that many Trump tweets say nothing important, so journalists should rethink covering them so thoroughly. 

Analyzing some Trump “techniques”, O’Donnell points out:

  • weighty adjectives ("tremendous” policies, “great” wall etc.)
  • namecalling (“crooked” Hillary Clinton, “failing” New York Times) 
  • zig, then zags (jumping from one subject to another, like in a series of tweets after meeting with Vladimir Putin in July, which allows Trump to quickly change uncomfortable subjects)
  • fake news accusations
  • paralipsis - ("James Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations...”).

I referred to some of these findings to the farmers. None of them used Twitter, but they agreed with O’Donnell: if Trump does not stop tweeting, maybe at least journalists can do better to stop reporting it.