Donald Trump Twitter Tantrums: Childish Tweeting Habit Or Brilliant Narrative Control Strategy? [Opinion]

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has been a central component of his campaign and it does not seem like he plans on slowing down anytime soon, perhaps signaling the president-elect intends to use the social media platform even after taking office in January. And while his tweets on topics like alleged election fraud, flag burning, Boeing, and China have provided a steady stream of controversy for those of us who like to follow politics, it’s hard to argue that the strategy hasn’t worked for Trump so far, at least in the sense that it’s keeping the conversation centered around topics of his choosing.

Donald Trump uses his Twitter account to communicate appreciation directly to his supporters, hurl insults at the press, critique his critics, and express seemingly random opinions about a variety of issues. Often the tweets on issues center around topics that one would not typically describe as extremely serious matters of policy, like when Trump Tweeted about his desire for laws against flag burning. Other times, such as a recent series of tweets directed at China, which came in response to criticisms over a phone call Trump took from the recently elected President of Taiwan, it can be argued that Donald Trump is playing games with matters that need to be taken far more seriously. There has been no official response from the Chinese government to the tweets Trump wrote about the country, but an editorial in Chinese official state media newspaper, China Daily, had some harsh words for the president-elect.

“To stop acting like the diplomatic rookie he is, the next U.S. president needs help in adapting to his forthcoming role change. Otherwise, he will make costly troubles for his country, and find himself trying to bluster his way through constant diplomatic conflagrations,” the editorial read.

Trump’s Twitter rant about China doesn’t strike me as reaching the level of diplomacy demanded of an elected official, especially the president, but you can judge for yourself.

It’s easy to characterize Donald Trump’s Twitter behavior as a childish habit with no real purpose other than to give us via social media a sort of stream-of-consciousness glimpse into the man’s mind, but is there a method to the apparent madness of the future keyboard warrior in chief? Is Trump using social media carefully as an instrument of narrative control?

On November 27, 2016, Trump took to Twitter to post a handful of tweets about alleged voter fraud concerning votes supposedly cast by illegal aliens.

These tweets came in response to efforts by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein to have election recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Numerous media outlets attacked Trump and the tweets were widely seen as a political miscalculation on his part due to a lack of any significant evidence for his claim that illegal immigrants were allowed to cast votes in the states mentioned in the tweet above and others. Fox News and other outlets reported on the lack of evidence to support Trump’s Twitter accusations and his narrative was getting crushed by facts. A few days later, he posted his infamous tweet calling for a ban on flag burning and everyone totally forgot about the voter fraud tweets. Was this on purpose? Did Trump post something controversial, but politically safe from his perspective, to take the heat off the slamming he was getting on the voter fraud issue? Whether it was his intention or not, it worked. No one has really spoken about the voter fraud tweets since and Trump has not revisited the issue either.

Since day one of his campaign, Trump’s opponents on both the left and the right have underestimated his ability to frame the debate and use the media tools at his disposal to his advantage. It can not be reasonably argued, given that he is the current president-elect, that his strategies have not been successful. It would be nothing short of foolish to continue to assume he is making mistakes in what could very well be a carefully crafted strategy to control narratives and manipulate public opinion to his advantage. But in my opinion, if Donald Trump is going to use Twitter to address matters of diplomatic importance involving foreign countries like China, he should use more consideration than he does when slamming Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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