There’s a certain amount of absurdism surrounding Donald Trump, and it’s not even in what he says or does. Rather, in my opinion, it is absurd how much he says and does. Of course, for a politician this might be seen as praise, but it isn’t.
If it isn’t something rather bigoted, or misinformed (those two aren’t mutually exclusive), or petty, or Russian, it’s something else. I’ve previously discussed the issue of supply and demand that comes with the 24-hour news cycle, and there’s no doubt the story that keeps on giving that is Trump is in part fuelled by the insatiable appetite of the media. But there’s another reason – Twitter.
Now of course Twitter isn’t the full picture, but it is synonymous with the President, and it is redefining presidential protocol.1 No, Twitter is more illustrative of another point – the world is faster than it’s ever been, and the cracks through which issues may slip are wider than ever.
Trump’s tweeting, such as the infamous Covfefe-gate,2 is just one example of what I’m talking about. Another is perhaps the speed at which information surrounding the Conservative party and habitation legislation surfaced in the wake of the London tower block fire.3 Or, for that matter, the spread of the naughtiest thing in the world – that which involves a field of wheat.4 In the same kin, we could look at the situation consuming Uber5 (a company many, I’m sure, would tout as prized for a place in building the future) and their leadership, or the controversial Daddy of Five story,6 or more I’m surely forgetting about.
My point isn’t that these situations are all of an equal severity – each must be considered with a fair amount of context and information. My point is that these stories represent ones where the narrative has moved extremely quickly, and the ability to control the story’s traction has collapsed.
Everyone knows the Internet forces the likes of politicians to be more careful (*cough* Anthony Weiner, *cough*), though it has mostly been stressed due to the permanence of information online. But the ease of Twitter in that it allows someone like Trump to say what’s on their mind quickly and without the oversight of a speech writer, or the ability to share a video on Facebook enabling a gaff like Fields of Wheat (I really don’t want to use the -gate suffix) to blow up, represents a different danger of the Internet – immediacy.
In the same vein (perhaps) as Uber is that of United Airlines, whose treatment of a passenger on an overbooked plane dominated the news and web forums such as Reddit in a matter of minutes.7 Or take that of Justine Sacco, whose tweet about AIDS whilst boarding a plane meant that as she landed she was trending globally.8
These cases illustrate a new way of being in the Internet age, and whilst something like Covfefe is amusing, it underlines a much more important point. That in various arenas, be it political, commercial or entertainment, we still operate with a slower mindset. The Trump administration is evidence of this dissonance. I think Theresa May could be described as similar. And many and more.
We should all wish to run with the pack, but we must keep up. Literally.