Terrorism is the spreading of fear and panic to advance a political agenda. And that is precisely what the president’s latest tweet storm was designed to do.
It revolved around retweeting a number of videos, purportedly of Muslims doing Bad Things.
The first was a guy breaking a statue of the Virgin Mary. Meh.
LISTEN: Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester deep dive on the most immature and offensive things The President’s said on Twitter this week. Post continues after.
The second is a sickening clip of what appear to be ISIS militants throwing two men from a roof and then beating them.
The third is one supposed to be of a Muslim immigrant beating up a Dutch kid on crutches.
Except it turns out the perpetrator is neither Muslim, nor an immigrant. He’s Dutch. Born in Holland, raised in Holland, and arrested, charged, and sentenced by Dutch authorities.
Read our original explainer of Trump’s three anti-muslim tweets this week.
The tweets all originated from Jayda Fransen, the Deputy Leader of far right group ‘Britain First’. When Labor MP Jo Cox was murdered on the Campaign trail during last year’s British general election, the man who did it shouted “Britain first”, as he carried out the attack.
Unsurprisingly, he has links to the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group. Not really the sort of group you want the Leader of the Free World identifying with. Even far right conspiracy activists like Paul Watson of Infowars.com are criticising the connection (or, at least, the “optics” of the connection).
When ISIS first started releasing videos of these kinds of horrendous acts, there was a vigorous debate in the media about how best to handle it. Should we air them, to inform the world about the threat? Or is that what they want? Is that the whole purpose of the videos in the first place? To goad us into a panic, to make them seem an unstoppable phenomenon; a force too terrifying to be reckoned with.
The global media collectively agreed that it was best not to show the videos Trump re-tweeted. Not just because they are sickeningly violent, but because it’s playing right into Islamic State’s hands. Spreading fear is what they want. Reaching a great number of people is exactly why they film and upload the videos in the first place.
Leaders and ethical media organisations have an unspoken agreement: we do not share their propaganda.
Except for Trump. The bigot-in-chief grabbed it with both hands and fwd: fwd: fwd:ed it to his 44 million followers.
To call it recklessly irresponsible is a gross understatement. I’m not sure there are words to describe it. Deliberately incendiary, perhaps?
The dignity of The Highest Office requires grace, nuance, and thought out strategy. Retweeting far right extremists is… god this is exhausting.
When reporters inevitably pointed out that the Dutch video showed someone who was neither a Muslim nor an immigrant, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders responded, “Whether the video is real or not, the threat is real, what the president is talking about, the need for national security and military spending, those are very real things."
She went on, "[Trump's] goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security. That's what the president is taking about, that's what the president is focused on, dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it."