Just over three months ago, on January 20th, President Trump was inaugurated into office. While streaming the inauguration live on YouTube that morning, I decided to turn on phone notifications for his tweets.
Why follow his tweets?
I’d like to say that I did this to be a well-informed citizen…or that it was my civic duty. While these are partly true…in reality, I wanted to be entertained.
1 —Pure Entertainment Purposes
Let’s be real…some of his past tweets are downright crazy talk, especially a few of his pre-presidential ones.
More crazytown tweets on ‘policy’…
Admittedly, following his tweets for entertainment is exactly what he wants. His mass influence is based on public shock value. Trump is a master at entertaining (e.g. The Apprentice, Miss America Pageants, etc.), and his tweets are no different. It’s all part of his populist and diversionist strategy.
2 — Understanding Mass Media
A second reason I follow his tweets is because I was curious to see what he was saying that made the media go bananas. I quickly learned that the media was under attack by the POTUS, and they didn’t know how to handle it.
3— Witnessing Errors in Judgement
A notification of a Trump tweet cannot be deleted when sent to my phone. If he deletes a tweet (which he does fairly often), the original stays in my Notification Center until I clear it.
Additionally, there are a few sites that record of all his deleted tweets.
4— Forming my own opinion
Lastly, I follow his tweets so that I can form my own opinions. His tweets are always headline news. However, these tweets are spun to propagate certain viewpoints — both conservatives and liberals do this.
Consequently, if I receive his tweets directly then it’s up to me to interpret the communication. His messege is never taken out of context. No spin. Just raw tweet.
What have I learned from Trump’s Tweets?
1 — He has total control over mass media
With 140 characters, he can shift the world’s attention. He’s got ultimate communicative control. His tweets are worldwide headline news as soon as he pushes send.
2— His tweets are completely by design
Everything he’s tweeting is according to his strategy, no matter how crazy it may seem. There is no possible way that his staff is allowing rogue mass communication to the world.
3— How to distinguish Trump Tweets vs. Staff Tweets
After some analysis, it becomes easy to ‘read between the lines’ of Trump’s tweets. Based on punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and syntax you can tell if it’s a 70 year-old man (who’s hungry for shock value) at the keyboard; or if the author is a tech-savvy, politically-correct staff member tweeting on his behalf.
There are multiple theories (backed by data and sentiment analysis) that conclude that Trump only tweets from an Android, while his staff tweets from an iPhone.
What has he been tweeting about?
Fake News — Trump has tweeted about “fake news” 31 times since his inauguration (19 in all caps). Additionally, he has tweeted 16 times about the “failing New York Times.” In the first month of his presidency, on average, he tweeted nearly every day regarding fake news.
In doing this, President Trump has made liberal and moderate news agencies his public enemy. This adversarial position is nothing new for him. It was a staple of his campaign platform, and has only intensified while being in office.
Oddly enough, Trump brings up a good point…
While Trump’s fake and failing news-vendetta is gaudy and tactless, it does bring attention to an interesting point — who IS telling the truth?
Which news sources are providing accurate facts, without spin? How do I know if there an alternative agenda behind news outlets’ messages? Is reported news playing into stereotypes, bias, and ethnocentric beliefs? Are they reinforcing and polarizing my previously-established beliefs?
Time magazine recently covered this exact subject in their April 3rd, 2017 publication. Watch an interview with Nancy Gibbs, Time’s editor, here.
The subject of ‘truth’ is an age-old question; one that’s been debated since the dawn of communication. Ever since Cain first lied about killing Abel, humans have been trying to decipher the truthfulness of other people’s messages.
Verified journalism is a whole ‘nother game though. In the late 1800’s when newspapers first reached their national and global distributions, there was a plague of Yellow Journalism. Who’s to say we aren’t having our own modern-day yellow journalistic era?
How Can I Find the Truth?
I’m no authoritative voice on this subject, yet I try to follow a few principles to help parse truth from spin. These include the following:
1 — Seek news from both sides of ‘the aisle’
2 — Get outside of your own world
3 — Don’t merely reinforce your beliefs — Far too often we allow cognitive biases to skew our opinions.
Example — The Shroud in Age of Empires
As a kid, I loved playing Age of Empires, a desktop computer game where players build kingdoms throughout all ages of time. One of the key elements of the game is the element of discovery.
When beginning the game, you are surrounded by a thick dark ‘shroud’ or ‘fog of war’. As you explore, little by little, you’re able to see what’s in the 2D world.
Similarly, as we explore facts, stories, and arguments from political pundits, talking heads, and candidates alike, it would serve us better to explore their viewpoints from all angles.
Getting outside of your world is like leaving the small shrouded area of the 2D Age of Empire map.
Dependence on News
Tying this back to the subject of news…we, the public, are not physically present at the majority of events reported in the news. Therefore, we are completely dependent upon these news outlets to inform us.
If we really want to know the truth, then explore it. Open your world. Explore. Find the truth. Let skepticism be your guide. Don’t just find a link that agrees with your viewpoint.
On a personal religious note…
In addition to these aforementioned ways to find truth, I believe truth can be found through divine channels.
A fact of life is this…with all the contradictory thoughts and opinions in the world, not everyone can be correct. There IS absolute truth out there regarding certain subjects. So, how can we find it?
Dieter Uchtdorf, a leader in the Mormon faith, quotes a scripture from the Book of Mormon in a talk concerning truth:
For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. — 2 Nephi 32:5
That gives me comfort. I don’t know much. But, I do know that I can be directed by God through His Holy Spirit. I’ve felt this guidance many times in my life.
I experience true joy when I follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Not merely a fleeting moment of happiness; rather, a divine and lasting joy.
By exploring reported news using all our resources (including Divine channels), we can come to know absolute truth. It is possible, even amidst this unpredictable, contradictory, Trump-Tweet-filled world.
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