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Trump’s Twitter: Political Tool or Security Risk?

US President Donald Trump was only 25 minutes into a call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he abruptly hung up the phone.

Several days later, Trump restlessly retreated to the familiar glass screen of his Android, tapping out a tweet accented by question marks and exclamation points. “Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

Labelled by Trump as the “worst call by far” out of a string of phone conversations with world leaders that day, the call was cut short after Turnbull raised the issue of a refugee resettlement deal struck with former US president Barack Obama.

 

Perhaps more surprising than Trump’s abrupt termination of the call is the subsequent broadcast on Twitter of his views regarding the conversation. Indeed, such informality from a president concerning matters of state would have formerly evoked surprise. However, such public discussion of policies by Trump is fast becoming normalised – each new tweet fading into a milieu of indignant defences of his decisions, and acerbically-worded attacks of his opponents.

Of the 75 tweets published by Trump over the 13 days following his inauguration, the majority have been used to publicly air his sentiments regarding political matters.

A substantial number of these tweets addressed the negative response to Trump’s executive order barring refugees from entering the US for 120 days and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days.

In response to the backlash from the media and public alike, President Trump flooded his feed with a series of tweets defending the order, downplaying its consequences, and drawing on fears of a “horror” akin to the recent violence in Europe to justify its necessity.

President Trump’s prolific use of Twitter – unprecedented by former US presidents – is described by The New York Times as a tool unleashed and redefined for “political promotion, distraction, score-settling and attack”. With more than 23 million followers and 34 thousand tweets, Trump’s Twitter feed is fast becoming a highly scrutinised global venue where Trump airs America’s dirty laundry.

However, like Trump’s presidential campaign, what was originally perceived by many as laughable has gradually become alarmingly real. Where Trump’s tweets were originally curated into frothy, Buzzfeed-esque lists of the most “embarrassing” and “outrageous” tidbits, they are now perceived by many as powerful and even dangerous tools of political persuasion.

In a report by Politico, concerns are raised that Trump’s Twitter account could be a genuine national security threat. According to the interviewed US intelligence and defence specialists, there are fears that Trump’s account is already being utilised by foreign agencies to “analyze his personality, track his habits and detect clues about what to expect from a Trump-led American government”.

So, what information would these “foreign agencies” gather from Trump’s Twitter account?

Trump’s feed reveals a subtle mercuriality – contrary to the “solid core of opinion” his unabashed candour initially implies. In an in-depth analysis of Trump’s tweets, Politico illustrates this instability by unpacking a series of his tweets related to Time magazine. Spanning a period of four years, these tweets show Trump’s opinion of Time oscillating from disparaging – “I knew last year that @TIME Magazine lost all credibility when they didn’t include me in their Top 100” and “a joke and stunt of a magazine that will, like Newsweek, soon be dead” – to glowing – “On the cover of @TIME magazine – a great honour!”

This mutability bed on Trump’s satisfaction with a party or person indicates that Trump is largely ruled by his emotions. According to The New York Times, while Trump’s impulsiveness formerly led him to sue, he now tweets – “caustically, colorfully and repeatedly”. Each 140-character publication a platform for Trump to overtly shame or threaten his opponents.

Littered with hyperbole and emotionally-charged words such as “dumb”, “fake”, “weak” and “traitor”, Trump’s tweets are also highly formulaic and even predictable. In her analysis of Trump’s feed, David Carr fellow Amanda Hess applies Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals – logos (the appeal to logic), ethos (the appeal to credibility) and pathos (the appeal to emotion) – to Trump’s tweets. This theoretical framework reveals a pattern, evident in the tweet regarding VoteStand results:

Trump states a fact: he looks forward to seeing the results of VoteStand. He then questions the credibility of the voting system: at least 3 million votes were illegal. He finishes with an appeal to emotion: we must do better! This predictable pattern – one of several detected by Amanda Hess – indicates a predictable thought-pattern.

The sheer volume of tweets published by Trump offers a detailed sketch of Trump’s personality – his impulsiveness, unruly temper and fluctuating views – which could be manipulated for others’ gain.

In sharing his thoughts so openly and prolifically on Twitter, Trump may be attempting to achieve a transparency with the American people. However, his Twitter activity demonstrates a marked lack of diplomacy: the discretion, subtlety and finesse desired in a president.

Trump’s frankness on Twitter regarding his (often-shifting) feelings for others presents another vulnerability. By sharing so publicly the names of his allies, the names of his enemies, and where potential tensions are forming, Trump opens himself up to foreign agencies using this public knowledge, maximising on his whims to strengthen certain bonds and weaken others to their advantage.

Trump’s openly-shared frustration over the “dumb deal” with Australia is one such tension which could be exploited. Still, it is only early days. Time will tell whether his tweets – originally laughable, then powerful – will eventually become his downfall.

Written by Charmayne Allison who holds a Bachelor of Journalism and Communications at the University of Queensland. She is an Australian multimedia journalist with a passion for new media technologies and human rights reporting. Follow her on Twitter: @charmayne_a

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28 comments

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  1. Sean Stinson

    Interesting argument. Seems to hinge the assumption that Trump is in control of his own twitter account. I wouldn’t be so certain…

  2. @RosemaryJ36

    I think Trump IS in charge of his Twitter account but of little else. I think that Steve Bannon is the power behind the throne and, as he evidently did with his business contracts, Trump signs the EOs that Bannon puts in front of him without bothering to read or analyse them – hence the poor outcomes because consequences have not been thought through.
    Trump has bullied his way through his business activities leaving others to clear up his messes and the concept of diplomacy would be seen by him as a fool’s game.
    I hope that the Republican Party will realise sooner rather than later that they have embraced a monster and find grounds to impeach him ASAP!

  3. paulwalter

    Ok. So Trump is a dropkick. Crazy like a fox.

    I thing Sean is fair enough in feeling that there is enough of Trump and his antics to justify an encyclopedia on the man, let alone a comment of the nature he has provided.

    Yet, I would have felt more comfortable if more of the article had been spent examining the other party to this event, Malcolm Turnbull.

    Malcolm Turnbull and his psychopathic fellow-travellers show enough in an on going parade of callousness to warrant a whole library woth of comment.

    A brief example:

    The (lobotomized) ABC Drum program doing some consent manufacture in trying to sanitize and peddle Turnbull’s continued war on welfare, the extent of howling down an academic who suggested the ideological rather than economically rational approach this government has taken in this latest attempt at hard right wedge politics through scapegoating.

    The “agreement” with the USA re refugee swapping is desolate in the bankruptcy of its ethical component, but the end of Obama really should have spelt an end to this cowardly attempt at a figleaf of a policy, rather than renewed pursuit of it, particularly in the sacrificing of the national interest and dignity in pursuit of a spiritual fellating of a barbarian in the White House to pursue an alibiing propaganda chimera.

    Even the hope of a limited relief bought a handful of refugees on either side of the Pacific has been killed off, hopes for a fresh start crushed.

    Racism and expediency now reign triumphant.

  4. guest

    Trump talks about “bad” people. Trump is the “baddest”. He is one of those moneyed people who think they are the saviours of the world. Too often they are not the solution, but the problem. One problem is their extreme smugness about their wealth accompanied by an attitude of superiority and infallibility, brooking no criticism. As well, they are willing to vacillate with regard to consistency of policy, which in the final analysis is about bleeding the poor, punishing them for not being rich.

  5. Robert G. Shaw

    “Trump’s Twitter: Political Tool or Security Risk?”

    A no brainer.

  6. paulwalter

    Both.

  7. Annie B

    A very good probing article by Charmayne Allison …

    “In a report by Politico, concerns are raised that Trump’s Twitter account could be a genuine national security threat.”

    That … it … IS.

    I rather think Turnbulls’ unusual and uncharacteristic outburst in Parliament today, indicates the pressure he is under ( as most PM’s usually are ) .. but in this case, worrying about what ( among other things ) Trumps’ influence is having world-wide, and well could have, on overall allied considerations – – and more particularly what he ( Turnbull ) can or should do about it. … ( we hold a lot on behalf of the Yanks ).

    Turnbull MUST be concerned, and as the buck stops with him, he is not handling the situation at all well. He knows this … and bipartisanship should be called upon to tackle this danger that Trump presents and represents to the world in general, and to us in particular. Instead he appeals emotionally & negatively to the opposition. That actually tells a big story.

    Trump simply cannot be trusted – in any way, shape or form. … .His incessant tweeting is beyond the pale, and as there was no computer technology in 1787 * duh * …. there is nothing specifically in the Constitution to stop him using todays’ technology … to advance his own peurile and inane agendas and off the cuff remarks. … There seems little thought behind any of it.

    The Yanks sure have a problem on their hands.

    Just hope the Republicans can pull a rabbit out of the hat here, and disarm Trump in some way – cast him out on his own, with the assistance of the CIA, DOD, NSC, U.S. Justice Department et al, and other agencies that DO have a say – despite what Trump might think. … Completely out on his own, he has a snowballs’ chance in hell, of surviving. … He is currently, cynically, reclining on the thought that he has Republican backing. Let’s hope that does not continue.

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Trump might have some minor success in the first 5 minutes of his presidency with Aristotles’ rhetorical appeals but they won’t last long, as rust-belt America and other disengaged people begin to see Trump is just a big ball of bullshit being played by Bannon.

  9. Max Gross

    And they reckon Hillary’s personal email account was a problem!!!

  10. Ian

    Chump is using his Twit account as a means of circumventing the mainstream media – the very same media he has continuously lambasted over the last 6 long months.

    Now, when that very same media religiously regurgitate his tweets, ad bloody nauseum, it is the MSM that are giving the finger .. but to themselves.

    It is the MSM who are under Trump’s control, whether they are alert to it or not. Most likely not or they would not be giving Chump oxygen to the method of dispensing his world.

    Chump is making the MSM irrelevant and they are too damn ignorant to see it.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Interesting insight, Ian.

    It is startling that Trump will talk to the ether on the internet (including people like us in AUS who probably generally think he’s queer in his head) but he won’t talk to his own MSM.

    I don’t mind at all that he shows such interest in social media but it is less predictable than his tamed MSM. Trump doesn’t show that he is aware that he could well be playing with fire by every tweet he makes.

  12. Kaye Lee

    The tweets are exactly as Trump talks. I do not believe it is someone else but even if it was, what sort of President would allow someone to use their twitter account to tell Iran they are “on notice”.

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “We however thank this new guy in the White House, since he largely did the job we had been trying to do in the past decades: to divulge the true face of the US. We had been working to show the world the depth of corruption in US government and ranks and files of the ruling elite; Trump did it in few days after coming to the White House.”
    He added: “Their claims to human rights are no longer tenable.”

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    So when the rust-belt lets Trump and Bannon know that they are frightened of Iran and other important powers in the world being mighty displeased with Trump’s and Bannon’s diabolical foreign policies, the world might see some responsibility taking charge again.

  14. Annie B

    Agree with Ian and Jennifer MS … specifically their observations about the inane tweets sent out by Trump.

    ( btw … I don’t think I have seen more than a few post of near thousands, here – and on social media, who refers to Trump as “President” …. ) .. hmmm.

    Kaye Lee – thank you ( I think ).

    Heaven forbid that I would ever have thought to agree with the Ayatollah Al Khamenei on anything – but I think he just might be right, ref. the depth of corruption in U.S. government. True face of the U.S., and that their claims to human rights are no longer tenable”. … In every political grab for game playing gain, there has to be a smidgin of truth – somewhere…. the Iranians have grabbed it with this comment – as others have in different ways – across the globe. .

    It is frightening – as no-one knows just how far and how deep it really goes – or will go .. we can guess, but ….

    ………

  15. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks for the article, AIMN. Good stuff.

    Annie B, Yes, Turnbull certainly showed his stress today with his screech at Bill Shorten in Question Time. I thought ‘social-climbing sycophant’ was the real corker. I mean, what an upstart Bill Shorten is! How can he expect to ever be accepted as equal by really rich people – you know, Society, the creme de la creme, the landed harbourside gentry, the Upper Class, the Top Shelf to which Turnbull so clearly belongs and to which Bill can never hope to climb! Well,, he sure out Bill in his place!

    What a nasty display it was!

  16. Annie B

    Yes, Kate – it was a particularly nasty display – from a man who had lost his temper, his demeanour, his usual oh-so-gracious smiling countenance … and displayed total loss of control – which is what I think in fact is happening for him, as we speak.

    Of course Bill comes from the wrong side of the tracks, not only is he from Melbourne ( my city, my State of which I am proud, but viewed with some rancour by other states ), but from the wrong side of it – the ‘lesser suburbs’ … the near enough to western lot, who house a lot of middle to lower class ( if class is relevant – I don’t believe it is ) … and therefore, just does not measure up to the McMansions inhabited by the self-perceived ‘elite’.

    One thing I would dearly love to see beyond everything else. ..

    That is, Bill Shorten get himself a good elocutionist, someone who can guide him away from the apologetic body language he displays at times when speaking, the wrong nods and grimaces at the wrong times, and often the very wrong emphasis on his words. … Might seem trivial to many, but it is not. … Droning monologue is dreary, not inspiring, and will not make any headlines – anywhere. … He misses so many opportunities for free press / free advertising .. and it could so easily be corrected.

    He has the ideas – he just doesn’t know how to correctly deliver them.

  17. Kate Ahearne

    Yes to all of that, Annie. I think Bill is very self-conscious. This means that he often comes across as a bad actor. Sometimes he forgets and just relaxes, and when that happens he is able to be quite natural and powerful. I remember his reply speech to the Budget last year. He was terrific. Mostly though, It’s as though he’s not quite comfortable in his own skin – just needs to relax.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Bill rehearses too much and they should throw those bloody talking points in the bin. I don’t think they realise how insincere it sounds when different politicians repeat the same odd phrase all through the day/week.

    I agree Turnbull’s display was disgusting. Bill started out ok on 7:30 report saying I don’t care what he says about me – let’s concentrate on the policies. But after he had said several times, Malcolm can call me names all he wants but…. it got to the stage of realising that he wanted to draw attention to it by saying he didn’t care…again…and again…and again…as he glanced at his sheet of points.

    He is better unscripted.

    Having said that, Shorten was infinitely better than Hunt and Morrison who, on the previous two nights, just said what they wanted, regardless of the question, and then got into a power struggle with Leigh Sales as to who would give up talking over the top of the other first.

  19. Kate Ahearne

    Kaye, Yes, he does very often sound rehearsed. I think you and Annie both have a point. Maybe a coach could help him to relax. And the talking points certainly never worked for Tony Abbott. (At least Bill doesn’t wear an ear-piece.)

    On the other hand, Malcolm let himself go au naturel today, and it was a Big Mistake. Dunno! Sometimes you just have to be happy that the other bloke has shot himself in the foot and leave well enough alone. When less is more. Anyhow, it’s easy to say all these things when we don’t have to do it ourselves. I sure as hell know I couldn’t do it.

  20. wam

    surely most tweets are reactionary and reflect the truth?

    American and Australians both must struggle to find the meaning in the msm much less any truths? Therefore why should trump take questions from cnn? They can twist from other peoples’ questions.

    Remember 2013 the rabbott almost invariably gave the same answer regardless of the question? Bill was as good today as he ever was and trunble was at his believable best well no that will not happen till the msm twists and tweaks??.

  21. quiltingforkids

    Making America Great Again

    So, the Super-Duper Bowl is now ended, and we have witnessed the yugest athletic event in the history of mankind . . . yuger even than the old Olympic events held at Olympia, Greece. As you all know, the Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD and they were really Yuge, yuge that is until the Super-Duper Bowl. Olympia was also known for the gigantic ivory and gold statue of Zeus that used to stand there, sculpted by Pheidias, which was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon. We are thinking that now The New England Patriots may well be designated the 11th Wonder of the World (not sure what happened to 8-10).

    And President Stupidhead of course held the best ever Super-Duper Bowl party. Since “Madame First-whatever” was present, we can assume his Super-Duper Bowl Game Party was not held in Washington, since it is rumored that Madame will not set foot in Washington, since it clashes with her many ball gowns. But his party was the Yugest party ever held in any universe. We have been told that even Darth Vader’s Galactic Bowl party was less Yuge. Although whether that is an Alternative Fact remains to be verified. By the way, don’t you just love Alternative Facts? That means, we can all say whatever we want, and if we label it as an Alternative Fact, we can’t be held accountable in a court of law. Besides, we now understand that, since President Stupidhead has declared that it is ok to ignore the rule of law, that anyone can now ignore the rule of law and do or say anything we want. That is what Mlle. Conway said isn’t it???

    So, the only question remaining in my mind now is, will this ever end??? Well, what the hell is “this” you are thinking. I am thinking of “this” as the unending stream of stupidities.–the thing that is preventing us from achieving our Greatness again. Perhaps it is simply the Tweeting thing. Tweeting, bound as it is to 140 characters, isn’t exactly the stuff of Shakespeare. I mean, what would the Grand William say, it we limited him to 140 characters.

    “To be, or not to be, that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep (oops, out of room here, so Willy would need a second Tweet)

    No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
    the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
    that Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
    devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
    To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
    for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
    when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    must give us pause. There’s the respect

    (oops, there we go again . . .)

    that makes Calamity of so long life:
    For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
    the Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely, [F: poor]
    the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized]
    the insolence of Office, and the spurns
    that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
    when he himself might his Quietus make
    with a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear, [F: these Fardels]
    to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    but that the dread of something after death,
    the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
    no traveller returns, puzzles the will,
    and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
    than fly to others that we know not of.
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
    and thus the native hue of Resolution
    Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
    And enterprises of great pitch and moment, [F: pith]
    with this regard their Currents turn awry, [F: away]
    And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
    The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
    Be all my sins remember’d.”

    So, you get the point. President Stupidhead is automatically limiting himself to the banal commentary. He will never get any points for being, say, thoughtful, although to be fair, I doubt that anyone has ever referred to the man as thoughtful. But, who’s to know? Maybe a couple of weeks from now, he will tire of appearing to the World as President Stupidhead and will wish to take on the mantle of President Thoughtful. See, it all depends on which particular 140 character sets he is taking in at the moment. So, maybe if he sees a different set of characters, he might wish to change his ways.

    And what might that mean?

    Well, perhaps he might begin by writing longer pieces, perhaps for his talks, and maybe even for his discussions with foreign leaders. It is said that he will not now be invited to speak before the UK Parliament. He is seen, evidently, as a racist and sexist. Maybe if he writes something thoughtful he could retrieve his now lost status as a person of some gravitas. Maybe then, we The American People could be seen once again as a thoughtful people, whom other cultures would wish to know.

    That would be a helpful start, because I fear that collectively, we are all viewed through the prism of President Stupidhead’s 140 character tweets. It is not simply who he is. It is, rather, who we are, and we must never lose sight of that important distinction.

    So, perhaps we collectively need to begin a process of healing ourselves, by giving to our great leader (the greatest leader in the history of the world) a grander sense of who he is in the world. He is better than 140 characters. He needs to know that.

    Or maybe not . . .

  22. paulwalter

    Re Kate H, Annie B, Kaye Lee, I move to a grudging almost admiring acceptance of Peta Credlin and her contention that he is (indeed), “Mr Harbourside Mansions”.

    The only question still to be resolved is if the mighty sinkhole around Point Piper is an act of God intended to swallow up aforesaid Mr Harbourside Mansions by stealth. It so, I will experience an epiphany and convert to Roman Catholicism directly.

    As for Mr Shorten, his utter woodenness does appear to bestow upon him all the devastating impact of an old, wet dishcloth. Any sign of animation and am sure many of us would collapse of the resultant shock.

    Then again, perhaps better inert than malevolent.

  23. Kaye Lee

    .https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C4Ks-u1VYAEi925.jpg:large

  24. Jack Straw

    Sorry Kaye forgive my ignorance who’s the the guy on the right?

  25. jimhaz

    Guy on right = Stephen Bannan

    Trump Twitter. Note the wording of one of his overnight tweets.
    “She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing”

    In other words he is admitting that he does the wrong thing often, and needs to be pushed into doing the right thing by his daughter. This is not something a president should need to say.

  26. wam

    Good on you weatherill show the pelican point bastards up and go for nsw/vic/qld on water (abrogate???)
    Private enterprise continually shows it cannot be in charge of power, welfare or medicare.
    Good onya bill go for the slimes.

  27. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Trump has shown the power of Twitter/social media as a means to circumvent the MSM. His gameplay is very ugly, but it certainly seems to have worked for him so far. But he has got away with it largely because he is the big boy in the playground, so none of the “ally” nations will do any more publicly than gently remonstrate with him, because unlike him, they understand how diplomacy works.

    What is remarkabke about Trump is his total lack of Emotional Intelligence. He is childlike. Putin must be delighted.

  28. Sir ScotchMistery

    @PaulWalter

    Yet, I would have felt more comfortable if more of the article had been spent examining the other party to this event, Malcolm Turnbull.

    Malcolm Turnbull and his psychopathic fellow-travellers show enough in an on going parade of callousness to warrant a whole library woth of comment.

    I have read and re-read the original article, and fail to see any point where Turdball would even be a comma in a tweet, let alone the “other party”. He is regarded by the actual subject of the article, as a nothing (bit like my view really), and gets hung up on in phone calls, so explain please, why Turdball’s name should appear, let alone be examined.

    Can I suggest, if you are so keen to see more MSM-like diatribe over Turdball, that you write it yourself. I think it’s reasonable to say that writers here don’t do it so they are perpetually happy in your comfort zone. Most do it because liberals suck.

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