January 5, 2017

Bernie Commandeers a Trump Tweet

Senator Bernie Sanders brought a very interesting visual to the Senate floor on Wednesday: A giant printout of a Donald Trump tweet. image: CSPAN via Boston Globe.

Bernie Sanders did something simple this week that grabbed a lot of eyeballs. He found a way to illustrate and call out Trump’s most offensive weapon. How did he do it? He reposted one — to cardboard. He trapped one on a physical easel, in a physical room, as a physical specimen. And not just any room, but the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill — an actual Trump target site.

If you can’t read the board, it says:

As we’re all well aware, these gut punching, knife-twisting and chest beating tweets are really political and emotional cluster bombs. They stun, they damage, they draw crowds, and then they disappear. They are also opiates to prevent 50 million Americans from seeing the man behind the curtain. And they are Trump’s main gas lighting tool in his relationship, and the abusive marriage he is about to consummate, with us.

With Twitter as Trump’s dominator’s whip, his high decibel machine, his handful of beach sand, Trump is in our faces, and in our heads, a lot of the time. At any time. So what Bernie did, like some e-world taxidermist, is clever. He captured a Trump tweet, a telling one, the same way you would trap an infected mosquito in a jar. Sanders commandeered one of Trump’s stealth bombs by making it inspectable. Orienting it to the physical world immediately raises the expectation for substance and consistency. And, given Trump’s promise in writing, it also makes it physical evidence.

The display wouldn’t have been half as good, however, without the accompanying speech. Sanders using the tweet — in content and form — as a reprisal. In one pass, Sanders frames the incoming President of the United States as a Twitter bot, he exposes “Trump truth,” and he turns the tweet back on Trump by way of his own simple binaries.

If all he was talking about was campaign rhetoric, then what he is obliged to do now is tell the American people he was lying,” Sanders said. “If that is not what the case is. . . I would hope tomorrow, or maybe today, he could send out a tweet and tell his Republican colleagues to stop wasting our time. . . and for Mr. Trump to tell the American people he will veto any proposal that cuts Medicare, that cuts Medicaid, and that cuts social security.

I imagine we’ll be seeing more techniques separating these messages from their communicator, giving them the weight Trump doesn’t, fixing them in time and in more protective casings. What Sanders did, however — and the metaphor is instructive — is to arrest Trump’s words. Until proper inoculations are available, Bernie deserves points for the print out, the precedent, and for, momentarily, at least, setting the erasable in stone.

(screen grab: CSPAN via The Boston Globe)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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