2017 hits a new low as Donald Trump discovers the GIF
I honestly thought that I was done writing about Donald Trump’s Twitter usage, and was free to pursue more meaningful pastimes such as learning Esperanto or organising Frasier episodes by seconds of Eddie screentime. But just when you think you’ve reached rock bottom, the president finds a new way to grab your attention.
Oh God, someone has taught him that GIFs are a thing.
There’s a lot to unpick here, so let’s take it point by point.
1) Why does footage of Donald Trump on WrestleMania exist?
There are two answers to this. The first is fairly prosaic: footage of Donald Trump on WrestleMania exists because he was on WrestleMania. Rolling Stone has a feature on Trump’s long-standing relationship with professional wrestling, if you’re curious, but it’s probably a bit of a letdown after you lived through his even more unlikely political rise.
If you choose to take the question of “why” more philosophically, then the answer becomes a little less clear, but far easier to rally behind: “who the hell knows?”
For the purposes of this post, though, all you really need to know is that his involvement in WWE makes his current presidency look incredibly austere and dignified. Here’s a scene where he shaves Vince McMahon’s head. For some reason.
Trump was admitted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 alongside such luminaries as Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart.
And yes, I do resent having to become an amateur Trump historian – thanks for asking.
2) Did Donald Trump make the GIF himself?
While the idea of Trump carefully editing every frame of footage from his time on WrestleMania on a Saturday night is brilliant, it’s sadly unlikely to be true.
The GIF – which you’ll note is mirror-imaged, most likely to avoid YouTube copyright-detection tech – seems to have first appeared on a SubReddit called The_Donald, where Trump acolytes gather to creepily fawn upon the president. Some might say that’s an unnecessarily partisan and judgemental way of phrasing it: to those people, I say he’s routinely referred to as Daddy Trump and God Emperor within the safe space of that subreddit.
Anyway, the GIF was posted on this delightful corner of the internet five days ago by a user called – sigh – HanAssholeSolo. The user’s comment history is mainly full of anti-Muslim sentiments, and the occasional conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton.
3) #FraudNewsCNN? What happened to #fakenews
Shortly after being elected, Donald Trump saw the hand-wringing over fake news tilting the election, and managed to cast himself as the victim rather than the beneficiary. Depressingly, it seems to be working.
But on Saturday, Donald Trump had a thought. What if calling everything Fake News was suffering from diminishing returns?
In a turn of events that won’t surprise anyone, he didn’t think about it for long. And the wrestling GIF was duly accompanied by an accusation of fraud against a news network. Which is ironic, because going beyond the front page of a Google search for “Trump fraud” reveals a whole bunch of cases where the president himself has been accused of that crime.
It’s actually quite good reverse SEO, if you think about it.
4) Isn’t that tweet an incitement to violence?
You could certainly read it that way. I personally think that’s a slight overreaction, but as rhetorical devices go, the constant demonising of journalists is historically not a great place to be at.
5) But Twitter doesn’t agree?
When CNN approached Twitter about the tweet, they were told that it had been reviewed and dismissed. “Twitter said it considered three factors: the political context of the conversation surrounding the tweet, the various ways it could be interpreted and the lack of details in the tweet itself,” the article reads.
At this point, I think the president can just assume he has free reign to carry on without consequences. Twitter is beyond toothless.
6) Is this what Trump meant when he said he would be more presidential?
You may remember Trump saying he “can be more presidential than anybody” last year, should he be elected president.
Few would argue that reposting GIFs of yourself punching a man with the CNN logo for a face on a Sunday morning is presidential in the Theodore Roosevelt sense.
But according to Trump, this is just him rewriting the rules of what presidential will mean for his successors.
Given that social media has really only been a prominent thing for two-and-a-half presidents, the sad thing is he might yet be proven right.
7) What’s he distracting us from this time?
One theory of Trump – which I personally think is a little overplayed – is that he posts something outrageous to Twitter when he wants the news cycle to be distracted from something that’s giving him trouble. His followers on The_Donald believe him to be constantly playing 4D chess while traditional politicians work with the regular board (I did say they were oddballs).
But for the avoidance of doubt, this is a sample of some of the news stories dogging Trump at the time of his tweet:
- GOP activist who sought Clinton emails cited Trump campaign officials
- After slashing Medicaid, the GOP is now arguing over how much to cut food stamps
- Science division of White House office left empty as last staffers depart
It’s not uncommon for governments to try and bury bad news on busy days – it’s just that Trump has the unique ability to create his own news to hide bad stories behind, at any time, day or night.
8) Have we hit rock bottom yet?
I really hope so. But every time I’ve thought we’ve hit bedrock in the past, there has been another disgusting layer of compacted dirt to excavate.
There’s 1,218 days to go until the 2020 election.