Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He infuriated two allied governments, gave a boost to the movement behind the assassination of a British member of Parliament, and gave an al-Qaeda recruitment video unprecedented viewership--all in the same retweet.

The events of the day began between 6:30 and 6:50 A.M., when Trump's morning Twitter rant included three retweets of videos posted by one of the leaders of "Britain First," an ultra-nationalist movement at the fringes of British politics. Another of their followers murdered British MP Jo Cox last year over her stance on immigration policies. The videos depicted supposed atrocities committed by Muslims.

One video, titled "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!", was immediately revealed to be a lie. The perpetrator was neither a Muslim nor a migrant to the Netherlands; he was a native-born Dutch citizen who was arrested and prosecuted as a minor. (The government of the Netherlands put out a statement pointedly reminding Trump, personally, that "facts do matter.")

Another was labeled "Islamist mob pushes a teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" The action took place during what amounted to a civil war in Egypt between the military and supporters of the ousted Morsi government. The perpetrators were arrested and convicted for the killing.

The third was described as "Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!" This is accurate. It is also recruiting propaganda made by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which is now receiving worldwide attention thanks to Trump's amplification of it.

Trump almost certainly had no idea what he was retweeting, or what the consequences would be, or who Britain First is. As with all propaganda, its only purpose is to deceive by telling people fictional versions of what they want to hear, and Trump--who still claims to have witnessed firsthand nonexistent celebrations in the streets by New Jersey Muslims on September 11th, and may actually believe it at this point--is an astonishingly easy target for such things.

Confronted by reporters about the lies Trump had unknowingly retweeted, Sarah Huckabee Sanders would only say that the video of one non-Muslim Dutch native assaulting another brought attention to "threats" by Muslim migrants that are "real no matter how you look at it." 

What's the problem here?

  • A president who is so careless that he accidentally directs worldwide attention to al-Qaeda propaganda is unfit for office.
  • A president who first promotes the group behind the murder of an allied country's legislator, and then angrily pushes back when that country's government complains, is a disgrace.
  • It's increasingly difficult to believe that Trump has any control over his impulses.