Sunday, September 29, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He self-medicated with retweets.

In many respects, this was a typical Sunday for Trump, in that he spent it doing nothing but tweeting and playing golf. But the nature of the tweets was unusual even by his standards.

Trump had tweeted 34 times on Sunday as of 7:18 p.m. EDT, resuming a binge that had started with 22 consecutive retweets late Saturday night. It's not a single-day record (at least as of the time this post was made), but the pattern is interesting. Virtually all of the tweets were aimed at attacking the investigation into his attempts to force Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election—the most incriminating details of which he's already admitted to

In his apparent anxiety to find supportive material, Trump ended up retweeting two "Twitter eggs"— low-follower accounts of the type that are often used for bot-farms, like the Russian ones who helped spread pro-Trump disinformation in the 2016 election. (That's not to say that the accounts Trump retweeted today are necessarily bots. One of them has three posts total over three years, and the other, to be fair, has many posts that could easily be mistaken for Trump's own work.)

Trump also retweeted a parody account that makes fun of his fear of sharks, by replacing key words with "shark." In this case, the post was from one of the "egg" accounts.

In other words, in his desperation to tweet as much pro-Trump material as he could, Trump unknowingly retweeted an anti-Trump parody account that tweeted a near-copy of a post by a bot-like account that he'd already retweeted.

Trump has 65 million Twitter followers, roughly 39 million of which are not obvious fake, spam, or bot accounts. (Trump has no control over who follows him.) He often uses Twitter to shape the news cycle, but outbursts like this weekend's more likely a form of therapy for him.

How is this a problem?

  • This really isn't healthy behavior.
  • There are other things a president is supposed to be doing besides golfing, campaigning, and trying to manage his emotional state.