Donald Trump is now infamous for his unhinged, psychotic tweets — especially if you’ve been following his hot mess of a Twitter feed over the last few weeks. But regardless of how out of control the president seems to be, there is actually a method and strategy behind all of this madness, which makes it all the more terrifying.
America has been puzzled by Trump’s tweets as early as his announcement of a presidential run. While Trump had been tweeting for years before his bid, no one was really paying attention or noticed how crazy he was until then. Since becoming POTUS, Trump has become more unhinged and manic, as the president regularly attacks the media, tweets out conspiracies, lies, and hateful rhetoric, and makes major policy decisions before telling his own administration about them.
Trump has turned his personal Twitter account into the way he communicates with his constituents (and unfortunately, other world leaders) and the way he uses his influence to constantly create chaos is disturbing.
While most of us would love to believe that Trump really IS stupid enough to continue humiliating himself in his tweets with major spelling errors, horrific grammar, and random capitalization, it could be more calculated than it actually appears. While many of these mistakes are likely due to Trump’s limited intellectual ability, some of these “errors” are intentional and are used to create “authenticity” and make Trump more “relatable” to his (equally mentally challenged) fanbase.
Trump’s use of Twitter has been studied, and an interview with Ryerson University mathematics professor Anthony Bonato reveals that there is a strategic repetition of themes and concepts on Trump’s Twitter account that is far from random. Bonato explained how he and others have analyzed Trump’s tweets:
Networks are essentially dots and lines. What we study are interactions, to determine on an interactive scale how things are working together or not. In this research we examined Trump’s tweets, which have all been archived at Github. We then looked for relationships and how often certain words and phrases are used together to develop a sense of Trump’s themes.”
Trump has strategically used his tweets to shape how the media responds to him, using it to turn Americans away from the free press. Having studied that information, Bonato explains how the president yields his influence:
Trump is the first Twitter president. Twitter has hundreds of millions of users, with some estimates being as high as 300 million. Seventy million of them live in the United States. Many of them are younger and educated. We are also seeing that people are getting their news from Twitter and from other social media sites. Given his comfort with the medium, Twitter is a good tool for Trump. Of course previous presidents, most notably Barack Obama, have used Twitter, but Trump’s style of tweeting is different.
Some of his tweets are probably crafted by media professionals, but I think that many of his tweets are written by him and are very personal. He repeats a lot of the same things over and over, such as ‘fake news media’ and ‘bad,’ or ‘Hillary Clinton’ and ‘crooked.’ He has 50 million or so followers, and through repetition and sheer numbers that definitely has an impact on the way people think about issues.”
Bonato also spoke about Trump using specific themes and topics:
What the research shows is that there are five topics which occur again and again in each of the four years that we examined in our new research. They change year to year. For example, in 2015, which was the first year we looked at and was the [beginning of the] Republican primary, Trump is focusing mainly on his opponents like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and so on. He’s talking about the media even then, and connecting the media to Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you go to 2016 when he wins the Republican nomination, Trump is now focusing mainly on the Democrats. But he is also talking about swing states.
Then you also see ‘Hillary Clinton’ being connected with ’emails’ and the ‘FBI.’ Then into his presidency in 2017, Trump is talking about policy issues. But there is a clear-cut difference between domestic and international issues in how he uses Twitter. He does talk about things like North Korea, China, ‘security’ and so on in one grouping.
But then there’s a very clear grouping where he’s talking about ‘Russia.’ He uses his own name a lot. There are also references to Hillary Clinton and ‘crooked election.’ In 2018, we’re still seeing things like Russia, but now there is more about Obama, Hillary Clinton and ‘crooked.’”
In examining Trump’s Twitter strategy, Bonato also gave some advice to Democrats on how to target Trump:
The macro-level scale of how all these keywords interact is very revealing. We need political scientists to delve deeper and look at the semantic connections of what these words all mean and their interactions. If you were on Trump’s side, maybe they are planning out their next block of topics for the next quarter of 2018. For everyone else — people in the media, journalists, Democrats — I think it’s important to understand what your opponent is thinking and talking about.”
The next time you look at Trump’s Twitter feed, see if you can decipher one of his unhinged tweets from a more strategic one.
Featured image via screen capture