Graham West, 12/1/2017 [Archive]

Trump Tweets Beneath the Dignity of His Office, Again

Trump Tweets Beneath the Dignity of His Office, Again

By Graham F. West


Another week, another Twitter-enabled controversy from President Trump.

On Wednesday morning, amongst his complaints against CNN and gripes about protesting NFL players, President Trump "retweeted" - that is, promoted to his 43.6 million followers - three short videos that had originally been posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the United Kingdom's "Britain First" movement.

Each purported to show alarming content. The first claimed to be a video of a young Muslim migrant attacking a Dutch youth on crutches; the second showed a bearded man, also identified as Muslim, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary. And the last and arguably most gut-wrenching appeared to depict a group (of, again, supposed Muslims) pushing a young man off of a roof and subsequently beating him in a pixelated mob.

None of the videos were sourced, verified, or even contextualized with basic date or timestamps. Each was, however, far beneath the dignity of the office of the Presidency of the United States.

They are perfectly in keeping with the dignity, however, of the original posters. A fringe ultranationalist group, Britain First is known for pitifully poor election showings and "protest" actions that often trend into outright racism and harassment. Fransen herself was charged with "religiously aggravated harassment" in May of this year, mere months before the Electoral Commission of the U.K. Parliament deregistered the organization as a political party.

So far, one of the videos has already turned out to be, as the president says, fake news. The supposed "Muslim migrant" attacking a "Dutch boy" was in fact a born and raised Dutch citizen; the Netherlands Embassy as well as the public prosecutor's office that handled the case each confirmed as much, and that the young man had already completed his sentence for the crime.

When informed that President Trump had tweeted false, incendiary propaganda, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders simply said, "Whether it's a fake video, the threat is real." Somehow, this explanation made more sense than her next excuse: that the president was trying to "elevate the conversation" about terrorism, as if he doesn't belch out demands for his ineffective ban and wasteful wall immediately after every act of violence not committed by a white man at home or abroad.

While the leaders of Britain First are thrilled by the president's attention, the rest of the United Kingdom is not. Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan both denounced the tweets as contrary to their nation's values. The president was criticized and mocked from all sides of the U.K. political spectrum during a special floor debate in Parliament, while other public figures piled on. And now, rumors are swirling that an early 2018 working visit by President Trump to London may be off the table.

But President Trump's actions carry risks beyond just damage to our special relationship with the United Kingdom.

For one, the State Department has already warned that his retweets could inflame tensions in the Middle East, where rabble-rousers look for any excuse to protest or even attack American embassies. This is, of course, the problem with extremists; their rhetoric and actions give each other the opportunity for escalation, leaving peaceful majorities caught in the crossfire.

Of equal concern, however, is the power that President Trump is giving to America's Britain First-esque fringeā€'those who have committed an increasing number of hate crimes since his election, and might be inspired to do even worse if they are enraged by what they see. The president seems perilously close to inciting violence by propagating these irresponsible videos with no qualification or explanation; he is doing nothing to keep us safe, and everything to feed the raging ids of those who share his suspicions of 'others.'

Not long ago, it was a scandal for such shoddy, vile propaganda to be seen on even a state legislator's social media account; now, the President of the United States can tweet it out, cause an international row, and imperil American security at home and abroad all in a 24-hour news cycle. It isn't clear what will dissuade President Trump from this dangerous behavior, but one thing is for sure: He continues to degrade the pulpit from which he speaks to the world every time he sends another shameful tweet.

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Copyright 2017 Graham F. West, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graham F. West is the Communications Director for Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, though views expressed here are his own. You can reach West at gwest@trumancnp.org.

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