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Myra Al-Rahim

We can't afford to let Trump's twitter feed hijack our outrage

While pundits fretted over the 'Special Relationship', a noxious tax bill was passed [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 December, 2017

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Comment: Trump's twitter feed is outrageous, but we eat out of the palm of his grubby little hands when we give it more attention than it deserves, writes Myra Al-Rahim.
Last week, Donald Trump again once sparked outrage and condemnation across the political spectrum, this time for retweeting - without comment - three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos initially posted by Britain First's deputy leader, Jayda Fransen.

From his proposal to ban Muslims coming into the United States to his vitriolic attacks against the nation's immigrant communities, Trump has made it abundantly clear that his sympathies lie with ultra-nationalist xenophobes. He has legitimised the far-right in America, and now he is trying to do the same in Britain.

The retweets were entitled: "Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!" "Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" and "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!"

Regurgitating alt-right bile has long been Trump's raison d'etre on Twitter. This isn't the first time his unorthodox online activity has elicited such shock and rage, and we would be remiss to think this will be the last. 

In addition to his propensity for extreme vulgarity, impulsiveness, and the ease with which he makes himself the most reviled public figure on both the domestic and international stage, Trump also boasts a subhuman capacity for self-reflection and remorse. His inability to apologise is as tide and true to the Trump brand as bankruptcy and gold-plated toilet seats.

Trump has made it abundantly clear that his sympathies lie with ultra-nationalist xenophobes

Under pressure to respond to President Trump's sharing of the Britain First videos, Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement of unequivocal, if not slightly restrained, condemnation claiming, "Retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do." May refused calls to terminate a state visit by the US president which is scheduled to take place early in 2018. 

In painfully predictable fashion, Trump refused to walk-back his actions, using his favourite social media platform to deliver the following response to May's rebuke: 

The conflict between May and Trump has been mortifying for the British government. As has usually been the case following disputes between the current President and Britain, pundits and politicians alike are hyperventilating over what the latest row could mean for the US-UK "Special Relationship".

Why on earth Trump would do this is anyone guess. Is he a bona fide ignoramus, totally thoughtless, a fascist, or a noxious concoction of all three? But we do ourselves no favours by pointing to the alleged apocalypse of Britain and America's "Special Relationship," every time Trump does something inexpressibly stupid.

Let us instead conserve our energy because the regularity with which he embarrasses himself and the rest of the world has become a hallmark of his presidency.

The formulaic nature of how these feuds play out is getting tiresome. For starters, the repeated use of the term "Special Relationship" is nothing short of creepy and obsolete. When I hear it used to mitigate the fallout from one of Trump's gross offenses, I think back to the instances in which that phrase was used by Tony Blair and G.W. Bush to justify Britain and America's invasion of Iraq and the seven-year butchery that ensued.

In the throes of bitter Brexit negotiations, Britain is struggling to declare its relevance in a post-Brexit world. It is of little surprise that the country no longer enjoys the same reverence it once had on the international stage. In reality, we should abandon the term all together because (1) Trump has shown time and again that he has no regard for it, and (2) it is deliberately misleading, sounding more desperate every time it is used.

Their "Special Relationship" would more accurately be described as a monstrous blood pact. But even then, it doesn't even mean anything anymore!

Read more: Trump's retweet madness

It is vital to remember that Trump is a master deflector. There exists a correlation between when he chooses to go on a twitter rant and the approach of a major challenge to his administration (say a vote on repealing Obama Care).

In the case of last week's retweets, this was the vote on the Senate Tax Plan. Both Trump and the Republican party know how important this, is given the string of defeats they have incurred throughout the year despite the fact that Republicans command all three houses of government.

His inability to apologise is as tide and true to the Trump brand as bankruptcy and gold-plated toilet seats

Last Wednesday's retweets marked a new low for the US president. But we eat straight out of the palm of his grubby little hands when we give his twitter activities more attention than they deserve, and shift our gaze away from the disastrous policies he and his party are presiding over.

Trump's success will be predicated on using his outrageous rhetoric to distract us from what his administration can actually accomplish, such as the president's judicial appointments, which promise to reshape the judiciary and, in turn, the country for decades to come.

It would be wrong to dismiss Trump's twitter as a vehicle for his impetuous outbursts, and drivelling commentary on current affairs. To do that would be to underestimate the power and range of his tweets.

Yet in this perilous political landscape, we must resist the urge to allow Trump's online presence to monopolise media coverage and hijack our outrage. There is a whole lot more to hold his administration and Republican policy makers accountable to, and so much more to come. We are only a quarter of the way out of this hell. 


Myra Al-Rahim is an, activist, radio producer, and researcher based in New York. After graduating in 2016 from Bard College, she has worked for organisations such as PEN: America and the Arab-American Family Support Centre.


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.


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