The Most Consequential Social Media Account in History

What is it about Trump that has seen him at once, and by the same people, so widely reviled as the president, yet so celebrated as a poster?

It is still possible to appreciate, on a purely aesthetic level, the brilliance of a man tweeting something like: “I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11.” Or “The Coca Cola company is not happy with me—that’s okay, I’ll still keep drinking that garbage.” Or deciding, for some reason, to post a long series of tweets offering unsolicited romantic advice to Robert Pattinson. Even Trump’s final tweet, issued amid a genuine political crisis, was a masterclass in deadpan; pitch-perfect and wildly funny: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” (Or just the fact that the guy’s handle was ‘@realDonaldTrump’ – the whole time he was president).

There is nothing funny about the downward-punching force of Trump’s actual policies. But on Twitter, he was funny in part because he managed to channel a certain ressentiment, shared by his supporters but by no means exclusive to them, by symbolically punching up at the political and media establishment. (To wit: “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” or one of my personal favorites, his savaging of John Bolton as “A sullen, dull and quiet guy, he added nothing to National Security except “Gee, let’s go to war!”) This is why Trump needed Twitter. On any other platform (on Facebook, for instance, where he could limit the scope of his broadcasts to his admirers, or on one of those “free speech apps” where he could rule the roost) Trump would not be able to position himself in this way, and his appeal would greatly diminish as a result.

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