Donald Trump is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2016. Understandably, this has made a lot of people very upset. I suppose you can’t really blame them.
While it is specifically stated that the award is for those who have influenced events “for better or for worse” (Hitler and Stalin are previous winners), you can’t help but feel that its another universal normalisation of an ever-increasing mainstream bigotry. But then again, that’s the year we’re living in, isn’t it. Drink up.
So how did The Donald celebrate? Well, in the only way that he knows how: Tweeting. Not about the prize, mind. Instead, America’s President-elect went after Chuck Jones, President of United Steelworkers 1999.
Jones has spent the week telling various news outlets that Trump has exaggerated the number of jobs he saved by striking a deal to stop Carrier Corporation from closing its Indianapolis factory. Rather than deny the claim, Trump instead took to Twitter, writing: “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers“. It caps off a fairly normal week for him, in which he’s also used his social media account to sock it to the Green Party, Saturday Night Live, the media and China. He tweeted shade at China, for fuck’s sake.
But here’s the thing. Regardless of everything, Donald Trump will be remembered as history’s first ever social media President. He’ll be referred to as the man who first successfully exploited social media for political progress, all without actually being any fucking good at it.
If we jump back half a century, there are echoes of the 1960 election in what Trump does. John F. Kennedy – christened the television president – exploited his technological medium to full effect, using the televised debates as the platform that defined his entire campaign. He won the 1960 election because of just how well he understood the power of TV. That important grasp single-handedly paved his route to the White House. Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t have the faintest idea what on earth he’s doing. There’s no grand plan, there’s no strategy; it’s a no-holds-barred exercise in mental and verbal diarrhoea. If he thinks it, he’ll tweet it – and that’s as complex as it tends to get.
He’s like an erratic pre-pubescent freshly banned from sugary treats. There’s no filter, nor was there ever a hint of one. It is pure, instantaneous bullshit; a whirlwind of innermost angst and insecurity projected into the public sphere on the grandest of scales. And that’s why it works.
You see, Donald Trump embodies the social media age better than anyone else. In 1960, Kennedy’s charisma chimed in correlation with televised content; he was slick, pre-planned, pretty and new. Trump does as much, albeit in a completely different way. Through his constant, angry tweeting, he’s instant, spontaneous, carrying with him a ubiquitous kind of accessibility. In 2016, people aren’t accustomed to not knowing things. Trump cuts out the hard work. He’s there, in front of you, ranting at the latest person or organisation to dent his fragile sense of worth. There’s no mystery when it comes to guessing what he’s thinking. As an entity, he is universally attainable. For a insight into his personality, all you have to do is login. He! Is! Content!
He is the president of the social media age, despite not having the first fucking idea about what he’s doing. And that’s the point. The second Trump were to think, plan or comprehend the greater idea, he’d cease to be everything that’s worked for him up until now. He’d cease to be truly digital.
Donald Trump isn’t the social media president. He isn’t the anti-social media president, either. He is social media. He’s immediate, omnipresent, communal and, ultimately, completely empty – all without realising. Don’t expect him to catch on anytime soon, either.
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Words by Niall Flynn