Image by Morris Armstrong
Dear Mr. President,
You receive a lot of criticism for using Twitter. That is unfair. Blaming Twitter is like blaming a pencil and a piece of paper—Twitter is just a mode of communication. It can be used for just about any sort of discourse. I’ve seen a novelist write a short story one sentence at a time on Twitter, and I’ve also seen base attempts at “conversations” that are really just bullying. You are welcome to use Twitter, Mr. Trump—it could even prove an innovative way for a president to maintain contact with the American people—but I have a serious suggestion for how you use it.
Most people would assume I will, at this point, criticize your own tweets. Rest assured, I, like most Americans, would love to see more reasoned and reasonable commentary from you, but that is not my concern in this letter.
On November 30, 2016, journalist Robert Mackey posted a list on Twitter wherein he recreated your timeline. That is to say, he replicated what you see when you log onto Twitter. It represents a troubling lack of balance or even factual reporting. It is rife with propaganda from the likes of the Drudge Report, and on the days I have checked it, the majority of the tweets are from your own camp (Official Team Trump and Transition 2017 especially).
Given that you do tweet often and have demonstrated that you spend a decent chunk of time on Twitter, this means you’re being subjected to an echo chamber of extreme proportions. Reading and writing are thinking made visible, Mr. Trump, and if you are only reading words from one severely constricted point of view, you are not going to develop the means to assess the world objectively. This is not a personal attack on you–none of us could understand what’s happening at any given moment if we only read hot takes from one slanted point of view. I suppose it goes without saying, but an ability to see matters objectively is an essential element for any leader, whether that’s president of the sixth-grade or president of the USA.
You have stated explicitly in interviews that you’re “too busy to read,” but we know you’re on Twitter. This means it is entirely possible that the only news you receive on a regular basis is from the propaganda machine that is your Twitter timeline.
Mr. Trump, I mean this sincerely: If you were merely a friend or relative, I would implore you to curate a more balanced Twitter timeline. (Heck, I’d suggest ditching all of the “news” sources and just following stand-up comedians before encouraging you to keep your follow list as it is now.) You are not a friend or relative, though. You are the sitting president of the United States of America. You have unparalleled power and reach. Obviously, you must add a balanced range of sources to your Twitter feed, but I also ask that you subscribe to a range of newspapers. Spend even ten minutes per morning skimming the headlines. That alone will give you better coverage than your Twitter timeline.
Also, watching Fox News on television is not broadening the range of news sources. At least four of the forty-one accounts you follow on Twitter are directly from Fox News. You recently tweeted about Chicago and gun violence, but your tweets were almost verbatim from Bill O’Reilly’s show that broadcast an hour before you clicked tweet on your statements. Thirty seconds of independent research would have disproved your tweet. Chicago doesn’t even crack the top ten most violent cities in America, Mr. Trump. If you had a wider range of news sources, you might have seen or read that. I did.
Yes, you are a busy man, but you must be informed. We all are busy, and we all must be informed. If you refuse to spend time reading in depth, at least gather a wider range of headlines to skim. This is, quite literally, the least we can ask of you regarding your relationship with the news. Thank you.