On the use of the typo to signal irony on Twitter

Irony, clearly labeled

One of the problems with rhetorical irony is that sometimes people don’t get it. That’s also a major source of its appeal. When irony works, the reader sees it but holds out the possibility that someone else does not. This effect is a big part of the fun, even though plenty of satirical writing cheats it by deploying irony in a way few readers could miss. The trick is to maintain a sort of plausible deniability. Irony doesn’t have to actually fool anybody, but we as knowing readers must be able to fool ourselves into believing it might. Satire can therefore be pretty heavy-handed, so long as the irony is not explicitly signaled. I mention this to introduce a convention of irony Twitter that has bled over into other sub-comunities: the practice of signaling irony with typographical errors. For example:

Is it cheating to explicitly signal irony in this way? Consideration after the jump.

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Daines ducks constituents, complains too few in DC drive pickup trucks

US Senator from Montana and convicted goblin Steve Daines

Steve Daines’s first six weeks as a senator have not been easy. He happened to be presiding over the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instructed him to gavel down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). That got him on the news. Then he cast the deciding vote to confirm Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, despite calls to recuse himself after she gave $48,000 to his campaign. Last week, he came home.

He was supposed to address the state legislature last Tuesday, but a crowd of protestors that gathered at the capitol caused him to reschedule at the last minute. He spoke to the legislature Wednesday, after protestors had safely gone home. The very next day, he went on Twitter. “Montanans can do a better job than D.C. bureaucrats who’ve never driven a pick-up and have a hard time finding Montana on a map,” he wrote.

Root toot ‘merca truck, you guys. This kind of pandering was my least favorite thing growing up in Iowa, where the performance of hick-ness was integral to public life. But the politicians of Montana take it to new heights. The day after Daines complained that the failure of bureaucrats to drive trucks left them unable to operate the US federal government, he posted a video from Big Sandy, in which he claimed to be “getting all over Montana” to talk to his constituents.

The senator didn’t have to drive the back roads to find constituents; they had come to him 48 hours earlier, and he contorted his schedule to avoid speaking to them. Daines has never been a dynamic public speaker. Although he gets +1 to night vision and can be dangerous in groups, his main political advantage is that he is a party man. If you need someone to do what his superiors in the GOP say, Daines is your boy. It is therefore distasteful for him to pretend that he is some salt-of-the-earth type fed up with Washington, DC. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which we speculate on his truck-drivin’ bona fides and his life as a freshman in the senate dorms. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Who does President Trump follow on Twitter?

Donald Trump has over 24 million Twitter followers, but he only follows 41 accounts. Who are these people? When the president takes up his phone after a long day of re-greatening America, whose tweets does he see? The people Trump follows on Twitter fall into five categories:

Other Trumps

Like many 70-year-old users of social media, Trump organizes his Twitter experience around members of his own family. Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Trump—whose profile specifies that “my children are my life” and who does, indeed, seem to only tweet photos of them—Lara Trump (wife of Eric), and Tiffany Ariana Trump. All told, members of Trump’s immediately family and their spouses make up 18% of the people he follows.

Trump brands

Trump is not just a person; he’s a brand. The Trump names means luxury, hospitality, and entertainment, along with barely-coded racism and the increasing likelihood of nuclear war. But mostly it means golf. Trump follows the Twitter accounts of three of his own golf courses, including @TrumpGolfLA, @TrumpGolfDC, and the Trump National Doral course in Miami, as well as the Trump Golf umbrella brand. He also follows Trump hotels in Chicago, Waikiki and Las Vegas. Eighteen percent of the Twitter accounts Trump follows are his own brands—the exact same portion as members of his family, although that’s probably a coincidence. Still, more than a third of the content Trump sees on Twitter comes with “Trump” right in the name.

Coworkers

No man is an island—even a man as expansive as Trump. Besides his family and his brands, Trump also follows a number of people he works with: his assistant and White House director of social media Dan Scavino Jr., his chief of staff Reince Priebus, his former national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump also follows a few people he has worked with in a non-political capacity, if anything he does can be said to fit that rubric. He follows Mark Burnett, Celebrity Apprentice producer and president of MGM Television and Digital Group. He follows Katrina Campins, from the first season of The Apprentice. He follows WWE CEO Vince McMahon, whom he defeated in a hair match at Wrestlemania XXIII. He also follows his personal attorney Michael Cohen, whom he has not publicly wrestled. Employees, coworkers, and people with whom Trump has had business dealings compose 24% of the people he follows.

Media figures

Trump is a famously steady consumer of television, and he follows several Fox News personalities: Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Geraldo Rivera, Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham. He follows the accounts of Fox Nationwhose bio reads “join the community that believes in the American dream”—and Fox & Friends. He also follows some non-Fox personalities, including Greta Van Susteren, Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe, Ann Coulter of Satan’s twitching anus, and Drudge Report. Together, this assembly of people who provide news to your divorced uncle make up 32% of Trump’s Twitter feed.

People who are not media figures, other Trumps, Trump brands, or coworkers

This may be the most interesting subcategory of accounts Trump follows, because they give us a tantalizing glimpse of his inner life. Unfortunately, that glimpse is like when you think you see a person in a dark room but it turns out someone hung up a suit. Trump follows the pro golfer Gary Player, who is probably real but sounds made up. He follows Diamond and Silk, who describe themselves in their bio as “President Trump’s biggest supporters,” “biological sisters” and “public figures.” He also follows Roma Downey, executive producer of The Bible and other Christian-themed entertainments. She seems like an interesting lead at first, being neither a Trump nor a Trump employee nor a conservative news personality. It almost suggests he has some interest beyond TV and himself, but further investigation reveals she is married to Apprentice producer Mark Burnett. Still, she is not technically Trump’s coworker, family member, or property. This group of people whom Trump sees neither on television nor at Thanksgiving dinner constitutes 8% of the accounts he follows.

That’s it—Trump’s Twitter feed in a nutshell. You can visualize it with this handy pie chart:

Spencer Griffin gave me the idea for this post. Do you have an idea you’d like to pitch to Combat! blog? First be friends with me for 15 years, and then email me. Don’t call.

Close Reading: What Tiger Woods’s daughter looks like today is insane!

A screenshot of a promoted Twitter ad

I did not click on the Twitter ad pictured above, out of fear for my soul. There’s something about the come-on “Tiger Woods’ daughter was adorable as a child, but what she looks like today is insane” that leaves me cold. Probably, it’s the part where I get ready to see how insane someone looks. That’s just the kind of thing I want to see, and also just the kind of thing I want to stop wanting to see. All it took to push me over the edge into decent behavior, in this case, was a chubby-cheked little girl. I submit that our visceral revulsion to clicking on the link in this advertisement tells us something about our values. It gives us a glimpse of our urges and the flickering scruples that hold them back, and it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading.

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Trump threatens to tell us what he really thinks

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Donald Trump seems poised to give us the general-election campaign we wanted all along, in which he goes bananas and tears apart the Republican Party before—this part is really important—losing. Yesterday, Paul Ryan told Republicans on a conference call that he would no longer campaign for Trump and direct his energy toward protecting their majority in Congress instead. Although he did not withdraw his endorsement, the announcement was widely understood to capitulate the presidency, and narrowly understood to betray the nominee. Trump himself took the narrow view. This morning, he used Twitter to issue an ominous…promise? Threat? Status update? You can decide what this is:

It is nice. I assume he means he can finally focus on detailed policy proposals and rebuilding the dignity of the working class. But maybe he’ll just bash Muslims.

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