Email #230: “troubled about the President’s Twitter”?

Thank you for your recent letter regarding President Trump’s use of Twitter. I have written to you about this topic before, but I see now that your office has developed a new form letter. Most of it repeats your other letters verbatim, but the middle paragraph does contain new content:

“One of the ways he has chosen to communicate with the nation is through the use of social media, specifically Twitter. It is my hope that he will use that to share his vision for the future and plans for economic growth to show that America continues to be the greatest nation in the world.  I do understand why some folks have been troubled about the President’s Twitter statements and activity.  Please know that I appreciate those concerns and I hope he will use this platform to convey a positive message.”

While that is hardly a condemnation, it is the most critical statement you have made regarding President Trump yet. Though you don’t express feeling “troubled” yourself, you do “understand” why others have been; you “appreciate” such concerns; and, most importantly, you twice “hope” the President will use Twitter to “share his vision” and “convey a positive message,” implying that he is currently doing neither. It is also possible to infer that his Twitter messages, since they’re apparently not “positive,” are therefore negative. It’s even possible to read your letter as stating the opinion that the President, by not using his messages “to show that America continues to be the greatest nation in the world,” is therefore lowering our nation’s greatness.

But that’s if you read very carefully, since your statements are also the rhetorical equivalent of frowning while looking at your feet. Little wonder The Roanoker called you “mild mannered.” Often that’s a good thing. Your fellow Virginian, Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott said you’re “a perfect gentleman” and “someone who can conduct himself with dignity.” The irony is that you are expressing a dignified and gentlemanly criticism of an individual who is neither gentlemanly nor dignified. The President is a vulgar, ill-tempered, misogynistic bigot whose Twitter messages betray a level of myopic, narcissistic paranoia never before seen in the White House.

While I appreciate even your comically understated attempt to implore the President to behave better, your excessive indirection is self-defeating, even absurdly so. But I am happy to say that for once you and I do share the same hopes.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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