The National Politics (online) Dual Identity
For all that has been said about President Donald Trump’s Twitter account(s)–his inflammatory and offensive statements, his rapid-fire early AM tweets, and his UNIQUE GRAMMAR! SAD!–a neglected duality came to the fore at 2:11 pm, January 20, 2017 that is now necessary to consider. Can a President retain a “private” identity on social media (@realDonaldTrump), an identity that maintains an outsider persona in the face his status as “leader of the free world,” at the same time that his “public” identity (@POTUS) coheres with presidential norms?
In President Trump’s first 14 days in office, the managers of his @POTUS account have attempted to maintain the “presidential” tone and aesthetic established by the Obama administration. His feed is filled with statements of thanks to the American people, images of the president hard at work with his staff, jovial with automobile industry leaders and the like, even as some of @realDonaldTrump’s personal interests have crept into the feed (@POTUS‘s January 23rd tweet of inauguration crowd size, for example, and January 26th retweets of @realDonaldTrump calling Chelsea Manning an “Ungrateful TRAITOR”).
By contrast President Trump’s @realDonalTrump account eschews any claim to a “presidential” tone established by his predecessor, even as it comments on geopolitical issues. For instance, just this morning President Trump issued a threatening statement to Iran via his @realDonaldTrump account, “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!” as a part of his early morning rapid-fire ritual. The tone of his tweet is particularly striking. If the president issued such a statement (@Potus), could it interpreted as a pretense for war? Indeed, many have already interpreted it as such. However, given its publication via @realDonaldTrump, is the White House suggesting that such a statement is a “private” matter, the comment of a political outsider with exceptional knowledge of geopolitical issues given his public status as President of the United States?
The questions surrounding Trump’s dual accounts abound. However, they are particularly striking in light of his recent Muslim Ban. On the one hand, individuals with green card status and dual citizenship have been and continue to be disallowed from entering the US. This is to say, individuals with dual national identities with real geopolitical stakes have been reduced to one on the presumption that trust cannot be extended to these individuals for their potential threat to national security. On the other, Trump’s “extreme vetting” procedures seem to include or would include individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria make their social media available for review by various “border control” agencies. This is to say, privacy in an online setting is not extended to these individuals given their national identity. What Trump is allowed to maintain, at least the pretense to a “public” and “private” identity, is disallowed to the individuals of the countries his ban has targeted.