Maureen Dowd: Trump the Twitter addict is making America meaner

Maureen Dowd: Trump the Twitter addict is making America meaner

Hostility that so easily flows from his fingers now defines his immigration policy Donald Trump was profoundly affected by watching his older brother, Freddy, die from alcoholism at 43. But is he making the whole country meaner, coarser and less empathetic? Or was the pump primed for a political figure like him because the internet had already made America meaner, coarser and less empathetic? They highlight the tweets of people arguing, the big news brawls of the day, as a way to engage the rest of the audience. That makes it a meaner place.” This, even as Twitter – under pressure like the rest of Silicon Valley for letting the monsters get out of control – is developing “health metrics” to promote civility and communicate “more holistically”. It will be hard for Twitter to become more civil and holistic given that in January it instituted a world leaders policy exempting a certain head of state from any tempering efforts. We have a president who is an addict running a country overflowing with opioid and social media addicts. “We can be better than that.” But I don’t think Trump can. He figured out how to dominate Twitter, not with the cool-kid arch style of making fun of someone, but by being school-yard-bully mean. For Trump, who is also an attention addict, that is about as holistic as it’s going to get.

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Hostility that so easily flows from his fingers now defines his immigration policy

President Donald Trump has made political discourse more crude and belligerent. Photograph: AP/Carolyn Kaster
President Donald Trump has made political discourse more crude and belligerent. Photograph: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Donald Trump was profoundly affected by watching his older brother, Freddy, die from alcoholism at 43. He proselytised against drinking and smoking, warning his kids away from those vices. Even with his casinos, Trump wasn’t a gambler, saying he’d rather own slot machines than play them.

And yet, in a strange twist, Trump has ended up an addict. One of the more chilling things I’ve heard recently came from Jaron Lanier, the Silicon Valley founding father whose new book is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Lanier, who met Trump a couple of times back in the real estate developer’s New York heyday, thinks the president’s addiction to tweeting is rewiring his brain in a negative way.

As Trump picks up speed on Twitter, the Oval Office is becoming a Skinner box. Like other “behavior modification empires,” as Lanier calls social media sites, Twitter offers positive reinforcement for negativity. “Twitter addicts take on this kind of nervous, paranoid, cranky quality, sort of itching for a fight,” Lanier said in an interview. “Trump used to be in on his own joke, and he no longer is. He’s just striking out every morning, fishing for somebody to harass or seeing who’s harassing him.

“I do think it creates a terrifying situation because somebody who is addicted is easy to manipulate. It’s easier for the North Koreans to lie to him than if he wasn’t an addict.”

The hostility and insensitivity that so easily flow from his fingers now define his immigration policy. I saw a report on PBS about a mother on the border who was reunited with her 14-month-old child after 85 days. “The child continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my leg and would not let me go,” the mother wrote. “When I took off his clothes, he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us.”

On the occasion of America’s 242nd birthday, we must ask who we are, if we can see accounts of infants snatched from their parents and returned covered in lice, and not worry about our country’s soul.

Trump has…

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