The Tell-Tale Tweet

by Propane Jane –

On March 12, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first fireside chat to the American public. He was sworn in only eight days prior, but the scope of the crisis that greeted him necessitated a swift yet steady display of leadership to calm the anxieties of a nation in turmoil and despair.

His first week in office had been besieged by a rash of bank withdrawals and closings, followed by a four day bank shutdown, then hasty passage of the Emergency Banking Act to restore confidence to an economic system in free fall. The stated purpose of Roosevelt’s unprecedented radio address was to explicitly inform the public “what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be,” and to practically beg panicked Americans to stop withdrawing their money from the gravely anemic banks.

Miraculously, the public heeded his warning, and responded not only by bidding up stock prices to the largest ever one-day percentage price increase on March 15, but also returning more than half of their withdrawn cash to the banks within two weeks. Roosevelt would go on to deliver a total of 30 fireside chats during his 12 years as president, and his immense popularity has been attributed in large part to his novel approach to communication and civic engagement.

If FDR’s fireside chats are the pinnacle of presidential communication, then Donald Trump’s fiery tweets must assuredly be the nadir.

In sharp contrast to our 32nd president, Trump inherited a nation and economy on the upswing thanks to the even-handed leadership of his predecessor, but he communicates with the public as though we’re all experiencing a recurrent episode of manic depression. After running a campaign predicated on a desire to travel backward in time to escape what he and his supporters consider to be a failing America, he’s spent his first seven weeks in office bringing the crisis in their wildest dreams to fruition.

Instead of calmly guiding the nation through perilous times like FDR, Trump is turning stability into turmoil, and exacerbating it with terrifying tweets. In other words, the 45th* president isn’t just easily baited by tweets, he easily baits with tweets.

As each new round of treason allegations emerges, it becomes ever more apparent that the current White House occupant is paradoxically more intent on drawing attention to his misdeeds than he is on assuring the public that he can be trusted to lead. He isn’t reaching out to the American citizenry to convey calm or confidence, but to heighten suspicion of others in ways that only implicate him and his administration further.

As such, Donald Trump woke up early on the morning of Saturday, March 4 to indirectly alert America and the world that he is suffering from the self-imposed persecution of his own guilty conscience. In his fervor to prove his innocence, sanity, and the alleged conspiracy against him, he is not unlike the famed narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.

It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. The story is driven not by the narrator’s insistence upon his “innocence”, but by his insistence on his sanity. This, however, is self-destructive, because in attempting to prove his sanity he fully admits that he is guilty of murder. His denial of insanity is based on his systematic actions and his precision, as he provides a rational explanation for irrational behavior.

Much like Poe’s tortured narrator, Trump believes himself to possess heightened powers of perception that grant him knowledge of a conspiratorial plot against him, despite a dearth of evidence to corroborate his claims. He is pointing a finger at his predecessor while seemingly oblivious to the fact that three fingers are proverbially pointed right back at himself. In fact, his accusatory tweets have done little more than focus the microscope firmly on Trump and his cabinet members’ ties to Russia, and his insistence on screaming bloody murder has inevitably resulted in the authorities being summoned to search for the body.

Confident that they will not find any evidence of the murder, the narrator brings chairs for them and they sit in the old man’s room, on the very spot where the body is concealed, yet they suspect nothing, as the narrator has a pleasant and easy manner about him. The narrator begins to feel uncomfortable and notices a ringing in his ears. The sound increases steadily, though the officers seem to pay no attention to it. Terrified by the violent beating of the heart, and convinced that the officers are aware of not only the heartbeat, but his guilt as well, the narrator breaks down and confesses. He tells them to tear up the floorboards to reveal the body.

And so here we stand, a nation frightened yet enthralled by the self-sabotage and tell-tale guilt of our increasingly paranoid tweeter-in-chief. No longer do we huddle around our radios to hear the reassuring voice of our leader over the soothing crackling of a cozy fire; instead we await ever more maniacal and fiery rantings in 140 characters or less.

Will we wait for him to beg us to rip up the floorboards, or will we finally read between the lines of his guilt-ridden tell-tale tweets?

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind; the thief doth fear each bush an officer.       —William Shakespeare


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos