But what responsibility does the average Twitter user have in slowing the spread of his messaging?
De-platformed by pretty much every current social media platform—and probably some that haven’t been invented yet—Trump has been mostly silent for the past two months. Occasionally, he has gone on Newsmax to monologue about Rush Limbaugh’s death or Tiger Woods’s traffic accident, but without a Twitter account, the country club magnate no longer has a way to instantly broadcast his every thought to the entire world, consequences be damned.
This week, however, Trump attempted for the first time to approximate his lost tweeting ability—despite reports that he is “happy” without it.
After Congress passed a historic COVID relief bill on Wednesday, he released the following press release:
Former President Trump is releasing statements that read like tweets on letterhead. pic.twitter.com/bGJaaRvPzf
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 10, 2021
While the necktie impresario has previously used the format of a press release to distribute lengthy missives to supposed RINO foes such as Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove, this particular press release is much different. It is precisely tweet-sized, and full of all the hallmarks of a Trump tweet: casual racism, petulant whining, credit hogging, misinformation, and a description of something with no aesthetic characteristics whatsoever as ‘beautiful.’
Once the “press release” hit online, a lot of Twitterers began to dunk on it. Look at the once mighty king, they seemed to surmise, reduced to sneaking shadow-tweets onto Twitter. Sad!
This tweet-like press release from Trump is one of the most pathetic and needy statements I've ever seen from a major political figure. pic.twitter.com/dceLM16BAQ
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) March 11, 2021
this is the saddest thing i've ever read pic.twitter.com/kahJKNZAAW
— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 10, 2021
*anguished, barely audible voice* pic.twitter.com/bPh3G2CEcE
— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) March 11, 2021
In response to this trend, however, several prominent members of the #Resistance (RIP) began to scold Twitterers for sharing it.
JUST SEND OUT A TWEET WITHOUT RETWEETING HIS COMPLETELY FALSE STATEMENT
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) March 11, 2021
All the people sharing Trump’s “press release” are really just sharing a tweet of his. You’re helping him tweet. Read it, and it reads like one of his shitpant tweets.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) March 11, 2021
In fairness, these folks do have a point. There are infinite ways to dunk on Trump’s black-market tweet without further sharing the message itself.
The country: we're mourning over 500,000 dead but there is a light at the end of the tunnel with this vaccination program kicking into high gear.
Trump "tweet via press release": ME ME ME ME ME PAY ATTENTION TO ME ME ME
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) March 11, 2021
Live footage of Trump dictating that press release: pic.twitter.com/vLZwksS3xG
— Ian MacIntyre (@MrIanMacIntyre) March 11, 2021
The question remains, however: What difference does it make if they do so or not?
For one thing, there is an enormous difference between members of the media uncritically passing along Trump’s inflammatory lies, and people making fun of this peculiar dispatch. The former is simple amplification, broader reach, ubiquity; the latter is purely commentary on the content. It’s possible that some members of the target audience who might not have otherwise seen the press release will come across it through a joke tweet, but instances of that specific outcome are likely negligible.
More importantly, though, the medium, as they say, is the message. When Trump was president, his tweets carried the weight of the office. Now, his tweets carry the weight of a Floridian political consultant and they’re not even tweets. The people sharing this press-release-as-tweet are drawing attention to the very fact that the former president is now just another banned poster trying to slide past the mods. Amplifying this message also broadcasts the message that the president can’t tweet but boy, oh boy, would he sure like to!
It’s not necessary, nor is it necessarily best practices. But in terms of helping pave a path for a 2024 run or spreading the Big Lie about the 2020 election, it’s not that either.
If he starts issuing press releases with the frequency of his old tweets, we may have to revisit this conversation. For now, though, personally, I find the main difference between a presidential tweet from Trump and a post-presidency press release is the inherent ignorability of the latter. I see that a new one has arrived and I think, “I don’t have to read that and it will never matter.”
The same goes for other people’s tweets dunking on them.