- Trump’s morning tweets are a huge source of entertainment in Europe, where it is lunchtime when he wakes up.
- Historically, Americans have not had to care what foreigners think about the US.
- But Trump’s inept, typo-ridden tweets make it easy for the rest of the world to laugh at the White House.
- The president’s half-hearted condemnation of the white supremacists in Charlottesville is beyond the pale outside America.
- The combination of incompetence, ridicule, and weakness on fascism is teaching the rest of the world to not take America seriously anymore.
Most mornings, US President Donald Trump wakes up early and starts tweeting.
In Europe, however, it’s lunchtime when Trump tweets.
Every day, from 11.30 am onward, European office workers engage in a new ritual: They grab their soup and sandwiches early, and sit at their desks to await The Tweet.
A huge portion of Trump’s live Twitter audience consists of Europeans for whom the Trump Tweet is primetime entertainment. A really good tweet can change the mood inside an entire company within minutes. If it’s a funny one, or if he spelled something wrong, you can hear people cackling about it for the rest of the afternoon.
Adding the word “Sad!” to the end of your opinions in emails is now a routine act in the UK.
So it was not surprising when, on Tuesday morning, Trump accidentally retweeted a British man, Mike Holden (@MikeHolden42) who had criticised the president for “seriously considering” a pardon for former-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was recently found guilty of criminal contempt of court.
“He’s a fascist, so not unusual,” Holden wrote. For some reason, Trump added it to his timeline before reconsidering, and deleting it about 20 minutes later.
In one accidental retweet, Trump managed to combine the two most damaging impressions his presidency is giving the rest of the world:
- That people outside America no longer regard the White House as competent.
- That the Trump Administration doesn’t regard fascists as bad enough to warrant specific criticism.
Trump is damaging America globally by making it look less reliable
Doubtless, Trump and his base don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. America First!
They have a point. America has had good reasons to not care what other countries think.
America is geographically much bigger than most foreigners realise and so far away from Europe. There is often no point in Americans caring about what foreigners think. When your country also happens to be an entire continent, you have that luxury.
But the Trump administration is different. It is not normal. So Americans might want to consider breaking their normal habit of not caring what the rest of the world thinks. Because Trump is damaging America globally by making it look less reliable.
Under Trump, America is in danger of becoming just another country, one that can be ignored.
Trump’s typo-ridden tweets play to Europe’s favourite stereotypes about America
On a facile level, this is about European snobbery. Europeans love waiting for Donald Trump’s typo-ridden lunchtime tweets because he confirms all their stereotypes about America: It’s richer and dumber than Europe, and we can all laugh at it.
On it’s own, that’s not a problem. The sheer economic weight of the US — and its massive military — has historically guaranteed America an agenda-setting global role. This is what the American “hegemony” is all about.
But couple that ridicule with Trump’s failure to immediately condemn the Nazis who marched on Charlottesville, Virginia.
In Europe, fascism is taken seriously. Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Japan, Portugal, Greece and Hungary have all done time under Nazi or fascist governments. In much of Europe it is now illegal to be a Nazi or to publish Nazi ideas. The continent essentially made a collective decision after World War II that it was not going to repeat the experience again, ever.
So to see a US president say things like “there are two sides to a story” when asked to condemn a white supremacist march that led to the death of a woman, is astonishing. Outside the US, this is beyond the pale. This is not a legitimate position. There is no “on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-that-ism” when it comes to Nazis. There is no moral equivalence between political racists and those who oppose racism.
America is rightly shocked at the feeble position Trump has taken so far. But more broadly, Americans need to become frightened about how this is diminishing America globally.
Back in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said something about the way Trump is relegating the US to the league of second-rung nations. She lumped America together with Russia and the UK (post-Brexit) as just another bunch of countries that can’t be relied on to be normal.
“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” Merkel said. “And so, all I can say is that we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”
That ought to be chilling for America, but it gets worse: Since May, Trump has moved downward from the “unreliable” category into the “must be condemned” category reserved for racists and those who coddle them.
And this happened in an environment where it’s OK to laugh at America, because its leader is also its foremost source of online comedy. That’s why this is so dangerous for America as a nation: Trump is teaching the rest of the world to not take America seriously anymore.