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June 29, 2017
Where did all the fun go?
If the so-called ‘Covfefe Act’ becomes statute, leaders will become even less accessible than ever. Agreed, from a compliance perspective, it makes sense to formalise all the President’s pronouncements, but I’ll miss the random humanity of Twitter all the same.
Last week, one Democratic Congressman published a bill which would ensure all of Donald Trump’s tweets are preserved for posterity – misspellings, typos and all1. If the US President is going to use the medium to set and communicate policy, then I see the logic of the policy. Here, in terms of Twitter as a policy device, we are in an un-chartered territory. Never before has anyone so influential – other than a tele-reality star2– driven so much discussion through the medium. One could argue that the 45th US President is, first of all a reality TV star, filling in as Commander in Chief in his spare time. But that discussion is for another blog!
President Trump himself recognizes the importance of Twitter; “Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here . . . I have over 100m followers between Facebook, Twitter [and] Instagram . . . .”3. But there remains a distinct spontaneity associated with the medium – an impetuosity, some may say – that makes it distinct from other forms of ‘official’ communication. The President’s character, his impulsiveness, his activism . . . that would never be so apparent in press releases or, even, official press conferences.
Trump himself recognizes the ‘unregulated’ nature of the medium; in the same interview, he was asked if he ever regretted any of his abrasive Tweets about allies and other leaders. Trump replied, “You know if you issue hundreds of tweets, and every once in a while you have a clinker, that’s not so bad,”.
And that’s the beauty of Twitter; you can afford to have a few ‘clinkers’. And why not? Politics – like business – is a game of passion and beliefs. Not everything should be scripted and compliant; there must be a space for impulsiveness, passion, emotion, and spontaneity. I’m not sure if an official interview, a press release, or a byline article are the right fora for such forthrightness; Twitter – quotable but not necessarily official –is the perfect complement to conventional communications. Thanks to this very nature, Twitter is the closest we’ve ever got to the leader of the free world, after all.
Some corporates are following suit; Anand Mahindra (@anandmahindra) and Ratan Tata (@RNTata2000) are two examples of business leaders sharing their particular views on the World through Twitter. Both provide fascinating and, often, entertaining insights that may otherwise remain lost to the wider world.
If the ‘Covfefe Act’ ever becomes law, I’m afraid that we would also lose a valuable channel for business, political and cultural leaders to candidly express themselves. If every tweet has to navigate layers of compliance, those will be certainly stripped of any element of humanity and, certainly, humour.
Speaking of the latter, I have a small hope that the legislative proposal may not actually be that serious. Looking at the precise wording, The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act taken as an acronym becomes the ‘COVFEFE Act’.
Perhaps Twitter is having the last laugh after all! I hope so.
Roger Darashah brings close to 23 years of international communications experience with stints in the UK, France, Spain, India and Brazil. He is part of the senior management team at Adfactors PR, working in the capacity of Chief Operating Officer.