Josh Patten’s satire

I’m very amused by Josh Patten’s project: replying to President Trump’s tweets as if they were texts for him personally:

Imagine going back to 1990 and trying to explain the humor here. “We have a president, you see, who makes a fool of himself daily by tweeting inane remarks to about 34 million followers. Yes, the President of the United States. A tweet? Well, it’s a short message that you type and anyone who wants to read all your ad hoc thoughts can subscribe. Yes, lots and lots of people do this all the time. OK, so a comedian imagines that the president’s tweets are messages just for him. (We all get these ‘texts’ on fancy phones that we carry everywhere.) The comedian responds in the banal way you might answer a friend’s texts, imagining that he’s part of the president’s private circle instead of a mass audience. And this is funny because … I guess you’d have to live in 2017.”

A serious point is buried in Patten’s humor. Companies and governments have long sought to infiltrate private spaces in order to increase their influence. FDR arrived in Americans’ living rooms during “fireside chats.” The TV screen brought “Friends” into your house. To various degrees, most people have protected their real lives from these infiltrations by drawing distinctions between actual and fake friends, authentic and artificial messages. Now that we lead a lot of our private life online, where anyone can “follow” it, and now that almost all leaders (popes and Dalai Lamas as well as heads of state) broadcast messages through the same media that we employ for social purposes, the borders are harder to police. Donald Trump is intruding–often counterproductively, but still pervasively. Patten’s satire pushes back.

See also: protecting authentic human interactionDoes Twitter “smoosh” the public and private?Habermas illustrated by Twitter.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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