The Extremely Negative Rhetoric of President Trump’s Tweets

Donald Trump, the first President to use social media to communicate with his public, has already in less than 15 months sent out over 2,500 tweets. During the campaign and after moving into the White House, his communication staff  has been  tweeting for him, but Trump’s distinctive style and use of a particular phone Android makes it possible to identify which are his personal tweets.

Fortunately, Brendan Brown built and maintains a searchable Trump Twitter Archive (http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com/) available for anyone to use. The Trump Twitter Archive contains 33,300 tweets from Mr. Trump from May, 2009 until Easter 2018. over the nine year period from 2009 through 2018. Each tweet’s entry has a date and the full text of the tweet.

I spent a few hours searching and recording word counts for 50 words in this 9-year Trump database. Half the search words were negative and half positive, which makes it possible to answer the question of the degree of negative or positive slant over time in Trump’s tweet messages. My goal was not only to assess the degree of Trump’s negativity or positivity, but to determine to what extent he used words also used to describe humane or inhumane values.

Figure 1 below gives the number of times each positive word appeared in Trump’s 33,300 tweets. The most commonly use positive words were ‘trust’ with 46 uses and ‘community’ with 40. The phrase ‘human rights’ was only mentioned 3 times, as was the ‘charity’. Perhaps most telling was that the word kind appeared only 23 times, and the words ‘caring’ and ‘charity’ were used only 3 times each. Note that “Other” includes the words spiritual, altruism, caregiving, charity, empathy and reconciliation.

Fig. 1. Top Positive Words in Trump’s Tweets

 

 

 

 

The significance of the omission of many of these words from Trump’s Tweet vocabulary is that they are the words that many of the words people use to describe the foundation of their moral values and the essence of their purpose in life. His tweet vocabulary is consistent with an undeveloped morality.

Figure 2 shows the number of times Trump’s tweets used each of the negative search words. The most mentioned words in this subset were ‘bad’ and ‘badly’ with 552 tweets and ‘hate’ at 306 tweets. Other negative words popular with Trump include ‘sad,’ ‘crooked,’ and ‘anger.’

 

 

 

 

 

Fig. 2. Top Negative Words in Trump’s Tweets

 

 

Essentially all American presidents up to now have been defenders of human virtues and humanitarian values. President Trump, however, avoids words that express these values. Thus, less than one tenth of 1% of all his words tweeted reflect concern for human virtues, human dignity or moral values. These words I labeled as positive, whereas words that reflect meanness, cruelty, or hatred, I labeled as negative.

Comparing the volume of negative with positive words in tweets, this word counting shows that Trump used a negative word in his tweets for every positive word used. In other words, Trump used negative words 12 times as often as positive words.

Even more significant than this negativity ratio in Trump’s tweets over a nine year period, is his heavy use of words that express anger, humiliation and hatred, namely ‘hate,’ ‘crooked, ‘dumb,’ and ‘anger.’ Yet, words that both humanists and Christians consider the essential of their life’s meaning, rarely if ever get mentioned in the Trump tweets. Why does Trump not ever use words like caregiving, charity, empathy and reconciliation? It is because the essence of his meaning in life is self-aggrandizement and bullying or hurting people in his pathway.

This raises the question of the purpose of Trump’s tweets. Brendan Brown of the Trump Twitter Archive categorized the 2,500 tweets released by him during the campaign and his first 437 days of his presidency. Here are the dominant themes he identified:

 

 

 

  1. Mainstream Media Disdain as ‘fake news’
  2. Opponents as ‘laughing stock’
  3. Who gets the highest TV ratings?
  4. Blame Obama
  5. My (Trump’s) accomplishments
  6. Global warming as hoax
  7. I (Trump) alone can solve issue X
  8. Superlatives about himself

 

This thematic analysis of Trump’s tweets during the past year and 2.5 months reveals that not only is Trump using his tweets to express anger and hate. Also, dominate in this tweets are the themes of self-marketing. It would seem that he feels insecure about himself and thus needs to invest much of his time in marketing his own reputation.

Not only is Trump’s rhetoric consistent with goals of humiliation of all competitors and ‘chest-beating’ to promote his own status, but to threaten democratic institutions, especially the free press and to shift public opinion toward white nationalism. These are the things that make Donald Trump’s life meaningful, not the Christian values of kindness, generosity, honesty and forgive

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