“Wow, this has never been done in history,” tweeted President of the United States Donald John Trump on Friday. “This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T.”
(Big T appears to refer to Big Tech. Sleepy Joe is Trump’s political rival, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden)
Assuming the tweet remains up, here it is:
Eagle-eyed readers will recognize that Trump is sharing the Babylon Bee, the conservative-slanted satirical site that, for some reason, conservatives think is so obviously satire that it’s silly that you would need to fact-check it.
Option A: It’s Silly That You Would Need to Fact-Check It
Since the Babylon Bee is apparently so obviously satire that you wouldn’t think it was real, surely Trump tweeted the Bee because he’s in on the joke. So let’s examine what the joke is.
After seeing account after account tweet out one particularly bad story, CEO Jack Dorsey realized he had to take action. Dorsey smashed a glass box in his office reading "Break In Case Of Bad Publicity For Democrats." Inside the case was a sledgehammer for smashing Twitter's servers. "Red alert -- shut the servers down! Shut them all down!" Dorsey ran downstairs and started smashing as many computers as he could, but he did need to ask for some help, as the hammer was pretty heavy. None of the programmers could lift the hammer, either. Eventually, they managed to program a robot to pick up the sledgehammer and smash the servers. After hearing the Twitter employees talk about critical theory, the robot got woke and began attacking all the cis white males.
Okay, so the joke appears to be that Twitter has an institutionally-enforced liberal bias that goes as far as to actively silence “bad publicity” to protect Democratic candidates. This is pretty demonstrably untrue, but there are valid criticisms of the social media platform’s decision to censor a New York Post story released last week (Although the Post story may itself have been a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Trump campaign, the censorship effort magnified the story at a time when it was mostly ignored by the public).
If we’re assuming Trump is in on the gag, then he’s sharing the satirical story to show how silly or unfair it is that Twitter censored the story to favor his political rival. Possibly to drive more views to the Bee? I guess?
Except, ugh. Let’s look at the text of the tweet again: “Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this.” If Trump grasped that the Bee piece was satire, he doesn’t really convey that in his tweet. There’s no winking allusion (or, shy of that, a winky emoji), nothing clever in the tweet, no joke here. Which brings us to option B.
Option B: The President Believes The Satirical Site Is Real
This has some terrifying sub-options.
One, satirical sites like The Onion have not shied away from joke pieces about other world leaders and world governments. If Trump believes this piece in the Bee to be genuine, what if he believed other pieces? Does he think Kim Jong-Un received hundreds of heart transplants? Does he think Joe Biden has an OnlyFans? Does he think that New Zealand’s opposition leader is a warlock? Hell, does Donald Trump know what his own funeral plans are?
Have people close to Trump tried to tell him what he did? It’s very possible, given what we know about the Trump White House, that they didn’t. Trump might be unaware even still that the tweet is a joke website.
Trump has deleted tweets before, but for the most part he seems to take a forward-only approach to the platform. His “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” tweet is still active as of October 18, even though there are genuine concerns that it sparked a half-hearted effort to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Since Trump tends to not take any responsibility for his actions, there’s no reason he’d take down the Bee tweet.
And there is a solid Option C for why.
Option C: He Knows It’s Wrong But Maybe You Don’t Know, Or Maybe Who Cares?
Donald Trump lies. A lot. Most of these lies are times when he knows he’s lying but he’s banking on his supporters either falling for it (an Ohio State study found Republicans were far more likely to believe Babylon Bee stories were true than Democrats were) or not caring.
To the Trump faithful, people commenting on his tweet that the Bee is satire are proving that they, somehow, don’t get the joke, but the president does. Or maybe the joke is actually on you in some way, and you, poor liberal, don’t understand humor. Or maybe the real problem is the thing behind the joke, the Hunter Biden email scandal, even though that doesn’t seem to be a thing.
The reality is probably far more mundane.
He doesn’t get the joke.
That’s not super unusual. The septuagenarian president is in the right phase of life to fall for this stuff. It’s probably good that Joe Biden doesn’t run his own Twitter account, honestly, because it seems like elderly people believe satire to be genuine more often than younger people.
For its part, the Bee tries to be clear that its a satirical source. “But they also seem to find it pretty funny when their content is mistaken for real news — and they’re not exactly going overboard to stop that,” New York Times reporter Emma Goldberg said recently in an interview.
It’s just rough that the president is the one doing the mistaking.