Trump’s Retweets of Anti-Muslim Videos Stirred Up the Media

Published: 7 December 2017

Country: UK

Donald_Trump“Retweets don’t equal endorsements”. Although used by many, this disclaimer does not take away the responsibility for what is said and done in the public sphere. The latter includes Twitter, Facebook and every other social media platform. But in case of Donald Trump who recently retweeted three anti-Muslim videos, the responsibility is not only on him. The responsibility for promoting or rather allowing hate speech, inflammatory content and messages that can spark violence and hatred, rest with Twitter too.

When the President of the United States promoted Britain First by retweeting its videos to 44 million followers, this far-right organisation was little known outside of the UK. After the President’s online move, Britain First claimed that it received hundreds of new members. Apart from boosting the far-right organisation’s membership and causing the online row with Theresa May who condemned this “hateful organisation”, Trump’s move has had, as the Guardian concluded, “the rare effect of uniting almost the entire British establishment in horror”.

The Guardian called for withdrawal of the invitation for Trump’s state visit to Britain. “Bullies never respect sycophants. Britain should not allow Mr Trump’s racism to be dressed up in pageantry. Mr Trump’s strategy is to stoke a climate of paranoia, both at home and abroad. He seeks advantage in the politics of division and hate. He operates by instinct rather than sober analysis,” the Guardian reports. BBC reports that Trump’s retweets fit the pattern and that the US President is “once again using Twitter to weigh in on contentious religious-tinged political issues in the UK”.

“What is scarier then Donald Trump retweeting Britain First?” the Daily Telegraph asks offering the answer in the same headline – “the fact that we are no longer shocked”.

It seems like the state of shock by some of the President’s statements has been long gone for some of the mainstream media in the United States. “The retweets have once again thrust his administration into conversation about anti-Muslim bias as the courts are weighing the legality of Trump’s travel ban and raised questions about how content swirling on the Internet ends up on the President’s powerful Twitter account,” CNN reported.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed national security adviser H.R. McMaster over President’s retweets. The TV anchor pointed out few times that videos were anti-Muslim and asked whether the US President needed to share them on his Twitter account. McMaster said that Trump’s “intention was to highlight the importance creating safe and secure environments for our citizens”.

It seems like many professional mainstream media from both sides of the Atlantic were united in condemning the US President’s decision to promote Britain First’s videos, but also some media like BBC provided a platform for those who did not find anything wrong and worth condemning in Trump’s retweets.

Speaking on a prestigious Andrew Marr Show on BBC, the ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the “outrage from the liberal elite” is out of proportion to what happened. Another far-right commentator Ann Coulter expressed her support for Trump in an interview on BBC Radio 4. She based her arguments on anti-immigration rhetoric about “people who do not share our Western values”.  BBC was criticized for giving Coulter’s airtime, but the host of Today’s programme Nick Robinson explained that they had done so “to reveal & explain & scrutinise the source of the Trump tweet”.

The similar response came from Twitter explaining that Trump’s Britain First retweets won’t be removed so that people “see every side of the issue”.  But some believe that it should have been done more to stop spreading of discriminatory content. For instance, the Guardian’s Hannah Jane Parkinson believes that is obvious that Trump breaks a number of terms as defined in the small print: abusive tweets (including other users’ handles); threatening tweets; retweeting antisemitic memes, as well as lslamophobic videos .

Since the big tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook refuse to be viewed as media although want to keep news and newsworthiness as part of their service, Parkinson argues that  “they should be taking proper editorial decisions and adopting the responsibilities of a publisher”.