In our current age of in-your-pocket/in-your-face instant, disposable communication, traditional written documents are relied on less and less in daily life. If you want to test how little a written page is regarded by most people today, try writing a letter to somebody. Put it in an envelope, mail it. In my recent experience, it is rare to ever hear more than a peep about it, if that.
It’s a shame that quickly thumbed, highly opinionated, disposable smartphone ephemera has largely replaced good writing in public discourse. The famously short American consumer attention span is shorter than ever before, and growing shorter all the time. The published statements of public figures like Churchill, Gandhi, FDR, Nixon, Goebbels live on. They are printed on paper for the ages, available to scholars, historians and everybody else. Not so with a text, email or tweet, which serves its immediate purpose and is quickly forgotten, lost in a massive haystack of such disposable communications.
Check out the Hitlerian overtones of this one, part of a long tweet stream by the president of the United States, from last April, less than a year ago. The echoes should be noted, and they deserve to be remembered. Shot off right after AG Barr exonerated Trump of all wrong-doing in connection with accepting sweeping and systematic Russian help to win in 2016, with making sure insufficient evidence of “collusion” reached the Special Counsel and for his numerous attempts to thwart the investigation itself. Trump tweeted “complete and total exoneration!” denounced the “big fat waste” of time and millions of dollars and ended on this ominous note:
A favorite trope of Mr. Hitler and his followers was turning the tables on the “November Criminals” the sick and traitorous Jews and socialists who were forced to sign the humiliating and punitive German surrender on behalf of the military in November 1918. The generals would not be tarred with that defeat, it was, the right wing story went, the goddamned sick and dangerous Jews and socialists who “stabbed undefeated Germany in the back.” The popular justice often proposed for these treacherous traitors, shouted often in enthusiastic rallies of humiliated, angry Germans, was to “hang them from lamp posts.”
Nothing to worry about here, of course, in our great democracy, with its exquisite system of checks and balances, ensuring that a tyrant will never be able to seize power here.
Here are a couple of the president’s many tweets, at random, from today, which should be reassuring:
… America, America, God shed His grace on thee…
… and shit…