Donald Trump’s Asymmetric War on the Establishment

Donald Trump’s Asymmetric War on the Establishment
The logic of policy by tweet
Jan 5 2017

There may come a day when we look back at the intense, instantaneous interest that Donald Trump’s tweets once produced and we chuckle, noting how President Trump’s Twitter postings, now shorn of their novelty, generate roughly as much attention as a statement from the White House Press Office.

That day, however, may never come. And it’s most certainly not today.

Instead, today, we’re puzzling over where Trump truly stands on WikiLeaker Julian Assange after a pair of bewildering tweets published within 25 hours of one another. Does Trump believe Assange when Assange says he didn’t receive hacked Democratic Party emails from Russian spies? Or is Trump simply tweeting about Assange’s comments without endorsing them? Then there was Trump’s claim to be a “big fan” of “‘Intelligence,’” which followed his disdainful tweet just days earlier about an upcoming “‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking.’” Trump is sending mixed messages about his faith in U.S. intelligence agencies, but in both cases he air-quoted “intelligence.” What do the air quotes mean?!?!

Trump’s Twitter activity has confounded not just the media and U.S. officials, but also foreign governments. Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, recently declared, in reference to Trump, that “An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable.” Trump, Xinhua noted, appeared to believe that “issuing hard-line comments and taking up sensitive issues may perhaps add to his chips for negotiating with other countries.”

On Wednesday—an especially busy day for the U.S. president-elect on Twitter—we spoke about one way to think about Trump’s aggressive and effective use of the social-media platform: as a metaphorical form of asymmetric warfare against “the establishment” and established ways of conducting foreign policy. Our conversation is below.



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