President-elect Donald Trump loves Twitter. No matter the time of day or night, the reality tv star loves to tweet about anything and everything that is on his mind. And very often what is on his mind and the tweets that come from it are about some slight, real or perceived, to the man who would be king.
Trump does not get the concept of “punching up.” The idea is you save your scorn and ridicule for those in a higher position than you. Like a classic bully, he sucks up and punches down. And when he does that on Twitter there can be serious consequences, as witnessed in the case of 19-year-old college student Lauren Batchelder.
On December 8 The Washington Post told the story of how Batchelder became the subject of threats on social media thanks to a Trump tweet. In 2015 Batchelder was a new college student when she signed up as a volunteer for the Jeb Bush campaign in New Hampshire. Even though she identifies as a liberal, she saw the volunteer work as an opportunity to find out more about the Republican party.
In October of that year, Batchelder attended a non-partisan event in Manchester, New Hampshire where she got to ask a question of Trump. She started with this observation: “So, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women.”
Trump replied that he “respects” and “cherishes” women. His response led Batchelder to ask this:
I want to get paid the same as a man, and I think you understand that, so if you become president, will a woman make the same as a man, and do I get to choose what I do with my body?
The candidate’s gruff reply to that was typical Trump:
You’re going to make the same if you do as good of a job, and I happen to be pro-life, okay?
That was just the beginning of Batchelder’s nightmare. The Post says that Trump’s social media director located the teen’s social media accounts and tweeted out screen shots of them. The next morning Trump himself went on the attack with this tweet:
The arrogant young woman who questioned me in such a nasty fashion at No Labels yesterday was a Jeb staffer! HOW CAN HE BEAT RUSSIA & CHINA?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
That tweet led to a barrage of harassment directed at Batchelder from Trump’s troll army. The young woman was called a variety of names, her appearance was mocked, and she received threats of rape, other physical violence, and even death. All because she had volunteered for a political campaign and then asked a question of Trump that he didn’t like.
And, the Post says, the harassment of Batchelder has continued a full year later. She says that five days before the election she received a message on Facebook that read: “Wishing I could f—ing punch you in the face. id then proceed to stomp your head on the curb and urinate in your bloodied mouth and i know where you live, so watch your f—ing back punk.” [sic]
Trump’s tweets are bad enough when he punches down at citizens such as the family of Capt. Khan, who choose to put themselves in the public eye. But attacking someone who asks a question at a political forum is truly beyond the pale. Hillary Clinton took a lot of criticism for her reference to Trump supporters as “deplorables,” but incidents such as this show that her assessment was exactly right. Trump’s followers on Reddit gleefully call themselves “centipedes” — a reference to the disturbing horror film The Human Centipede. And the man they admire with an almost slavish devotion is referred to as their “god-emperor.” Those unstable individuals are quite willing to go on the attack against anyone who insults their beloved fürher.
In a post-election interview on 60 Minutes Trump was asked what he would like to say to the people who have been committing acts of violence in his name since the election. His reply? “Stop it.”
Trump should take his own advice, and stop tweeting attacks on average citizens. We are well into uncharted territory already with his election. Has a president ever been charged as an accessory to murder before? Unless Trump sets Twitter aside or starts using it more wisely, unfortunately that is what may eventually happen.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr