Image Source: Huffington Post

Topics: Civics, Existentialism, Human Rights, Politics

The election of Donald Trump introduced the American public to a number of firsts when it comes to politics, one of which is a president* who regularly communicates via Twitter. Trump’s use of social media has been unusual for a president and also the subject of sharp criticism for the inflammatory content he sometimes posts. While we know that Trump’s Twitter audience has continued to increase dramatically since his election, currently hovering at over fifty million followers, we know far less about how much influence his tweets have on the way his followers think and behave.

A disturbing new paper by researchers Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz of the University of Warwick suggests that Donald Trump’s Islamic-related tweets may be directly linked to an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes over the past few years. If Trump’s tweets have, in fact, played a role in spurring hate crimes, then social media may be playing an even more powerful role in people’s lives than previously thought.

Muller and Schwarz analyzed the relationship between Trump’s tweets and anti-Muslim hate crimes by drawing upon a number of data sources, including the FBI’s hate crime data between the years 1990 and 2016 as well as Twitter usage across the country. First, they documented that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by the FBI increased during Trump’s presidency*. In fact, anti-Muslim crimes have been more prevalent under Trump compared to any other previous president, including George W. Bush following 9/11. Second, the researchers found strong statistical correlations between the number of Islam-related tweets made by Trump in a single week and the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes that took place in the days and weeks that followed. Trump’s anti-Islam tweets were only correlated with anti-Muslim crimes and not other types of hate crimes. Therefore, it seems likely that it was the specific content of Trump’s tweets, and not growing anti-minority sentiment in general, that were linked to the uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Do Trump Tweets Spur Hate Crimes? Daisy Grewal, Scientific American

Related link:

Supreme Court upholds travel ban, Ariane de Vogue and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

*The usage of the asterisk (*) next to president* I borrow from and attribute to Charles P. Pierce, a writer for Esquire magazine and frequent media commentator on MSNBC. He's also author of the prescient book: "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free." And so, despite his and other authors' warnings to the contrary, our republic is at the stage-edge of this cliff...

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