President Donald Trump is pretty easy to troll, and it happens all the time.
Former White House photographer Pete Souza takes every chance he can to post a Trump troll on Instagram. Last month, Sen. Chuck Schumer made fun of the president after Trump had his cabinet go around the table praising him.
But for all the president-trolling that goes on, Trump haters can still see insults that aren’t there. And blow moments way out of proportion, as the internet (both Trump supporters and opponents) love to do.
Take this morning as an example.
National Hurricane Center dropping shade on djt? “Tropical Storm Don is small and disorganized”
— Mike (@unuthryear) July 18, 2017
Twitter users thought the National Hurricane Center trolled Trump by calling Tropical Storm Don (currently dumping rain on The Westwind Islands) “small” and “not particularly well organized,” when in fact some storms are just that — small and disorganized. As for the name, the center chooses them years in advance, so there’s no connection from Don to The Donald.
From there we go to an endless game I’m calling “choose your own image.”
Trump, as president, meets a lot of other world leaders. Those leaders take photos with each other. If you’ve ever stood in front of a few cameras for more than 30 seconds, you know how hard it is to keep the same expression on your face, and this results in a slew of photos in which you’re either smiling or distracted or you look like you want to murder whomever is behind the camera. The same goes for world leaders, except these photos then fly around the internet and are interpreted to mean whatever people want to believe.
Exhibit A: Trump and the Pope.
Pope Francis criticized Trump before the president was elected, so no one would have been surprised if the two didn’t become best buddies when they met for the first time in May. It was easy, therefore, to run with the “Francis hates Trump” narrative when photos like the one below began to appear on the internet.
Francis looks like he’s wishing for sweet, sweet death.
But no matter how many words a photo is worth, it often takes a few of them to tell even a reasonably complete story, and this meeting was no different.
Those watching from afar could have, for example, told a completely different story based on this next image.
Now they’re friends.
This sort of thing has begun to happen ad nauseam.
Let’s look at Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here, too, we know that they’re not the best of friends (Merkel has, for example, criticized Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate agreement), but it was all too easy to build picture-based narratives of their relationship at the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Here, they look like friends laughing at whatever weird thing is happening in this photo.
Here, Merkel looks like she’s silently repeating “I’m not listening” as Trump blabs into her ear.
Also earlier this month, Trump and First Lady Melania met Polish President Andrzej Duda and Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.
As Trump was about to shake the Polish first lady’s hand, she seems to blow past him as she reaches her own hand toward Melania.
When the clip gets cut after a few seconds, the non-handshake looks like one hell of a diss. But lengthen the video just a bit, and you’ll see Kornhauser-Duda does, in fact, shake The Donald’s hand. Although it can be said she did make him wait, whether maliciously or not.
Narratives are fun and easy when they’re built on single images or five-second clips, but fake news comes in many forms, folks.
And Trump trolling can seem like good ol’ fun, but when there’s not a lot there there, it loses its oomph.