Opinion

Trump is a terrible blogger

Why 'From the Desk of Donald J. Trump' is doomed to failure

Trump has made himself clear: He will never log off.

On Tuesday, the permabanned former president launched what was either identified as a new "communications platform" (if you are Fox News) or a "glorified blog" (if you are an elder Millennial who remembers Xanga). The webpage, given the mouthful-of-a-name From the Desk of Donald J. Trump, is advertised as being the new and improved home for the 74-year-old's errant thoughts, all of which are presented in his preferred san-serif font, Montserrat. But while internet denizens smirked at Trump's "sad" return, From the Desk proves something more: Trump is a terrible blogger.

In his Wednesday newsletter, technology and culture writer Charlie Warzel detailed the numerous ways Trump's website is "just garbage," from its broken video-sharing feature to the way the blog's "like" button isn't even coded with an action. "This is like 'Senior Spring' levels of phoning it in," Warzel joked, though he noted that "the one link that does work is the one that says 'CONTRIBUTE' and leads to a nice page where you can give the man your money."

But even if From the Desk of Donald J. Trump functions "essentially [as] a GoFundMe page" for the former president, as Warzel suggests, the Facebook oversight board ruling on Wednesday morning to not reinstate Trump's account gave it at least a symbolic importance, too. For the Republican leader, who has dubiously told his supporters that he is being muzzled by "Radical Left Lunatics," the blog is a self-described "beacon of freedom" where he can, theoretically, say whatever he wants.

But therein lies the whole problem behind From the Desk of Donald J. Trump. What, exactly, does Trump so urgently have to say?

He's certainly given the illusion that it's a lot. Trump's best medium for communication has always been the long, rambling political rally; say what you want about the man, but he's a mesmerizing orator to watch. That doesn't translate well to a blog post, though, because reading something requires a level of scrutiny of the words in front of you that listening doesn't. "A lot of the commentary about any particular Trump interview covers the facticity of his claims, his retreading of campaign material, the dodges," The Awl wrote in 2017. "While such parsing is necessary, it ignores something more basic: the amount of work that a reader has to do to interpret the talking to make it coherent." The Atlantic puts it more bluntly: "Watch [Trump] speak, and you can at least tell roughly what he's talking about; it's only when you try to figure out precisely what he means and look at a transcript that you are likely to see how hollow the core is."

From the Desk of Donald J. Trump will apparently include the occasional video posts, though it's still hard to imagine Trump — who clearly prefers making his off-the-cuff remarks in front of adoring crowds — becoming a vlogger anytime soon. Either way, one thing's for sure: Trump isn't a writer. At any sort of length, Trump has historically relied on other people to put words on the page for him, whether that meant ghostwriters in the case of his books, or speechwriters, whose straightforward compositions were so unnatural coming from Trump's mouth that it was always obvious when he veered off-script.

Though From the Desk of Donald J. Trump was immediately recognizable as a blog due to its single-author format, the brief posts that have appeared on it so far have little in common with the diaristic manner of writing that is more commonly associated with such websites. The Cut's headline, rather, might be the most accurate: Trump Launches Sad Twitter Just for Him. But you obviously can't have a one-person Twitter. While the microblogging format is a step closer to a form of communication that actually plays to Trump's strengths — he excels at banging out all-caps reactions — the reason he was successful on Twitter in the first place was because his posts were integrated into a preexisting social media ecosystem. You'd be minding your own business and then see him tweet something outrageous and be provoked to respond; or he'd get retweeted into your feed; or pundits would quote-tweet him with their commentary; or Russian bots would otherwise amplify him into your orbit.

To be sure, it never required having the motivation to visit an entirely separate website to find out what he was thinking. It's hard to imagine anyone other than the most diehard supporters going out of their way to read Trump's knock-off tweets now, particularly when the payoff once you get there is so small. If you wanted Trump's instant reaction to the Facebook oversight board ruling, for example, you'd have been out of luck; it took nearly three hours for Trump to say anything about it. But the former president had posted a dense paragraph of text that raged about Liz Cheney and took me three attempts to finish reading because my eyes kept glazing over midway through (Twitter has character limits for a reason!). Additionally, while the standards for grammar and content on a tweet are pretty low, there's a higher expectation for both on a designated website. The formality of a "communications platform" doesn't do Trump's thoughts any favors.

Even as a means of getting around the president's social media bans, the website is a bust: as Politico points out, both Facebook and Twitter could at any point choose to block shares from Trump's blog, since they both have "policies against circumventing suspensions." And while Trump's adviser, Jason Miller, hurried to confirm that From the Desk of Donald J. Trump is not the former president's long-awaited social media alternative, the janky execution of the project doesn't bode well for the team's promise of a forthcoming user-friendly competitor to rival Twitter and Facebook.

Trump's website does at least have one thing in common with blogs of yore: It's extremely funny if you're Very Online. A twice-impeached billionaire started his own off-brand LiveJournal in order to share such compelling and necessary thoughts as "so nice to see RINO Mitt Romney booed off the stage at the Utah Republican State Convention" — oh, how the mighty poster has fallen!

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