Twittercracy: A Trump Tweet Analysis of the Delegitimized American Presidential Elections of 2020.
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In this research, it is analyzed how and why Donald Trump used Twitter to delegitimize the Presidential Elections of 2020. To explain why Trump used Twitter, literature on technological posthumanism, populism, political branding and political legitimacy is used in combination with a contextual assessment of the workings of social media, algorithmic filtering, and the American political system. To understand how Trump used Twitter, 2.004 Tweets of Trump between October 1, 2020 – January 8, 2021 were qualitatively analyzed and coded. This research demonstrates that Trump’s delegitimization attempts were a slippery slope, with first the media and political opponents, then the elections and ultimately his own party members and the whole American political system as such as targets of his delegitimization. This culminated with the organized ‘Save America Rally’ on January 6, 2021, where hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in D.C. to #StoptheSteal. Through the Tweet analysis of this research, it was discovered that Trump assembled different cultural, historical and conspiratorial narratives in his Tweets to delegitimize American institutions and create an authoritative truth: one where it is impossible that Trump lost the elections. This research shows how violence can be incited by a President by continuously delegitimizing the political establishment and flirting with conspiracy ideas. It furthermore stresses how research on social media should evolve into policy recommendations to control the economic imperatives of algorithms that drive online polarization which in turn can manifest itself as offline violence.