NPR’s Declaration of Independence tweetstorm confuses some – Washington Post
For about 20 minutes Tuesday, NPR traveled back to 1776.
To echo its 29-year on-air tradition, the public radio network’s main Twitter account tweeted out the Declaration of Independence, line by line.
There — in 113 consecutive posts, in 140-character increments — was the text of the treasured founding document of the United States, from its soaring opening to its searing indictments of King George III’s “absolute tyranny” to its very last signature.
Who could have taken issue with such a patriotic exercise, done in honor of the nation’s birthday?
Quite a few people, it turned out.
Perhaps it was the Founding Fathers’ capitalization of random words or the sentence fragments into which some of the Declaration’s most recognizable lines were broken. But plenty of Twitter users reacted angrily to the thread, accusing NPR of spamming them — or, worse, trying to push an agenda.
“Seriously, this is the dumbest idea I have ever seen on twitter,” a Twitter user named Darren Mills said after NPR had only gotten as far as the Declaration’s dateline. “Literally no one is going to read 5000 tweets about this trash.”
One user wondered if NPR’s social-media accounts had been hacked, and the network lost at least one follower who called the tweets “spam.”
The blowback increased when the tweets reached the portion of the Declaration that outlined, in unsparing detail, all the ways Britain’s George III had wronged the then-Colonies.
“He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” read one line of the document.
“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people,” read another.
Some people — presumably still in the dark about NPR’s Fourth of July exercise — assumed those lines were references to President Trump and the current administration
“Propaganda is that all you know how? Try supporting a man who wants to do something about the Injustice in this country #drainingtheswamp,” tweeted one user whose account has since been deleted but whose messages were captured by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin.
Upworthy writer Parker Molloy took images of several more indignant replies to NPR, including one who told the media organization to “Please stop. This is not the right place.”
By Wednesday morning, many of the replies above had been deleted. However, at least one Twitter user admitted he had “screwed up” and apologized to NPR.
The Declaration of Independence is, of course, one of the country’s most important documents, adopted at the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The text and purpose of the Declaration would likely be recognizable to those who have applied for U.S. citizenship, since questions about the document appear on the naturalization test. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has an extensive list of study materials and other Declaration-related resources for prospective citizens.
NPR’s “Morning Edition” has had a nearly three-decade-long tradition of broadcasting a reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 each year. More than two dozen NPR journalists participated in this year’s reading, including “Morning Edition” co-host Steve Inskeep, “All Things Considered” hosts Audie Cornish and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
It is “a document from a deeply divided time,” broadcaster Mary Louise Kelly noted in the reading. “It was a time when Americans turned against each other.”
The Twitter exercise this year was a way to include additional people in that tradition, NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara told The Washington Post in an email statement.
“This year we mirrored that tradition on Twitter as a way to extend to social media what we do on the air,” Lara wrote. “The tweets were shared by thousands of people and generated a lively conversation.”
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.