With her absence from Camp David this weekend, Melania Trump’s absence continues into the 24th day, and as time passes, the number of theories about her disappearance are increasing. Twitter is an excellent source for these if you’re interested, but the main ones appear to be that she is secretly giving evidence to Mueller; that she is back in New York with her son; and that she is busy instigating divorce proceedings.
However, whilst all of that foments away in the background, something quite different caught my eye – the highlighted tweet below from @MELANIATRUMP back on the 18th of October 2013:
@realDonaldTrump: I love watching the dishonest writers @NYMag suffer the magazine’s failure.
@DanAmira: Your wife is waiting for you to die (…)
@MELANIATRUMP: @DanAmira @NYMag Only a dumb “animal” would say that! You should be fired from your failing magazine! (Link)
Intriguingly, in 2016, New Yorker noted about this very tweet that, “One couldn’t help but detect Donald’s influence when Melania fired off [this] reply”, and plenty of users replied with similar questions about precisely who might have written it.
Why is this interesting? Well, in my last blog post, I spent a little time attempting to discern whether the last tweet from the @FLOTUS account was by the First Lady, or could have been penned instead by Trump. The conclusion was inconclusive. Investigations, though, tend to be a steady accumulation of evidence, rather than a single smoking gun tweet. My interest in this tweet is about a pattern of behaviour: has Trump used his wife’s accounts in the past? If so, that increases the possibility that he may have done so again.
What do we know, then, about this 2013 “animal” tweet?
The first interesting fact is that this tweet doesn’t occur in the FLORPUS. My immediate reaction was one of horror that I had somehow goofed my previous analysis, so I went back to the raw JSON collections that FireAnt had output and searched for it in there. Immediately it appeared. Why isn’t it in FLORPUS? Because, as my last blog post documents, PORPUS and FLORPUS only include tweets that came from iPhones, and this does not. (Links to download the data can be found in that prior post.) The “animal” tweet is one of 114 from the @MELANIATRUMP account that come from Twitter Web Client.
That, I thought, was interesting, so I quickly looked at some of the other @MELANIATRUMP tweets from that same source, and here are the last ten:
|Date||@MELANIATRUMP Twitter Web Client tweets||Suspicious?|
|Mon Nov 07 13:28:11 2016||Melania Trump Shares Her Vision And Inspiration For America||NO|
|Tue Aug 23 00:10:47 2016||Formal Retraction of Factual Assertions and Innunendos Regarding Melania Trump||?|
|Mon Aug 22 18:45:04 2016||Apology to Melania Trump||?|
|Wed Apr 27 21:44:00 2016||“The article published in GQ today is yet another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting.||YES|
|Fri May 08 16:31:16 2015||Great seeing you @CTilburyMakeup ! Love #TheDolceVita & #TheUptownGirl kit. #BeautifulColors||NO|
|Fri Oct 18 20:04:47 2013||. @DanAmira @NYMag Only a dumb “animal” would say that! You should be fired from your failing magazine!||YES|
|Sun Aug 04 13:53:30 2013||@alexrasey #MelaniaCaviarComplexeC6 #skincare line available @LordandTaylor or||NO|
|Sat Jul 27 14:13:10 2013||@melindaberg123 Stay strong and keep fighting!||NO|
|Sat Jul 27 14:11:09 2013||@melindaberg123 Thx Melinda||NO|
|Sat Jul 20 00:10:14 2013||Bon Voyage @realDonaldTrump||?|
This shows that, whatever else is going on, this source doesn’t get used particularly often any more – note that four are from 2016, one from 2015, and the other five are from 2013. But this does reveal another interesting tweet – the one from the 27th of April 2016 about the “dishonest media”. Anyone even passingly familiar with current affairs will know that Trump has expended considerable energy over the past two or three years railing against what he calls “fake news” and the dishonest media, so this stands out. It’s also interesting because this tweet occurs just months before Trump’s presidency officially started, and at barely two years old, it’s relatively recent.
What will I ignore? Well, because this is a blog and the quantum of evidence required is “enough to justify eating a brick of chocolate later”, I am going to assume that Trump does not tweet from his wife’s account about skincare lines, makeup, or empowering messages to other women. I’m also going to ignore the latest three tweets about apologies and “innunendos” (sic) and visions because of their third-person structure which, by default, suggests that the First Lady did not write them. And I’m going to ignore the “Bon Voyage” one which he could have written but… eh. Note that I have also only looked closely at the last ten tweets from this source. I skimmed down the rest relatively quickly and saw plenty about diets and jewellery and fashion, but nothing to make my little fingers twitch. This is actually a problematic thing to do though – or at least it would be if this were a criminal investigation – so I’ll mention it more again in the Problems section below.
Anyway, on this basis, I’ve now added the 2016 “media” tweet to the 2013 “animal” tweet, and for this investigation, I’ll use PORPUS and FLORPUS again, even though this too is problematic and comes back up again in the Problems section too.
I’m going to look at three features:
- The use of quote-marks as a form of emphasis
- The use of animal as an insult
- The use of the phrase, dishonest media
Quote-marks are most typically used to, well, quote, but Trump is known for using them as an odd form of emphasis around single words or short phrases. When we look for quote-marks that the pair of them have used in this non-quoting way, we find the following…
The First Lady uses quote-marks in eighteen FLORPUS tweets (so about sixteen times in every thousand tweets), but all of them are actually quoting, and most of those are retweet quotes.
Trump, meanwhile, uses quote-marks in fifty-five PORPUS tweets (so about twenty times in every thousand tweets), but of those, around nine-ish are non-quote quotes. Why nine-ish? Well, have a look for yourself. Quoting someone or emphasising?
|…“collusion,” which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s…||?|
|With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!||?|
|Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to “get Trump.” Not fair to FR or effort!||?|
|I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night – the worst ever. Smartest people of them all are the “DEPLORABLES.”||?|
|Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into “Russia,” spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse!||YES|
|Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is “sick.” All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!||YES|
|For years, even as a “civilian,” I listened as Republicans pushed the Repeal and Replace of ObamaCare. Now they finally have their chance!||YES|
|Wow, CNN had to retract big story on “Russia,” with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!||YES|
|…money to Bill, the Hillary Russian “reset,” praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!||?|
I only feel confident about four of them, but it’s four more than in FLORPUS where it never occurs, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Animal is not an unheard-of insult, but it’s eye-catching for a particular reason: in recent weeks, Trump has called members of a criminal group known as MS-13 “violent animals” and used that phrase repeatedly in television interviews on the matter. So, does that term occur in FLORPUS? Yes – just the once:
|😉 RT “@waeldavis: I’m over @NeNeLeakes. My new spirit animal and muse is QUEEN @MELANIATRUMP http://t.co/MtfLT6vAE8”||NO|
And what about in PORPUS? You know what’s coming, don’t you…
|Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!||YES|
|If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!||YES|
|Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…||YES|
|Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.||NO|
|ISIS just claimed the Degenerate Animal who killed, and so badly wounded, the wonderful people on the West Side, was “their soldier.” …..||YES|
Five occurrences, of which four are insults.
The phrase “dishonest media” found in the 2016 @MELANIATRUMP tweet simply does not occur in FLORPUS. So what about in PORPUS?
|….it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!|
|Despite some very corrupt and dishonest media coverage, there are many great reporters I respect and lots of GOOD NEWS for the American people to be proud of!|
|…fired. This story is totally made up by the dishonest media.The Chief is doing a FANTASTIC job for me and, more importantly, for the USA!|
|The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?|
I’m as shocked as you are.
Actually, yes. If I’d had time, I would have also looked at words like “fired” (21 in PORPUS; 2 in FLORPUS) and “failing” (35 in PORPUS; 0 in FLORPUS). I might have also focused on pronoun choices and considered the pragmatic level. Both tweets are pretty aggressive – the first is a direct insult and the second an indirect one. Does the First Lady ever tweet in this “tone”? It doesn’t seem like it based on what I now know, but I can’t be certain. However, it’s Sunday and I want to go sit in the garden soon.
Whatever the case, can we now assert that Trump is definitely using the First Lady’s Twitter account? Well, all of this is certainly enough to make me suspicious, but there are some issues to note first…
Firstly, the witchcraft analogy: this states that if you want to find witchcraft, you will. A door will slam shut. A houseplant will die. Your football team will lose. Whatever the case, if you are determined to see evil supernatural doings in your ailing goldfish, you will. Psychologists prefer to talk about confirmation bias rather than magic, but the general principle is the same. I started the whole thing with three features that seemed unlike the First Lady, so like it or not, bias is built into the whole fabric of this piece. If I were to do this as fairly as possible, I should also consider other aspects that would seem consistent with the First Lady too. Essentially, we have only half a picture here.
This also leads into the second problem – just because these three features have occurred, and just because Trump uses them too, they are by no means unique to Trump. Plenty of people use quote-marks in weird ways. (Take a look at this glorious example, for instance.) Plenty of people also use “animal” as an insult. And plenty of people talk about the “dishonest media”. This is compounded by the problem of using PORPUS and FLORPUS – which are built purely from iPhone tweets – to investigate tweets which came from a Twitter Web Client. In crossing the divide between different sources, we increase the likelihood of mixed or multiple authorship interfering with our data. In the simplest words possible, the tweets could have been sent by someone else entirely who just happens to use a lot of Trump-like language.
The above problems taken into account, for the purposes of a blog – and I cannot emphasise this enough, this is only a blog, it’s not a courtroom, nor even a peer-reviewed journal article – for me personally, there is enough evidence here to suggest that Trump may have used his wife’s Twitter accounts before, and indeed may have been using them for years. Can I be sure? No. But then linguistic evidence is almost never sufficient to prosecute, at least not on its own. As always, forensic linguistics can provide evidence that supports (or discounts) a certain theory or version of events, but there are no circumstances I can realistically think of where it would be sufficient to stand alone as proof, in the way that DNA or clear CCTV footage would.
Overall, the above findings tentatively support my theory that Trump has used his wife’s account in the past, and that he has done so over a course of years. If that is true, I would now be much less surprised if it turned out that the last tweet from @FLOTUS was also authored by him.
In the meantime, I continue to hope that Melania and Barron are safe and well.