But the provenance of the video is important, too. It appears to have originally surfaced on Reddit, posted by a user under the name “HanAssholeSolo,” as though being a jerk wasn’t already an essential trait of Harrison Ford’s Star Wars character. HAS posted a GIF of Trump whaling on CNN/McMahon five days ago. Sometime between HAS’s original post and the version Trump tweeted, the video was somewhat altered, and audio was added.
Prior postings show that HAS lives up to his middle name. His postings, many of them on the Trump-themed subreddit r/the_donald, show a love for Trump (as in a sub-Yankovician parody of the ’90s classic “Lump”) and disdain for CNN, manifesting itself partly in other GIFs with CNN’s logo added, but also in an anti-Semitic meme with headshots of dozens of network personalities and officers whom it says are Jewish. (It’s unclear how accurate the meme is.) Text at the bottom complains about overrepresentation of Jews in the media. Elsewhere in his Reddit archive there are a range of racist and anti-Muslim comments.
The WWE meme is just the latest case of Trump’s Twitter feed looking to r/the_donald for material. In May, Trump wryly retweeted an old Rosie O’Donnell tweet calling for the firing of James Comey. “We finally agree on something Rosie,” he wrote. Does Trump have photographic recall of O’Donnell’s old tweets? The man can certainly hold a grudge, but given his loose hold on what he said a day before, that’s unlikely. A more probable explanation was that the old O’Donnell tweets had been circulating on r/the_donald. In March, BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel charted the progression of a photo of Senator Chuck Schumer and Russian President Vladimir Putin from Reddit to Trump’s Twitter account.
Almost exactly a year ago, Trump tweeted an anti-Semitic meme featuring Hillary Clinton and a Star of David. That image turned out to have originated on 8chan, another Internet message board that’s beloved of anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and similarly unsavory characters.
It’s highly unlikely that Trump himself is searching out this material, since he doesn’t use a computer. The more likely culprit is Dan Scavino, Trump’s social-media director, whom the Office of Special Counsel last month deemed to have violated the Hatch Act by assailing Republican Representative Justin Amash. Warzel noted, for example, that Scavino tweeted the Schumer-Putin pic before the president’s account did.
But that doesn’t get Trump off the hook: The tweets appear under his name, the buck stops with him, and he has gleefully taken responsibility. (“My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”) As such, drawing on r/the_donald points to two of Trump’s weaknesses. The first is his intense need for affirmation. The president boasts of shutting out unflattering stories, though his tirades against CNN and Morning Joe are strong indicators that he’s bluffing, and remains obsessed with his critics. Staffers are reportedly afraid to share negative stories with Trump, preferring to slip him untrue stories. But White House aides might feel at least some obligation to the truth and the public, whereas redditors are unalloyedly loyal to Trump. The devotion is clear in HAS’s reaction to Trump’s tweet: “Wow!! I never expected my meme to be retweeted by the God Emporer [sic] himself!!!”