Donald Trump’s Twitter was again the source of worldwide outrage on Tuesday when he responded to a statement by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un by saying he had a “much bigger” and “more powerful” nuclear button.
Threatening a nation of 25 million people with nuclear war seems to be just another day in the life of Trump. But when the president tweets, he twists reality, raising world tensions and escalating an already tense situation.
Naturally, Tuesday,’s tweet drew rebuke from the editor in chief of the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, John Mecklin. The Bulletin is well-known for its “Doomsday Clock” in which it “informs the public about risks from nuclear weapons, climate change, & emerging technologies,” according to its Twitter.
According to Poynter, Mecklin doesn’t believe that Trump or Kim will engage in a conflict that puts millions of lives at risk. He does, however, take threats of war seriously. He argues that all of us should.
“The United States will almost certainly not attack North Korea, because the result would be at least hundreds of thousands – and probably millions – of dead people. And North Korea will not attack the United States or its South Korean and Japanese allies, because to do so would constitute almost instant national suicide.”
“There is a danger to Trump’s North Korean tweets: They increase the probability that North Korea will misinterpret normal military exercises as an attack and respond with force. This could result in a back-and-forth series of military actions that might – actually, really – lead to worldwide thermonuclear war and the end of the human experiment.”
Trump has been pushing an oil embargo against North Korea much to the chagrin of North Korean allies. The pattern is generally as follows: when North Korea perceives that the nation’s security is under threat, its leaders respond with threats of their own. Each time this pattern plays out on the world stage, the risk of conflict heightens.
While much of the world may view Trump and Kim’s back-and-forth threats as a media show, it would be dangerous to treat the situation as if the world is watching reality TV. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.
So, here’s to wishful thinking: perhaps its time to take the president off of Twitter?