‘Do the Right Thing’ in the 2020 election
Director Spike Lee was on the receiving end of a tweet-attack by President Donald Trump after giving a brief speech at this year’s Oscars.
In his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee spoke about slavery in the United States and then a personal anecdote of how his grandmother helped fund his going to college and film school. Lee mentioned a desire for Americans to “be on the right side of history” for the 2020 presidential election and called on people to “make the moral choice between love versus hate” and to “do the right thing.”
Despite Lee not mentioning President Trump, the president decided to tweet his displeasure, calling Lee’s speech a “racist hit against your president.” Trump then mentions how he has helped African-Americans more than “almost any other president in history.”
People around the world are familiar with President Trump’s Twitter outbursts, but this one was surprising because Lee’s speech did not mention the president. There was no accusation of racism against Trump and no mention of voting against President Trump. It is possible to assume that Lee was referring to Trump in his speech, since he mentioned the 2020 presidential election, but it still does not make sense for Trump to assume the speech was about him. Trump’s outburst further proves his narcissism and inflated sense of ego, along with a pattern of pandering to his base.
It seems clear by now that much of what Trump tweets is only meant to appeal to the people he knows already support him. Something else to note is the fact that this is not the first time he’s accused a black person of being racist. President Trump has spoken out on multiple occasions about black people being racist, a pattern that undoubtedly appeals to his followers. President Trump has called out black people for being “racist” many more times than he has called out white people on the same charge.
Trump has a history of calling out celebrities who mock him or express their displeasure of him. The list of celebrities he has called out via Twitter rant includes Robert De Niro, Michelle Wolf, Oprah Winfrey, Snoop Dogg, Katie Couric, Alec Baldwin and the cast of Hamilton. Conservatives tend to dislike celebrities, often referring to them as the “Hollywood elite” who are “out of touch,” despite the president being a celebrity himself. Trump knows his base usually does not approve of Hollywood, so speaking badly of celebrities who speak badly of him is a good strategy to keep his base agreeing with what he is saying.
The idea of Trump being a narcissist has been discussed widely. An article from Psychology Today provides the symptoms of the personality disorder published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders handbook, along with examples of Trump that appear to show that Trump does, indeed, live with narcissistic personality disorder.
Trump has showed several times his inflated sense of ego along with his low tolerance for being mocked. Despite former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush being mocked throughout their terms, neither president complained as publicly as Trump has. It seems as if Trump believes he should be above criticism because he is president. Trump seeks the blind approval a dictator seeks. His base may be small – according to NPR, Trump’s approval rating slipped with his base, down from 42 percent in December 2018 to 39 percent in January 2019 – but he shamelessly panders to them. Trump’s call-out of Lee’s speech also seems hypocritical: Lee called on people to choose love over hate and to “do the right thing.”
If Trump believes his actions as president are so great, why did he try to discredit Lee? Trump’s narcissism and inflated sense of ego are dangerous traits for a leader to have, especially when the policies he supports are harmful to so many people in this country. Hopefully, people will take Spike Lee’s advice for the 2020 presidential election: Be on the right side of history.
Rachel Wilson is a graduate student studying journalism.