The Presidential Office and its Twitter account have been a source of entertainment for quite some time now, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. Even the fact that the Democrats could take the House of Representatives away from the Republicans in the mid-terms didn’t deter the Don. On 2 November, he tweeted a Game of Thrones themed meme stating "sanctions are coming" (image above).
This may not be a popular opinion but this is quite a savvy move. Using one of the world’s most popular TV shows to announce a major policy decision that was soon to be implemented – how did anybody not think of that? #Sarcasm.
Obviously, the decision to advertise his move to repeal the nuclear arms deal with Iran and impose sanctions there drew a reaction from a wide variety of people. Chief among them was broadcasting network HBO, who responded with a statement to INSIDER, saying that they were "not aware of this messaging and would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes." HBO also came out with a more hilarious tweet in response, saying “How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?”[pullquote]an example of good creativity used for the wrong purpose and by the wrong person[/pullquote]
Other celebrities also weighed in on the twitter-sphere on the use of Game of Thrones imagery. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on the show, was one of the first to tweet back, simply saying “Not today.” Co-star Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, was much less cryptic with her emotions, responding with “Ew". One surprising critic was JK Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books, who tweeted Trump’s picture alongside a meme that ridiculed the President with the words “He Who Lives by the Meme, Dies by the Meme”.
The President’s tweet also attracted ridicule on social media, becoming the subject of many Game of Thrones related memes, including one featuring the character, Ygritte saying “You know nothin’, Donald Trump”. Many more referenced either Robert Mueller or the indictments that are supposedly on their way. The use of popular cultural references to make political statements is nothing new and it makes sense from a political perspective. No matter which corner of the world you live in, as long as you have access to television, shows like the Game of Thrones will always remain relevant in culture. Therefore, use of cultural television icons will inevitably be used as a medium to reach out to the masses.
Former President Barack Obama was, in fact, very adept at using television references and even sports references for a lot of his campaigns. But in his case, the reactions haven’t been as strong for many reasons. First of all, President Trump has been a controversial figure who has divided the American public like nobody before him. Whilst the move to use a popular TV show to publicise sanctions on Iran may be a politically savvy move in other circumstances, it is less so when it comes directly from the office of the President, as it serves to demean that office. It also reduces the seriousness of the issue at hand – the retraction of the nuclear deal and the imposition of the sanctions on Iran. The politics of the deal is a whole other subject on its own but suffice to say that a meme on it is not going to go down well with anybody involved.
At the end of the day, the “Sanctions Are Coming” Game of Thrones-style tweet is an example of good creativity used for the wrong purpose and by the wrong person. If a similar meme had been used for any other issue by anybody else it might have been more appreciated than ridiculed. Coming from the President’s Office though didn’t seem very presidential. Then again, the Don doesn’t operate by conventional methods, does he?