This week, President Donald Trump met with Aya Hijazi, the Egyptian-American charity worker recently released from a Cairo prison after three years. To commemorate the momentous occasion, he has posted a truly astounding video. Please watch it, all the way through.
Consider the section from 1:13 to 1:30 or so, which pairs a super-quick zoom-out with an unbearably slow pan of a portrait of Thomas Jefferson. “The Thomas Jefferson pan at 1:19 lasts for almost a solid 10 seconds, showing only TJ, and we don’t see Trump until the last second,” Kenny Wassus, senior producer on New York’s video team, observed via Slack.
The most beautiful part comes at the end, where the clip starts zoomed way too far in on a low-resolution image of an American flag, and slowly peels back to reveal a “welcome home” message. It is torturous. “The 25-second zoom at the end keeps me in suspense. Like, idk what I’m reading but it must be exciting,” senior producer Christine Nguyen added.
Asked how Trump could better optimize the video for social media, Nguyen said that the video “def needs more action up front, gotta grab ‘em in the first 3 seconds.” She also warned of the danger of using copyrighted music.
But do they need to be any better? In recent years, cutting-edge web designers have embraced the native incompetencies of internet art — ugly GIFs, bad clip-art, incompetently edited and produced movies — as a knowing, semi-ironic gesture to the original folk arts of the internet.
And here, on the president’s Twitter account, we find the very folk art from which those designers are taking their inspiration. By any metric — as political propaganda, as a piece of filmmaking, as a work meant to inspire — it is an astoundingly, breathtakingly lazy creation, a stunning tribute to the democratic impulses at the heart of web publishing, and to the earnest ineptitude of the members of the Trump administration’s video team. I hope their skills do not improve; this video is a wonderful gift.