Social Media Shudders After Trump Mocks North Korea’s ‘Button’


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President Trump leaving Florida on Monday.

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Al Drago for The New York Times

HONG KONG — President Trump’s tweet Tuesday taunting the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the relative strength of the two nations’ nuclear arsenals set off a torrent of concern on Twitter — and a few jokes about masculine preoccupation with size.

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

The response online was generally one of concern that a subject so stark and potentially catastrophic as nuclear weapons was being blithely discussed on social media by a man who has the power to use them.

Some commentators said Mr. Trump’s tweets Tuesday, which included an announcement that he would name winners of “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR” next week and a declaration that he was responsible for a record year in global airline safety, were signs something was wrong with the president.

Amid the tweets expressing fear and worry, some people questioned the level of discourse. Many of those tweets weren’t printable in a family newspaper, and here’s one that hinted at why.

The president’s tweet produced several condemnations of Twitter, from those arguing that the service was not only a distraction but also left them worried about their own annihilation.

Some people said the tweet should qualify as a violation of Twitter’s policy prohibiting threats of violence.

After the CNN host and correspondent Brian Stelter raised the question of whether Mr. Trump had violated Twitter’s terms of service, Dan Scavino Jr., the White House director of social media, accused him of urging that Twitter take action against the president’s account.

Mr. Stelter replied that he had contacted Twitter but that it had no immediate comment.

Some of the president’s supporters wrote that Mr. Kim, as a dictator responsible for global instability and widespread suffering of his own people, deserved to be insulted, not coddled.

Others noted that the “button” that Mr. Trump tweeted about was not actually a button, but a briefcase referred to as “the football.” But there were suggestions that perhaps a button could be introduced.

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