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Twitter-verse grapples with Trump's tweets on civil rights icon

Commentary: After Rep. John Lewis declares him no legitimate president, Donald Trump scoffs and says Lewis is all talk.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Congressman John Lewis, the latest target of Trump tweets.

Rick Diamond, Getty Images

On Monday, America celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Those of ancient political habits might think this isn't the best time for a president-elect to enjoy a spat with a hero of the US civil rights movement.

Donald Trump has a different way of doing things. Especially the Twittering sort of things.

On Friday, news emerged that on Sunday's "Meet The Press" show on NBC, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia would declare: "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."

The reason? Lewis pointed to the charge by US intelligence officials that Russian operatives, at the behest of Vladimir Putin, hacked the Democratic National Committee's email, thereby -- in his view -- turning the election toward Trump.

Lewis is a politician, a Democrat and a Hillary Clinton supporter. His declaration of illegitimacy was surely calculated to provoke. Many disagree on whether Trump's Twitter responses are calculated or simply personal morning expectorations.

As was the case throughout the long 2016 election campaign, social media continues to serve as a sounding board for charges and rebuttals, jabs and counterpunches. In turn it has helped reshape the political landscape.

On Saturday morning, Trump poked right back at Lewis. In two tweets, he said: "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

It's tempting, of course, to examine these thoughts. Lewis represents the majority black 5th district in Georgia, 40 percent of whose inhabitants are college graduates and more than 87 percent graduated high school. The median household income is $48,017. Its unemployment rate of 8.2 percent is above the national average.

It's also the home of Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and many notable educational establishments -- Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College -- as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Indeed, local residents took to Twitter to offer pictures of this supposedly falling-apart, crime-infested area. It looks rather nice.

And then there's the notion of Lewis being all talk. During the civil rights movement, Lewis was a leader of protests against racial segregation. In 1965, he participated in the Selma-Montgomery march, during which he was beaten and suffered a fractured skull. He's regarded as an icon of the fight for equality.

"I was hit in the head by a State Trooper. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die," he tweeted earlier this year on the march's anniversary. Not quite all talk, then.

Lewis declined to comment on Trump's tweets.

Action on Twitter

Not that there was any shortage of comment or action on Twitter itself. Since about midday on Friday there have been about 1.5 million tweets that mention Lewis, with peak traffic hitting 3,000 tweets in just one minute Saturday morning, Twitter said Sunday. Saturday also marked the biggest single-day gain in followers for the @RepJohnLewis account: 60,000 new followers.

Many of those tweeting expressed dismay at Trump's need always to retaliate against all those who criticize him.

"It's telling, I'm afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis," tweeted conservative commentator Bill Kristol.

Some were even more pithy. "John Lewis was endorsed by MLK. Donald Trump is endorsed by the KKK," offered Marcus H. Johnson.

Some on Twitter paused to consider that 1965 was the year Lewis marched and Trump managed not to take the long march to Vietnam.

As independent Republican presidential candidate Evan McMullin tweeted: "While you avoided the draft, John Lewis risked his life for equality in America. You'll never even dream of such selfless patriotism, Donald."

Selfless tweeting is a difficult task for many, almost as difficult as not tweeting at all.

Indeed, Trump returned to the subject of Lewis late on Saturday, tweeting that he needed Lewis to help him: "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!" Finally?

One suspects that President-elect Trump will continue to use Twitter as his Ministry of Defense, even if it often seems like the home of all talk and no action.