Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix

Some Trump supporters thought NPR tweeted 'propaganda.' It was the Declaration of Independence.

By Amy B Wang

July 5, 2017 at 11:56 AM

This undated engraving illustrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia (AP)

For about 20 minutes Tuesday, NPR traveled back to 1776.

To echo its 29-year on-air tradition, the public radio network's main Twitter account tweeted out the Declaration of Independence, line by line.

There — in 113 consecutive posts, in 140-character increments — was the text of the treasured founding document of the United States, from its soaring opening to its searing indictments of King George III's "absolute tyranny" to its very last signature.

Who could have taken issue with such a patriotic exercise, done in honor of the nation's birthday?

Quite a few people, it turned out.

Perhaps it was the Founding Fathers' capitalization of random words or the sentence fragments into which some of the Declaration's most recognizable lines were broken. But plenty of Twitter users reacted angrily to the thread, accusing NPR of spamming them — or, worse, trying to push an agenda.

"Seriously, this is the dumbest idea I have ever seen on twitter," a Twitter user named Darren Mills said after NPR had only gotten as far as the Declaration's dateline. "Literally no one is going to read 5000 tweets about this trash."

One user wondered if NPR's social-media accounts had been hacked, and the network lost at least one follower who called the tweets "spam."

The blowback increased when the tweets reached the portion of the Declaration that outlined, in unsparing detail, all the ways Britain's George III had wronged the then-Colonies.

"He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers," read one line of the document.

"A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people," read another.

Some people — presumably still in the dark about NPR's Fourth of July exercise — assumed those lines were references to President Trump and the current administration

"Propaganda is that all you know how? Try supporting a man who wants to do something about the Injustice in this country #drainingtheswamp," tweeted one user whose account has since been deleted but whose messages were captured by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin.

Upworthy writer Parker Molloy took images of several more indignant replies to NPR, including one who told the media organization to "Please stop. This is not the right place."

By Wednesday morning, many of the replies above had been deleted. However, at least one Twitter user admitted he had "screwed up" and apologized to NPR.

The Declaration of Independence is, of course, one of the country's most important documents, adopted at the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The text and purpose of the Declaration would likely be recognizable to those who have applied for U.S. citizenship, since questions about the document appear on the naturalization test. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has an extensive list of study materials and other Declaration-related resources for prospective citizens.

NPR's "Morning Edition" has had a nearly three-decade-long tradition of broadcasting a reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 each year. More than two dozen NPR journalists participated in this year's reading, including "Morning Edition" co-host Steve Inskeep, "All Things Considered" hosts Audie Cornish and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

It is "a document from a deeply divided time," broadcaster Mary Louise Kelly noted in the reading. "It was a time when Americans turned against each other."

The Twitter exercise this year was a way to include additional people in that tradition, NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara told The Washington Post in an email statement.

"This year we mirrored that tradition on Twitter as a way to extend to social media what we do on the air," Lara wrote. "The tweets were shared by thousands of people and generated a lively conversation."

Here is the full text of the Declaration of Independence:

In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. Kancelaria Prezydenta RP/Krzysztof Sitkowski/Handout via REUTERS ?THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
U.S. President Donald Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda arrive for a joint news conference in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. Kancelaria Prezydenta RP/Krzysztof Sitkowski/Handout via REUTERS ?THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?
Poland's President Andrzej Duda, right, and U.S President Donald Trump attend a news conference with at Royal Castle, in Warsaw, Thursday July 6, 2017. Poland's President says he hopes the European nation will "soon" sign a long-term contract for U.S. liquefied gas deliveries that will help it cut dependence on Russian imports. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Polish President Andrzej Duda (R) and US President Donald Trump shake hands after holding a joint press conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump arrives for the Three Seas Initiative Summit of Eastern European countries at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
U.S President Donald Trump talks with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, center right, as they arrive for a group photo prior to the Three Seas Initiative transatlantic roundtable in the Great Assembly Hall of the Royal Castle, in Warsaw, Thursday July 6, 2017. The Three Seas Initiative is an alliance among a dozen eastern and central European nations that are bordered by the Adriatic, Baltic and Black seas. The group aims to reduce their dependence on oil and gas supplied by Russia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Donald Trump, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic take part in a family photo along with other heads of states and delegates during the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
epa06069374 US President Donald Trump addresses the summit of Three Seas Initiative countries in Warsaw, Poland, 06 July 2017. The Three Seas Initiative is a grouping of the 12 nations between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas. EPA/Szilard Koszticsak HUNGARY OUT
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, left, smiles during a meeting with Poland's First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Dudain, at the Belvedere palace in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, July 6, 2017.(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
epa06069281 Polish First Lady Agata Kornauser-Duda (C-L) and US First Lady Melania Trump (C-R) after a tete-a-tete meeting in Belweder Palace in Warsaw, Poland, 06 July 2017. Both first ladies will also attend a ceremony in Warsaw's Krasinskich Square where President Trump will address the Polish nation. EPA/Rafal Guz POLAND OUT
First Lady Melania Trump (L) and Polish President's wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda (R) play with children as they visit the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw on July 6, 2017. US President Donald Trump is on his first visit behind the former Iron Curtain. He is expected to focus largely on defence in talks with Baltic, Balkan and central European leaders. / AFP PHOTO / ANDRZEJ HULIMKAANDRZEJ HULIMKA/AFP/Getty Images
Daughter of US President, Ivanka Trump (C) and Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich (2ndL) lay flowers in front of the memorial Monument for the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland, 06 July 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PAP / Przemyslaw PIATKOWSKIPRZEMYSLAW PIATKOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at Warsaw military airport in Warsaw, Poland July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Ivanka Trump and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner arrive accompanying the U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump (not pictured) at Warsaw Chopin Airport in Warsaw, Poland, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
President Trump, right and the first lady Melania Trump walk past the honor guards as they arrive to Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. President Donald Trump is back to Europe hoping to receive a friendly welcome in Poland despite lingering skepticism across the continent over his commitment to NATO, his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his decision to pull the U.S. out of a major climate agreement. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are greeted by Polish Minister of State Krzysztof Szczerski, left, and Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski after arriving at Warsaw Chopin Airport, Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
epa06068765 The Beast, US presidential Cadillac One limousine, carrying US President Donald J. Trump is seen in Warsaw, Poland, Poland, 05 July 2017. US President Donald J. Trump is on a two-day visit in Poland. He will meet Polish President Andrzej Duda as well as speak to the leaders of Three Seas Initiative nations and address the Polish people at Warsaw's Krasinski Square. POLAND OUT POLAND OUT
President Donald Trump waves as he arrives to deliver a speech at Krasinski Square at the Royal Castle, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech in Krasinski Square, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, July 6, 2017.(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump applaud next to Poland's President Andrzej Duda and Poland's first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, in Krasinski Square, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, July 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
epa06070673 German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and US President Donald J. Trump (L) attend their meeting in the Hotel Atlantic one day prior to the G20 summit for bilateral talks in Hamburg, Germany, 06 Julty 2017. The G20 Summit (or G-20 or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for governments from 20 major economies. The summit is taking place in Hamburg 07 to 08 July 2017. EPA/JENS SCHLUETER / POOL
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and US President Donald Trump shake hands prior to a bilateral meeting on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 6, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies will gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Michael KappelerMICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump meets South Korea's President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump wave as they step off Air Force One upon arrival at the airport in Hamburg, northern Germany on July 6, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies will gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHECHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump before bilateral talks on the eve of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 6, 2017. Steffen Kugler/Courtesy of Bundesregierung/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
U.S. President Donald Trump meets South Korea's President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Photo Gallery: He is stopped in Poland before traveling on to Germany for the meeting of world leaders.

Read more:

The evolution of Donald Trump, as seen in his Fourth of July tweets

Chris Christie enjoyed a closed beach, then got flamed. But he definitely did not get a tan.

A radio host was warned not to criticize President Trump. So he quit.


Amy B Wang is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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