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.”
this is why you're going to get defunded
— Darren Mills (@darren_mills) July 4, 2017
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.”
In case you're missing it, looks like @NPR has been hacked, tweeting like crazy!
— Human Being (@Trackerinblue) July 4, 2017
This is spam I get alerts for NPR tweets because they are important My device is alarming nonstop. unfollowing.
— Brandon Travan (@btravan_IT) July 4, 2017
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
So, NPR is calling for revolution.
Interesting way to condone the violence while trying to sound "patriotic".
Your implications are clear.
— D.G.Davies (@JustEsrafel) July 4, 2017
“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.
I Tweeted a VERY dumb comment. But ask yourselves; if read to the average American, would they know that you were reading the DOI? I do now.
— D.G.Davies (@JustEsrafel) July 5, 2017
I can't reply to you all. But stay tuned.
To those that want to mock me...go for it. I deserve it.
To those that forgive my "sin", thank you
— D.G.Davies (@JustEsrafel) July 5, 2017
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.