Obama’s ‘latte salute’ and social media


On Tuesday President Obama departed his presidential helicopter, Marine One, in New York City with a coffee cup in hand. Following a tradition started by Ronald Reagan, Obama saluted the Marines standing guard on the ground … while holding his latte.

Immediately the “scandal,” which was caught on camera, went viral and Obama was attacked for what people called, “disrespectful actions.”

Without commenting on the ethics of the latte salute, it’s interesting to note social media’s role in the situation. First, the video was posted on social media via Instagram (by the White House nonetheless) with the caption “President Obama just landed in New York for #UNGA2014.”

The White House intended to promote his speech on climate change at the UN assembly and they even joined in on the social media lingo by using a hashtag (which stands for United National General Assembly). But that caption was most likely ignored by viewers who gravitated toward the cup in Obama’s hand … and then took to Twitter. The hashtag #lattesalute started trending on Twitter with journalists, politicians and the general public voicing their opinions in 140 characters or less.

No longer are we writing letters to the editor or calling news stations to comment. We are tweeting about it. We are including hashtags and text lingo like “u” and “nvr” in order to fit in more words. We are taking things for face value without doing any research. We are impulsively commenting on everything.

If a newspaper reporter needed to write a story on this scandal, he or she could easily just go to Twitter without doing any reporting.

But would that the best method? Should we take what people tweet and post literally? Even if journalists asked follow-up comments to people via Twitter, would their responses be skewed because they have the ability to hide behind a computer?

I wonder how many of those people truly have the passion behind their harsh statements or were just reacting spontaneously. Then again, maybe the spontaneous reactions are the most truthful.

If only Twitter was around when President Bush was criticized for saluting while holding his dog. It would have been interesting to see the difference, or lack of, in the public’s response.