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Most-liked tweet is not from Twitterer-in-chief

US leader is trumped on social media, while netizens can't forgive bullying couple

TRUMP OUT-TWEETED

Everyone knows US President Donald Trump is a serial Twitter user. He makes announcements, responds to crises and does almost everything else on Twitter first, at any time of the day and night.

So it must have been a big blow to him last week when the most-liked tweet of all time came not from him, but his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama.

In the aftermath of the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car driven by a young Nazi sympathiser rammed into a crowd of demonstrators, killing one and injuring many others, Mr Obama tweeted: "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion."

The tweet, accompanied by a photo of Mr Obama greeting a diverse group of children, was taken from a quote from the late South African president Nelson Mandela's 1994 autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom.

It was followed by two more tweets that continued the quote:

"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."


In response to the Charlottesville unrest, former US president Barack Obama borrowed a quote from late South African president Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom. PHOTO: TWITTER ACCOUNT OF BARACK OBAMA

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It came at a time when a firestorm was engulfing Mr Trump for his controversial response to the Charlottesville unrest.

Mr Trump's initial reaction was to denounce hatred, bigotry and violence "on many sides".

"We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let's come together as one!" he tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet addressing the victims, he said: "Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"

The rally, supported by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, was in protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the United States Civil War.

The fact that Mr Trump did not single out the far-right groups for criticism drew fire from all circles, including his own Republican Party and advisers.

A day later, while he did explicitly denounce "the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups", he backtracked within hours at a rancorous press conference, in which he blamed violence "on many sides".

He described some of those at the rally as "very fine people" and said the counter-protesters were "very, very violent".

Mr Trump has remained defiant even as business leaders abandoned him and world leaders expressed shock over his stance.

By Tuesday evening, the same day Mr Trump repeated his "both sides" remarks, Mr Obama's tweet had become the most-liked tweet in Twitter's history, garnering 3.8 million likes, a record previously held by pop star Ariana Grande. Her tweet in the aftermath of the Manchester terror attack had more than 2.7 million likes.

While Mr Obama has not commented on his successor's response to the Charlottesville incident, many on social media have pointed out the difference in tone between US presidents No. 44 and No. 45. User Gloria Geiger tweeted: "Barack is total class! THIS IS HOW TO RESPOND!"

Many others tweeted "I miss you" and "Please come back".

As Vanity Fair put it: "It wasn't just a 140-character lesson in how to act presidential; it was also Obama besting Trump at his favourite medium, Twitter."

FORGIVE BUT NEVER FORGET

With the sentencing of the now infamous Toa Payoh couple Chow Chuin Yee and Tay Puay Leng, some, including the couple themselves and their elderly victim, would have thought it was the end of the episode that has gone viral since April.

While 76-year-old retiree Ng Ai Hua, whom the couple verbally abused and shoved at a hawker centre, said he wanted to "forgive and forget", netizens were less than forgiving towards the pair.

Some slammed Ms Tay's tearful apology as "crocodile tears", while spoof videos of the couple's apology have been making the rounds on social media. Some also felt that they had got off lightly with a fine. But to Mr Chow and Ms Tay, who said they have been "living like fugitives" and "punished by society", it was perhaps a lesson they would not forget.

A KNOTTY PROBLEM

In response to the Charlottesville unrest, former US president Barack Obama borrowed a quote from late South African president Nelson Mandela's 1994 autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom.
The latest craze on Chinese social media: interlocking fingers to make a knot, particularly doing the trick with one hand. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM WEIBO

A recent social media craze in China has been testing the flexibility of people's fingers.

In a challenge called the "finger knot", netizens are asked to interlock their digits to make a knot, and bonus points go to those who can do the trick one-handed.

Photos of people doing the trick have been shared on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

The trend apparently started when Chinese actor Zhang Yishan was seen in a popular TV show putting his pinky on top of his thumb while keeping the other three fingers straight.

The craze has spread beyond China and caught the attention of the Daily Mail and BuzzFeed, which made a video on how to do the challenge.

Are you twisting your fingers now? Good luck, but please don't end up in hospital.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Most-liked tweet is not from Twitterer-in-chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe