NPR Tweeted the Declaration of Independence and It Confused a Lot of People

In their defense, it has some pretty wild lines.
July 5, 2018
4 mins read

Here’s the thing. Not everyone in America can recognize the Declaration of Independence on sight, and that’s okay! You don’t need to memorize all of the dusty texts involved in America’s founding, not even on Independence Day.

Sure, some of those documents, like the original Constitution, have some great parts (promoting the general welfare? Nice!) and some gross, dehumanizing sections (3/5ths compromise, anyone?) that people should remember. But the average Declaration sentence isn’t necessary knowledge.

In honor of the Fourth of July, however, NPR started to tweet the text of the Declaration of Independence. This action was meant to mimic the fact that NPR airs the text on that day also. The idea seems to have been that by tweeting out the Declaration, they could have a wider reach and start a broader conversation. And conversation they got.

The problem was, there were a lot of people who thought that NPR was making up what they were saying all along. Some suggested that the account had been hacked. One man said that the statements about God in the Declaration were “primitive,” which, cue John Oliver voice … cool.

Some seemed to think that it was evidence that NPR was having “unbalanced” coverage of politics. One Twitter user seemed deeply concerned that this was “not the place” for this kind of verbatim recounting of a document written in the 18th century. Of course, this person may have just thought that these statements were inappropriate and represented someone everyone knows, as NPR wrote, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be a ruler of a free people,”

Instead of googling the errant text clearly written in a prose style different than the one used today, the first response of many was to share their opinion that it was about today’s politics and Trump. First of all, the Declaration of Independence specifically refers to the King of England, so it’s not like it was impossible to understand what was going on. Also, who doesn’t recognize the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”? Didn’t you listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack?

Also, if you read about a tyrant and immediately think that the writer is referring to your favorite politician, what does that say about the politicians you support? People are so ready to get angry at each other that they don’t even check earlier tweets, don’t read threads and don’t ask someone else to attempt to understand what’s happening.

Many of the same people outraged by the Declaration of Independence are most likely the people who advocate against immigrants and want fewer people to come to the U.S., even legally. They want fewer people to seek asylum and fewer people to have a path to citizenship.

Maybe that’s because prospective citizens need to learn about the Declaration of Independence.

Karena Landler, Georgetown University

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Karena Landler

Georgetown University
English, French

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