Trump Like Me: How Social Media Elected Donald Trump
Social media, in many respects, is a joke. Just naming the lot, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tindr, Reddit, and the like, almost merits a punchline. After all, Facebook and Reddit are where memes, the hilarious graphical images shared endlessly online, are born. What if I told you, however, that this same jokey, online construction elected our new President? Bear with me throughout my short-lived journey.
biden: cmon you gotta print a fake birth certificate, put it in an envelope labeled "SECRET" and leave it in the oval office desk obama: joe
Before Trump’s election started, I happened upon a copy of Black Like Me in a used bookstore. I decided to purchase it. Being a fan of such writers as Frederick Douglas and W. E. B. Du Bois, I figured studying up on the legal and social workings of Southern apartheid would allow me the opportunity to see into the BLM movement more deeply, which I had previously refuted and rejected based on their seemingly superficial demands and protestations. After a few days of perusing the beginning, the Trump election caught me off-guard. I was of course, at first, distraught. Then I began to take part in whatever online and off-line activism I could.
Black Like Me has a simple enough premise: a white man living in the South undergoes pigment treatment to look like a black man, and records his experiences throughout the experiment. Of course, he expects ridicule. Soon enough, he is called a nigger, cannot find a job, cannot use a restroom, and so on.
Keeping in mind what little reading I did from the book, I devised an experiment. Why not like and join as many FB groups and pages as I could in support of Donald Trump? If on such social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, there is a bubble — a pinpointed repercussion of online marketing wherein similar political and ideological beliefs are parroted back towards the user — counteracting that bubble would be a few clicks away. If I am just as misinformed as the other guy, I should introduce myself to their side of the story. It turns out, the story was wilder and more troubling than I imagined.
I thought it would take a week to understand the perspective of another world that I, a college-educated Hispanic native of Compton, California, wouldn’t have previously understood. It took a day. Here’s why.
The control involved my daily Facebook feed, sans political commentary. It’s a relatively normal feed. My Facebook friends are constituted of two main groups: largely Hispanic students I had befriended in high school, and adult students I had befriended in college, along with a few other people I had met throughout my life.
Seems pretty normal, right? We post things we find funny, post where we are, there’s concert pictures, pictures of people traveling abroad, ironic memes, people sharing music. In a sense, an online metropolis resembling that of the one I live nearby, Los Angeles. Different races, ages, genders, ethnicities, and so on, having the casual conversation or the casual argument, but mostly sharing articles, tour dates, tagging friends, television show and movie advertisements, funny science facts, and so on. This is the control.
I should also mention that almost none of my friends watch television regularly. We use Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and the like. There is also, I should add, daily posts regarding motivation, making money, stacking guap, working out, and the like. This should be fairly familiar to most millennials taking part in any social feed. Stars, celebrities, public intellectuals, and the like, constantly work to remind, reassure, and have people reassess, their life conditions and improve them accordingly. This is every day, across all ethnic maps, most days out of the year.
Shocking is a strong way to express any event undergone in a person’s life. This was shocking. First, I wanted to compare sheer available size of online support for both Trump and Hillary. These are the results you will find if you enter, into the Facebook search bar, either Trump for President or Hillary for President.
I want you to note the amount of likes. The immediate listing of Facebook likes for the phrase trump for president bring up approximately five million within its immediate search results. If we count the same number of likes for the phrase hillary for president or clinton for president (some are repeating) is around one million within its own search results.
It’s safe to say if one were to support a group, they wouldn’t stray too far from this simple Facebook search. Facebook also allows for relevant page likes, so it is possible to like as many as 25 FB pages covering the same general subject within less than 25 seconds.
So let’s look at the quality of content available. I am not tailoring my examples to find the most insidious ones. I am picking those which are liked, and commented on, the most. Let’s take an example. I want to be absolutely clear: I am not cherry picking examples here, I am taking a few seconds to find the top, liked postings and comments.
Our first example come’s from thepoliticalinsider.com, an online right-leaning publication. To give an example of what people are reading when they look at these websites, I want to refer to what is affectionately considered as the Front Page of the Internet: Reddit. I am a long-time fan of Reddit, and have spent years perusing the website.
Reddit allows for a little known feature I will call the domain function. Reddit works off page directories called subreddits, wherein users can explore various message and image boards discussing everything from politics to Nicholas Cage. These subreddits are reachable through the /r/ address. For example, reddit.com/r/puppies will allow you to look through pictures of adorable puppies. Many other aspects of the Reddit website, however, are overlooked. Domain is one of them. Reddit.com/domain/ allows users to search for instances of a website popping up on any given subreddit based on that domain name.
Let’s take reddit.com/domain/thepoliticalinsider.com as our first example. I know what you’re thinking: why are you singling out this particular website? You haven’t been to a Trump supporter Facebook page recently, have you? These Facebook pages aren’t like the left, or liberal, pages you often see. These followers speak openly in the comment sections about, not only their distrust, but their rampant hatred of websites like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and the like. I mean it.
Let’s look at the instances of thepoliticalinsider.com, spread across the wide-ranging website of Reddit.
That’s right: /r/The_Donald, /r/conspiracy, /r/HillaryForPrison. These are all subreddits that have a strong, strong connection with Donald Trump.
Just recently, an admin had to state outright that the /r/The_Donald website was continually spamming its subreddit with obviously partisan news outlets, articles, and sources.
Most notably, /r/The_Donald spearheaded the online campaign of looking through, and finding, several incriminating documents via WikiLeaks relating to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. When I say spearheading, I’m not whistling dixie: the FBI casually posted information to WikiLeaks referencing the /r/The_Donald subreddit. These users affectionately refer to themselves as centipedes.
This subreddit may possibly be the greatest online asset for Donald Trump existing to date, the implications being that the FBI is in on the demonization of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton through the person-hood of one Rudy Giuliani. The Daily Beast made these questions concerning Rudy Giuliani’s explicit in their 11.02.16 article Meet Donald Trump’s Top FBI Fanboy. Perhaps the greatest example of this is Giuliani leaking that insider information on behalf of the FBI could have the potential of locking Hillary Clinton up, Giuliani being the main spearhead behind the phrase “Lock her up!” and is still advocating for a special task force concerning Hillary’s conviction.
Okay, maybe this is a fluke. Let’s look at tmn.today, another website frequently posted on these Trump supporter FB websites.
That’s right: /r/The_Donald. Alright, this is a fluke, too. What about yesimright.com, yet another right-leaning online publication frequently posted in Trump’s FB supporter pages.
That’s right, /r/The_Donald. What about patriotjournal.com?
That’s right: /r/The_Donald, /r/HillaryForPrison. Now, if it were up for me to decide, I could say there’s no possible way there are so many Trump aficionados sharing these websites over and over, across both Facebook and Reddit individually. Within the Reddit community, there have been, for the past few months, intermittent claims that the /r/The_Donald community throws more traffic, in its own subreddit, than many of the top subreddits combined though being relatively new.
Need an example? Just recently, there was a blackout in Reddit’s /r/all subreddit. The /r/all subreddit is the essential default page for most Reddit viewers, because all subreddits are mediated toward one subreddit where you can view the general online activity of the website. There has been one issue bugging all Reddit users: a constant stream of /r/The_Donald postings. Reddit administrator even had to change the /r/all algorithm, given the sheer traffic the /r/The_Donald community gives. When this blackout happened, /r/all was only flushed with the most active subreddit, /r/The_Donald, and the whole /r/all page was /r/The_Donald links. Not opinions. Not videos. Links.
Again, if I were a betting man, having spent as much time on Reddit as I have, receiving breaking news as often as possible from Reddit, I’d say there’s something strange going on.
I’d like to focus on one website in particular, breitbart.com, which is where I took the above text from. Stumbling through an assortment of Trump supporter Facebook pages, I found that many included a slew of links from breitbart.com.
Breitbart.com is a news media outlet previously headed by Steve Bannon, an American businessman and media executive of Breitbart News. Most notably, he is now the White House Chief Strategist to Donald Trump, the President-elect. He has been proven to be a vehement supporter of the alt-right movement, a racially charged movement set to “redefine racism”. Here is Glenn Beck, previously staunch Republican and now Constitutionalist, remarking on who Steve Bannon is.
“Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists.” — Glenn Beck
If you head to Wikipedia, and search for the key phrase Steve Bannon under the Breitbart News page, you will only look at the sources. There is no mention of Steve Bannon on the Breitbart News Wikipedia page, despite Bannon being the former Executive Chairman.
Let’s do our little ditty, and check to see where exactly breitbart.com stands in our Reddit community.
You guessed it, /r/The_Donald. I’d like to note the fact that breitbart.com has exceptionally more upvotes, points resembling likes, which represent online activity, than any other news outlet I have suggested thus far.
I know what you’re thinking: of course these are spam sites, look at their names. Well, how about a nice sounding website like dennismichaellynch.com?
310 likes, 91 comments. Going, going, going…
For a final example, redstatewatcher.com.
If you still doubt they are connected, take a look at the About section, under Contact Info, of Donald Trump For President, a Facebook page with over 2.5 million likes.
I want to point something out: there is a distinct online separation between the commentary of Clinton supporters and those of Trump supporters. Here is an example of a highly liked Clinton article, along with the top comments.
This is from the most popular Hillary Clinton supporter page I could find, Hillary Clinton For President Supporters. Let’s check another example of commentary on behalf of the Clinton FB page.
37 likes, and an honest appeal to study the man and his beliefs. Here’s another one, and I’m going down the line.
An appeal of racism, and someone urging people to voice themselves in constructive ways. Now, here’s an example from a Donald Trump support FB page.
It’s obvious to note the change in tone. Obama is mentioned constantly, across all Trump support FB pages.
573 likes, 114 comments, 164 shares. Would you like to know which subreddit truthfeed.com frequents?
That’s right, /r/The_Donald. Let’s look at some more commentary from the Trump supporter FB page.
Above is a thread calling Liberals, not Republicans, fascists.
The person above is mentioning that black people were already slaves in their own country, and God’s love and mercy brought them to America.
You’ll note God is brought up frequently in these comment sections, along with Christians and Christian soldiers. I don’t want to defame any specific people, but I have combed through their FB lives. Oftentimes, they do not activate private access to their pages. If I hit the comment of a Trump supporter with a dart, being bad at darts, I will hit someone who has posted images concerning God, a church, veterans, or read in their comment sections of friends asking why they haven’t been seen at church, or pictures of people at Church.
I also want to make clear the fact that these people’s Facebooks are riddled with this same media coverage. Not whole videos, not live streams, not analysis reports, not legislative reports, there are not reports on candidate histories, facts, polling numbers, etc. I’m not joking at all. Thousands upon thousands of shares and likes and comments.
The first comment blesses Donald Trump, the second claims that Liberals have a severe mental disorder. Note the website: tmn.today.
This isn’t taken an hour from some time ago last week. Even after President-elect Trump has won the electoral college, these articles are still being posted. Not daily, hourly. Constantly. I’ve already shown which subreddit yesimright.com frequents.
I will continue writing on what I find if I get some reception, or gain some traction. But I want to be absolutely clear: if you head to a Trump supporter page, you will see what I see. I am not tailoring my responses in any way, not tailoring my screenshots, my rhetoric, or anything.
I have yet, even, to give you an opinion of mine. This is what has transpired, what is transpiring, and what I have learned. If this article gains reception, I will dig deeper into the origins of these websites. I am not a reporter, I am not a journalist, and I am not looking to receive any traffic so as to profit. These are the findings of a truly shocked individual.
There is something wrong, not on an ethical, but on a basic, logistical level with these Facebook pages. There is something sinister going on, right now and continually. This is not a drill. I want to finish this piece of writing by referencing something very interesting, very curious, and very bold, mentioned by John Cleese on a recent episode of Conan, remarking on Trump’s relationship with Putin, and Putin’s relationship with the KGB.