The Trump Phenomena: Who loves Donald Trump?
Today, 8 November, is the day of the US presidential election. As we are heading closer to finding who might be the next president, it is perhaps frightening to imagine what would happen if Trump wins.
But how did we come to this point where Trump, no matter what he says or does, remains the favourite candidate for so many Americans?
There is something never before seen in other elections: the accumulation of conspiracy theories, the dislike of mainstream media, online misinformation and social media wars.
As the BBC wrote yesterday, “The populist rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has energized a disparate American movement that is accused of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny.” That movement is the alt-right.
The alt-right: Who are they?
In a New Yorker article published on 31 October, entitled “Trolls for Trump,” Andrew Marantz explains who the alt-right is:
a loose online affiliation of white nationalists, neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists, and social-media trolls. The alt-right has no consistent ideology; it is a label, like “snob” or “hipster,” that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it. The term typically applies to conservatives and reactionaries who are active on the Internet and too anti-establishment to feel at home in the Republican Party. Bizarrely, this category includes the Republican nominee for President.
The alt-right supports Trump. It is easy to see how Internet trolls love Trump; his rhetoric is similar to that of a troll. An Internet troll is someone who posts provocative, off-topic messages online so that s/he provokes emotional response, creates arguments, or disrupts on-topic conversation for their own entertainment. Trump’s style is also to exaggerate and provoke by calling Clinton corrupt, without contributing essential information to debates or political dialogue.
People like conspiracy theorist and Texas radio host, Alex Jones, or social media expert, Mike Cernovich, speak to the heart of many disillusioned Americans by exaggerating, spreading misinformation and implausible theories across the media.
Jared Taylor, a “Race realist” who founded the alt-right American Renaissance website, believes that races are different: “Some races are better at some things than others.” “If a white person says, ‘I like being white, and I prefer my associates to be white’, that’s hate? Why?” he said. “It should not be taboo to talk about these things.” This is why he agrees with Trump’s immigration policy.
As an article on the Guardian put it, the alt-right considers the following as good things: “Vladimir Putin. White identity politics. Star Wars. Austrian free market economics. Donald Trump. LOLs. Bitcoin. Darwinism. Silicon Valley. Science and technology. Transhumanism. Pepe the Frog.” This is the language of today’s American conservatives.
In 2011, Cernovich started writing on his blog “Danger and Play” about such misogynistic subjects as “Misogyny Gets You Laid” or how to “How to Cheat on Your Girlfriend.” Soon, Hillary became his subject matter. From his Periscope account to his twitter and blog, Cernovich was testing to see which anti-Hillary comments were trending the most: “But I was looking at the conversation online—what was getting through to people and what wasn’t—and none of that was sticking. It’s too complex. I thought that the health stuff would be more visceral, more resonant from a persuasion standpoint, and so I pushed that,” Cernovich explained.
He was the one that first spread that Clinton is sick or, as Trump put it, “unfit to be president” and “has no stamina.” He tweeted: “Hillary’s face looks like melting candle wax. Imagine what her brain looks like.” Then, he tweeted a picture of Clinton winking which he explained as “a mild stroke.” By August, he claimed she had a seizure disorder and Parkinson’s disease. #ZombieHillary refers to Clinton’s infirmity and was used on Twitter by Cernovich’s followers after he encouraged them to spread the news of her alleged sickness.
Cernovich’s blog supports a white-male perspective which sees feminism as a threat to male identity. Losers, beta males and “cucks”—alt-right slang for “cuckolds”—are his enemies. His strategy, which again reminds people of Trump’s attitude, is that of a troll: “To beat a person, you lower his or her social status.” As Cernovich admits, “I use trolling tactics to build my brand.”
In Trump, he found his alter ego. It was Trump’s “unapologetic masculine” persona that attracted him. In 2015, he tweeted: “I said if a Republican acted like me and ran for office, it’d be a movement. Donald Trump has proven me right.” He also wrote: “What are Trump’s policies? I don’t particularly care.” But he’s adamant about uncovering Hillary’s secrets: “If there’s a story that can hurt Hillary, I want it in the news cycle.”
The problem with the alt-right is how apolitical they are. On the Internet, anything can mean anything and important things become another bit of information to be ridiculed, recycled, disposed. The response among these alt-right boys to a presidential election or a violent act is the same: “It’s just a thing on the Internet.”
In addition, many of them write, blog or tweet without anyone policing their voices or editing their words. They can claim anything they want and no one can stop them.
Yiannopoulos, the British journalist who works for the conservative news website Breitbart News, explains that Trump’s appeal lies in his anti-immigration, freedom of speech and anti-globalisation ideas. He sees that freedom of speech in America is under threat from progressive feminists, the Left, Black Lives Matter. What he means by freedom of speech is an “open free market of ideas”, a language that is free of any form of belief or morality. Ideas circulate, everchanging without meaning.
Hatred and distrust characterises the alt-right, since they believe that established institutions and media conspire against the people to keep them docile, whereas they see themselves as the ones who free information from its shackles.
Like some hardline Brexiteers, Trumpists, ironically, feel that they are going against the global elites and bureaucrats. It’s ironic and paradoxical that they believe Trump is their savior and will “Make America Great Again” – whatever that means. Many want someone like Trump, who can run the country as a large corporation. Even if they already know he filed for bankruptcy four times. Or maybe this could be the beginning of the “Umbrella Corporation” as depicted in Resident Evil.