February 24, 2019

#MAGATrends

By Melissa Ryan

This is one of those weeks where several things are likely interesting to CARD readers. That’s right kids, it’s time for another edition of #MAGATrends!

Twitter removed a tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader this week. This is the first known example of the platform taking action against a world leader. The tweet in question reminded followers about the 1989 Fatwa against author Salman Rushdie saying that it still was in existence and was “solid and irrevocable”. The debate around whether Twitter should punish world leaders who violate the rules has been ongoing, with Twitter releasing a vague blog post about it just over a year ago.

For most Americans that debate centers primarily around President Trump, whose tweets frequently inspire his followers to abuse the targets of Trump’s ire. I find myself both wanting Twitter to remove some of Trump’s tweets that are clearly meant to get the far-right harassment machine going and also troubled at the idea of any company run by Jack Dorsey making such consequential decisions.

Actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested and is accused of filing a false police report and staging the attack against him. The Frog Squad, who have all along maintained the attack was a false flag, and possibly organized by Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, are in full celebration mode, egged on by President Trump on Twitter. Mostly because the narrative now fits what they’ve been saying all along anyway.

Keep in mind that the right claims pretty much every news event a false flag operation these days. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson. Vice reports that, Hasson,A self-avowed “white nationalist” and lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard allegedly stockpiled guns and ammunition and had a lengthy “hit list” that included prominent Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, newly elected Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and reporters from CNN and MSNBC.” Like so many others before him, Hasson was probably radicalized online.

Violence from the far right in America is increasing and as I’ve said many times before that increase is a feature rather than a bug. There’s a lot of research about how radicalized content spreads online, but not much about how being exposed to this content online affects a person or what the threshold for radicalization is.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that extremist violence is an obvious threat to the safety of Americans, most media instead focused on the Jussie Smollett story.

Donald Trump, Tragic Hero. The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner has an interesting interview with Victor Davis Hanson a “classicist and military historian” who also supports Donald Trump. Hanson has written an entire book making the argument that President Trump is a “classically tragic hero, whom America needs but will never fully appreciate.” It’s probably the best illustration I’ve seen outside of /r/the_donald of how Trump’s base view their guy and his place in American history and lore.

You see examples of this in pro-Trump memes a lot. Trump is often portrayed in images as a mythical/biblical figure or a military hero. Their nickname for him is God Emperor or GEOTUS. Some of the memes can be written off as mere sh*tposting but the narrative as Trump the tragic hero really does seem to have taken hold on the right. The White House has also leaned into this myth with Sarah Sanders recently making the claim that God wanted Donald Trump elected.

Trump supporters don’t have a monopoly on canonizing their favorite politicians, the iconography around Barack Obama, especially in 2008 being the most comparable example. But it’s an interesting exercise to think through the story of Trump as a hero’s journey and how that resonates with his base.

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