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Thursday, April 14, 2016

They seem nice

by digby

This story by Benjy Sarlin about the Trump followers on reddit is really interesting. It's a perfect place for them to organize and gather and apparently, they have recently become the sites hottest users:
A large faction within Reddit has always had an anti-establishment and libertarian streak, and many users promoted Ron Paul’s candidacy in 2012. For most of the 2016 cycle, though, Bernie Sanders supporters dominated the site like no one in its history. The subreddit r/SandersForPresident has 225,000-plus subscribers and serves as a grassroots organizing hub for the campaign. A few months ago, a simple picture of Sanders walking to work became a viral phenomenon. Could the same site’s users really be that drawn by Trump?

You bet they could. Longtime users said Trump taps into an anti-PC counterculture within Reddit that feasts on spreading offensive material — a campaign to “fat shame” random women sparked a site-wide civil war and made international news — and then reveling in the response. Certain corners of Reddit have long served as an assembly line for posts mocking “SJWs,” slang for “social justice warriors,” whom they view as a humorless cabal of left-wing oppressors. It just took the right users to recognize the crossover appeal with Trump.

In interviews with MSNBC, r/The_Donald’s moderators declined to provide their real names, but credited the subreddit’s rapid growth to CisWhiteMaelstrom, who took the lead promoting it earlier this year after messaging its creators with a master plan. The username is an ironic reference to “Cisgender,” a term popularized by transgender rights activists to describe the majority of people whose gender aligns with their biological sex at birth.
CisWhiteMaelstrom (let’s call him “Cis”) told MSNBC over the phone that he is a law student in his early 20s looking to go into whichever field will allow him to make the most money. And his carefully plotted approach to building the site, in many ways, mirrors Trump’s approach to building a political following.

Before getting into campaign politics, Cis had already earned some online notoriety for his regular posts on r/TheRedPill, a hub for anti-feminists and pickup artists that’s frequently accused of spreading misogyny. In communing with Reddit’s social outcasts, he said he saw a kindred spirit in Trump, who already had a following among the “alt right,” an online movement often associated with white nationalism that was concentrated in anonymous message-board sites like 4chan.

He did ban open white supremacist activity from the Trump reddit, so that's good. But other than that he's captured the whole gamut of younger male Trump followers, most of whom act like barbarians.
The goal was to foster a community where Trump fans could be themselves in all their glory without apology. In practice, that means a whole lot of hanging out and bashing critics as “cucks,” a slang term that originated among white nationalists who liken establishment conservatives to “cuckolds” that tolerate infidelity from their wives. It’s since spread to the broader network of Trump supporters.

The “anything goes” approach is a major contrast to r/SandersForPresident, where moderators take care to discourage users from drifting into places that reflect poorly on the candidate.

Another important difference from the Sanders subreddit is that Cis said he deliberately avoids turning the subreddit into a hub for volunteers, out of fear that nuts-and-bolts discussions of phone banking would water down its appeal as an Internet funhouse. There is some information for users on how to register to vote in primary contests, but much like Trump’s campaign, the operation was designed to grab people’s attention first and then hope that energy translates to on-the-ground results.

There is some anti-establishment overlap between the two sides, though. Trump supporters have put up a number of popular posts showing solidarity with Sanders voters’ complaints about their primary’s delegate selection process. Many of the highest rated posts on r/The_Donald are generic anti-Hillary Clinton memes, partly because — Cis theorizes — Sanders supporters upvote them along with Trump fans.

Despite the circus atmosphere, r/The_Donald’s moderators stressed that support for Trump was earnest even if the tactics were ironic. Even a cursory look at the subreddit suggests this is true — for every post covered in five layers of Reddit in-jokes, there are plenty more that are simple rah-rah expressions of support.

Clicking through r/The_Donald is like walking into a rowdy clubhouse for (mostly) men who feel under siege from “political correctness.” It’s a place for like-minded bros to enrage the left and then high-five each other when they take the bait — all while knowing their leaders will forcefully remove anyone who interrupts their good time and mock the interlopers on the way out.

In other words: It’s a digital Trump rally.

Lovely fellows. Very inspiring.