Word count: 828 Reading Level: College Grad Year Reading time: 3.01 Mins
Did the grass (or dank) roots support of the internets darkest regions give President Donald J Trump the edge to win the 2016 United States Presidential election?
President Obama was certainly one of the first campaigners to run strongly through social media channels. However, President Donald J Trump has taken it to the next level. Where Obama had the mainstream media literally falling over themselves to give him positive coverage, President Donald J Trump had the mainstream media doing everything they could to rubbish him. I don't know if this was a plan from the start, but the Trump train recognised early the importance and reach of social media. More importantly, how they and their supports could use it to combat the seemingly one sided media.
Early on President Donald J Trump campaign became the 'cause' of Reddit (the front page of the internet and subreddit r/The_Donald), twitter, Youtube, 4Chan (Notorious NSFW forum). Unlike, the Clinton machine most of the advocates in these forums were not paid plants. They were doing it for the cause, Justice, Social Justice warrior revenge and the fun of it.
Note: There is a r/hillaryclinton subreddit also, but obviously not as successful.
Both Reddit and 4chan are notorious for pulling pranks, driving memes to trend, crashing websites, changing search rankings, creating Youtube, twitter stars from nothing. Most are harmless schoolboy fun, mischievous, sometimes a little illegal and not criminal (mostly). Some examples originating from 4chan and Reddit; Rickrolling, Voting Kim Jong Un as Time readers person of the year, Tracking down law breakers, Anonymous, Online Voting rigging, trending things on facebook, twitter and youtube (2013, October 1).
They create the trends or happenings, via informal cooperation and agreement. The way the internet works, for the most part, is on search engines. Search engines use complex algorythms to deliver relevant content to users based on previous searches, popularity, plus other measures. Search engines can be manipulated, for good or mischievous purposes.
Search Engine Optimising professionals use search engine manipulation to improve a website's ranking. However, in the case of Reddit and 4Chan, it is more of a self-perpetuating cycle of trending kick-started by a large ready to assist audience of users willing to help. The user base is large enough to kick things into trending.
Reading through the r/The_donald subreddit for example is like looking through the DNC wikileaks in real time, without the corruption. Ideas spontaneously are created and actioned, by what most people would call Internet trolls. Users then post their exploits back to the forum for all to pitch in to like, upvote, share etc to drive more and more traffic to the post. This in turn, will drive the meme, action to the top of forums, search engines and get it trending.
The technique is so close to what President Donald J Trump has used to drive millions of dollars of free publicity in his campaign it is no wonder he is often referred to as the Lord Emperor of trolling. Also not a surprise his cause was taken up but these user collectives as there are a lot of commonalities, such as distaste for anti-political correctness.
For the purposes of President Donald J Trump 2016 presidential campaign the two parties have worked the high and low ground without direct collaboration (as far as I know). It would be hard to scroll on facebook, twitter or Reddit without seeing the memes (Imgur, 2016)
created by these factions. They range from thought provoking, funny, disgusting and downright shocking. However good or bad they the memes were they did support the narrative that the President Donald J Trump campaign was pushing and further supported the it is a movement message which became very strong and noticeable towards the mid-part of President Donald J Trump campaign.
In summary, did dank memes win the race for President Donald J Trump, yes. Did they influence the final results, a big YES. The many memes and their creators are the tech equivalent of the newpaper political cartoonist, without the social filter. They are a good social force, even when totally distasteful as they are a reflection of what many of us are thinking just below the surface, but can't say for fear of social repercussions.
Great example of how a little video can reframe the context of President Donald J Trump
Feinberg, A. (2013, October 1). The best and worst things 4Chan gave the world. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://gizmodo.com/the-best-and-worst-things-4chan-gave-the-world-1436402768
Cernovich, M. (2016). MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again (1st ed.). Castalia House.
Imgur (2016, November 9). The election told in memes Retrieved from http://imgur.com/a/e6HRC