Earlier this week, on Flag Day, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a video in which he watched Old Glory and recited the Loyalty Prize. “That didn’t work [sic] to be rhetorically, ”he complained. Rhetorically, there’s no way to describe the place outside of“ trolling. ”And politically, there’s no way to describe anything other than like smoke. Cruz, is currently trying to impose that on the nation tougher voting restrictions, which black leaders have protested vigorously. Cruz’s tweet suggests that his freedoms are under attack (From the police of the critical race? From annihilating the magicians of culture?), But what this obscure trolling is that is his components freedoms that are actually threatened.
When confronted by such online handouts, the first thing to remember is that, while argumentative may seem like a claim, smokescreen trolling is no an argument. When Trumpites post unbridled accusations on social media, they are not open to change of mind, and will be impervious to any facts you think they may be missing. However, they will be very happy with your efforts to try it.
Even here, Trumpists are aligned with old-school trolling. The goal for the trolls on 4chan was the accumulation of lulz, fun in response to the anger, frustration or disgust of a target. For Trumpist politicians, the goal is much higher than lulz: It’s power. Yet, anger, frustration, and disgust at goals play a critical role. Attempting the opposition to dunk at obvious falsehoods and the over-the-top MAGA performance art only helps their bad faith claims to win the news cycle. That’s exactly how I discovered Cruz’s Flag Day tweet; he was on trend on Twitter, spurred on by how many people made fun of him.
This is not a traditional amplification argument – the idea that if you share these kinds of messages, even criticizing them, you run the risk of exposing Trump’s other fake voters. Thanks to the increasingly insular and extreme right-wing media ecosystem, supporters of this ideology are already imbued with these messages. Politicians like Ted Cruz play a catch-up game with him them, not the other way around.
The real concerns of amplification relate to what it doesn’t trend because of that it is trend. Ted Cruz’s dunkfests are easy, fun and satisfying. They are sure they can have the feeling of fighting against power. But that’s what makes a smoke screen so effective.
To counter this tactic, the first step is to identify when it happens. This can be complicated, as there is often a fine line between Trumpists like Ted Cruz who know clearly better and those who truly believe the things they say. But forget what the politician actually believes. When what they say aligns with trolling strategies and tactics, imagine a 😂 at the end of their tweet, quote, or press release. This serves as a reminder to slow down and consider how a proposed response — from verifying the facts to “but actually-ing” to pointing and laughing — could end up increasing the shock and obscuring the underlying sincerity of the Trumpist project.
Don’t help them do that. Instead, he refuses to play his game, and insists on an entirely different one – an approach that it also helped to contrast Subcultural trolling. As a cognitive linguist George Lakoff he suggested, reformulating the discussion away from what the Trumpists did want you talk and towards the deeper truths buried in the stories that need to be told. Describe the specific actions they and other officials of their state have taken to suppress the vote, enforce white supremacy and threaten the freedoms of citizens. Particularly if a story is already on trend, responses that call attention to it which one strategies and tactics are used and why they are used to help others understand how they are being handled, where they should be directing their attention instead, and what is at stake.