Hail: The Internet Troll-in-Chief

trump-hugs-flag-oct-24My biggest hope for the 2016 election was that I would never have to care, ever again, what Donald Trump did or said. Even if the media insisted on covering his hot air, it would not matter.

My interest in politics over the last two years has been a professional obligation– I have been teaching government, economics, and American history. Along with my students, I watched in dismay as The Donald marched from punchline to president-elect. Two years ago, Donald Trump was a blowhard reality TV show host with a goofy combover. He was the easy butt of many a joke. Like this clip from David Letterman in 2012, about how Trump accused Obama of not being an American citizen: “Maybe he’s not a racist, maybe he’s just a guy who periodically says stupid things to get attention.”

Next semester I will be teaching psychology instead of government. I was looking forward to ignoring politics for a while. Life would go on more or less how it’d been the last eight years. Trump would quickly fade into irrelevance. I could tune down the volume on the Republican backlash against Hillary.

That was the devastation I felt on election night. Of course these thoughts swirled: How could so many people fall for this scam? ‘Blue collar billionaire’ my ass. How could so many Republican leaders capitulate to a fake-conservative hijacking of their political party?

The real devastation, though, was realizing I would have to pay attention to Trump’s words and actions. Because now they matter.

We have an internet troll for a soon-to-be president. Literally. According to Wikipedia, an internet troll is:

a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

And with 16.5 million followers on Twitter, the president-elect can cause quite a ruckus.

Case in point: Last week, Donald was sitting at home watching Fox News, when a segment came on showing people burning the flag to protest his election. Promptly, Trump tweeted to his peeps: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Nevermind that flag burning is a constitutionally protected freedom of speech, upheld by the Supreme Court. My high school sophomores know that. Nevermind that citizenship cannot, by law, be revoked as punishment for anything, let alone for exercising free speech.

Nevermind because the goal was not logical discussion but an emotional response. Flag burning is abhorrent to many people. The emotional response pitted the “patriotic” against the “flag-burning traitors,” making it seem like defending free speech was tantamount to burning the flag yourself. The internet exploded with vigorous defenses and accusations. And yes, some people burned flags in front of Trump Tower.

Second case in point: Trump accepted a call from Taiwan. U.S. leaders have not communicated directly with Taiwan’s leader since the 1970’s. U.S. leaders communicate directly with Beijing, China.

Why?

It’s complicated. We have a “One-China” policy. Diplomatic relationships are delicate. History has happened. China has nuclear weapons. Stuff like that.

Predictably, the internet exploded. In true form, Trump responded to the criticism by defensively tweeting his peeps: Hey guys it’s not my fault– Taiwan “CALLED ME.” He then echoed a point already making it’s rounds on Twitter: The U.S. has sold weapons to Taiwan in the recent past, so how’s a phone call any different? Liberal hypocrites!

People are still trying to figure out whether the call was part of a strategy or not. China lodged a formal complaint with Washington.

What does it all mean?

Buckle your seat belts. Trump is volatile. He’s about to be President of the United States and he’s now trolling the entire world.

They say hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That’s been hard for me to do. Feeling urgency to resist. Feeling anxious, imagining worst-case scenarios for my community and world. Nothing to do right now other than to put one foot in front of the other, make a positive difference within my sphere of influence.

Author: Billy

Teacher and blogger.

2 thoughts on “Hail: The Internet Troll-in-Chief”

  1. Hi Billy since you’re going to be teaching psychology next turn, I have a few anecdotes and thoughts to share with you. My CERN about the possibility for something like the election of Donald Trump actually started when I was standing in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when the first US invasion of Iraq member shock and awe occurred? The images were horrifying. The people in.the airport wete cheering. I thought have been a psychologist 4-over 30 years and I don’t understand people. I was back in my office, I decided to try to really C how a person with an IQ of 100 that’s average was able to think was able to push their feelings and fears their emotion into words. I went to myself and got out the wechsler intelligence scale for adults. I began to work backwards through 2 Sub test. One was a test of verbal reasoning using analogies. II was the vocabulary test based on measuring completely subject understood the full meaning of common but increasingly sophisticated words. I wanted to say at what point an individual with an average IQ begin to have trouble mediating emotions with language. This is especially important because people when caught up in group Cajun with fear can be stampeded into rash and often times dangerous destructive or self-defeating Behavior. The similarities or analogies test was explanatory distressing and a surprise. When asked questions like how are blue and red similar someone with average IQ will answer they are colors. If you ask how are a wheel and a ball alive they will say they are round or they will. If you ask them how are a table and a chair similar they will say you can sit at them they will say that’s where you eat. They don’t really have the concept that would allow them to say they are Furniture. That’s quite different from the level of reasoning involved in recognizing that praise and Punishment are means of social control or that a tree and a fly are similar because they are alive .
    The vocabulary section was both profoundly ironic and much more disturbing. Average subject could explain that winter was the cold months of the year and that absorb means to suck up or take in. The word where their ability 2 Express broke down was compassion. They could say it meant to worry about somebody, or they could say you know what that feels like. They couldn’t say feeling you must help someone trouble because you know what it’s like your self. Now I don’t believe for a moment that an average IQ person Lacks compassion. I have seen credible examples of how much compassion they do in fact have. All this meant though that two things we’re probably true. When someone doesn’t have the language 2 organize and examine their feelings, the risk that they can be manipulated into a panic is quite High. Panicked people are desperate to find a demagogue who tells them he or she we’ll protect them. I think we just saw that happen here. The most striking example of the last time this happen was in Germany in 1933. The next revelation I had came when I examined and compared the Maps showing the average IQ in States that had voted 4 George w Bush instead of Al Gore with Maps reflecting per capita state budgets for education. States that voted for for Bush had an average adult IQ of 90. Those voting for Gore had an average IQ of 113. To give you a sense of what that means, someone who has IQ of 70 23 points below average at 100, would be expected to be able who work in a sheltered workshop and live in a supervised group home. You would congratulate them for learning how to tie their shoes even if they were 15 or 16 years old at the time. The educational data is particularly disturbing. In my career of nearly 40 years practicing psychology I have seen much more psychosocial economic based intellectual deficit what once would have been called retardation then any kind of intellectual limitations is caused by genetic or neurological problems. The absence of educational opportunity in the states so easily swept by demagogues is in my opinion directly responsible for much of the intellectual discrepancy I found. I also believe it is the reason that the voting population in those States is so easily influenced to vote against their own best interest when they are fed fear-inducing xenophobia homophobia misogyny and racism. I may sound cynical in saying this but I do not believe the politicians in those States or their National counterparts want to see the people of South Carolina, rutal Pennsylvania, North Carolina Mississippi Alabama rural Michigan or any of the rest better educated than they are. Looking to another region of the world and with which I am very familiar I believe it was Lloyd George Who said the most dangerous thing you can give an Irishman is an education. We managed to get one we talk to one another and though it took a thousand years we claimed our Island back from the British. I like you Billy spent the early years of my working in communities teaching. Keep up the good work. I think though Our Generations I have never been faced with what we’re looking at now. We are going to organize find leaders and reach out to those who have been kept intentionally ignorant so that they have the freedom to make their own choices, not ours and not those of the 1% white supremacists or religious zealots who don’t understand that of the Beatitudes the most important the one we were told is the only one that really matters is love. It’s good to know you’re out there. Keep it up, and let me hear from you from time to time. With respect and a few warm memories from the time you Julie Don justo and I overlapped Antigua. Via con Dios Amigo, El Doctor Guillermo d’Alelio in Washington DC

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    1. Hi William, Good to hear from you and thanks for reading and responding to the post.

      Just a couple thoughts. Definitely agree that people process and respond to emotions in different ways. That response can definitely influence voters. I think it did in this race.

      BUT I definitely was not saying that people who voted for Trump are less intelligent than people who didn’t. People have their own circumstances and reasons for their vote. And there are different types of intelligence, different ways to be intelligent, not all of which are measured by an IQ test.

      Also not saying conservatism is inferior. I’m a registered Republican who voted for John Kasich in the primary. Liberals own just as much blame for Republicans on this. First for crying wolf on every Republican they disagreed with, so when a true dangerous candidate comes along saying racist things, no one takes them seriously. Second for nominating a horrible candidate in H.C., misreading the electorate and running an awful campaign.

      Anyways, your thoughts are appreciated and I also fondly remember meeting you guys in Antigua. Best wishes.

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