In Internet parlance, a troll is a malevolent mischief-maker, a commenter who says something politically incorrect, then sits back and enjoys the resulting furor — sometimes even fanning the flames under multiple contradictory identities.
In politics, the master troll is Donald Trump.
During the recent GOP nominating process, he gave the media the vapors by criticizing John McCain’s war record, and promising to ban all Muslims from the US and build a giant fence across the Mexican border. Each time, bien-pensant society (largely consisting of leftist politicians and fellow-traveling journalists) assured their increasingly nervous followers that this time the troll had gone too far, that Trump was finished.
Instead, he only got stronger. Why? The public was tired of politics as usual, sick of polite society. In the Internet age, they loved the troll.
The public was tired of politics as usual, sick of polite society. In the Internet age, they loved the troll.
Last week, The Donald set off another tempest in a piÃ±ata when he posted a Cinco de Mayo tweet of himself sitting at his desk about to dine on a taco bowl from the Trump Grill. What really frosted his critics was his line: “I love Hispanics!”
It was classic Trump, being simultaneously innocuous (what was he going to say — “I hate Hispanics”?); funny (is he serious?); and sure to get plenty of attention. Once again, there was the master troll, on every news show and political Web site in the country. “Dumb and condescending and racist,” groused Gawker.
Meanwhile, his fans just laugh and sit back to await the next outrage. Trump has disrupted the conventional wisdom of politics, where every speech is focus-grouped into blandness. Some think he says whatever pops into his head, but it’s more likely that he often makes statements just to be mischievous, in order to discomfit and disrupt his enemies.
Whatever he says doesn’t have to be particularly consistent, it just has to get the goats of the right people, to keep everyone focused on him, not on Hillary Clinton. Heck, even Hillary isn’t focused on Hillary.
What does this mean for his chances of being elected?
Well, the people who hate Trump aren’t going to stop if he no longer says outrageous things. The people who love Trump aren’t going to stop backing him. Those who haven’t made up their minds will, I suspect, not take everything Trump says seriously. But they may be amused, especially when compared to Hillary Clinton’s scandals. Setting up your e-mail server to hide your correspondence from the public while the Romanians hack into it sounds a bit worse than tucking into a taco bowl.
The only worry Trump should have is if he fails to follow through on his promises. If his fans find out he’s trolling them, it really will end him.
Politics today, as Trump understands, is largely a narrative-driven reality show with good guys and bad guys.
His campaign is a gamble that the good guys — the scorned white working class, economically struggling inner-city blacks to whom Obama and the Democrats have consistently given the back of their hand, patriotic Americans in general — vastly outnumber the bad guys moving jobs overseas, racking up debt, allowing immigrants to flood in unchecked.
And if you don’t believe that, just ask Barack Obama, whose juvenile foreign-policy guru, Ben Rhodes, recently confessed that the White House shamelessly manipulated its own useful idiots of the press and others (“the Blob,” he called it) in order to foist its disgraceful Iran deal upon a trusting but duped public.
But I suspect the liberal politician attitude toward “shaping narratives” will be a typical one — it’s only right when we do it.