Understanding Trump’s Troll Army

Donald Trump(2015) Image. wikimedia.org/CC BY-SA 2.0

With Donald Trump continuing to win primaries and peddling his all-encompassing personal brand, the explanations for his success have begun to compound. Some say Trump speaks to dispossessed blue-collar workers. Others claim that Trump’s apparent authenticity resonates with cynical voters who have grown tired of stage-managed political campaigns.


What is new about Trump, however, is that he has made this challenge in a thoroughly modern way: He is a troll, someone who scores rhetorical points with outrageous or controversial comments, consequences be damned.

Trump’s rise has been abetted in part by a loose configuration of social media users often collectively termed the “alt-right,” for lack of a better term. These individuals, many of whom proudly identify as trolls themselves, have developed a strong affinity for Trump, whom they characterize as one of the most skillful trolls in existence.

The alt-right’s success with hashtag wars on Twitter is well-documented. They savaged the right-leaning National Review with #NRORevolt and ridiculed establishment Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio by saddling them with the #cuckservative hashtag (“cuckservative” being a portmanteau of cuckold and conservative and meant to underscore the perceived fecklessness of these candidates).

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