Have teenagers, TikTok users, and Korean pop music fans trolled the President of the United States?
More than a week before President Trump’s first rally in three months on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., These tech-savvy groups who spoke out against the president mobilized to reserve tickets for an event they refused to attend. While they are unlikely to be responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have raised the campaign’s audience expectations, leading to the disappointing show.
“My 16-year-old daughter and her friends in Park City, Utah have hundreds of tickets. They were rolled by America’s teenagers, ”Steve Schmidt, a seasoned Republican campaigning strategist, tweeted on Saturday. The tweet received more than 100,000 likes and lots of replies from people who said they or their children did the same.
Schmidt, who was reached by phone on Sunday, called the rally an “absolute disaster” days after Trump campaign chairman Brad Parscale tweeted that more than 1 million people had requested tickets for the rally through Trump’s campaign website .
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden, said the turnout was a sign of weakening voter support.
“Donald Trump has given up the leadership and it is no surprise that his supporters have responded by leaving him,” he said.
In a statement, the Trump campaign accused the “fake news media” of “warning people about the rally” over COVID-19 risks and protests against racial injustices across the country.
“Left and online trolls are doing a winning lap thinking that they somehow influenced participation in the rally. They don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” wrote Parscale. “Reporters who wrote cheerfully about TikTok and K-Pop fans – without asking the campaign for comment – behaved unprofessionally and were ready to be wrong about the charade.”
It was possible to register on Sunday lunchtime to stream a recap of the Tulsa event via Trump’s website later in the day. A name, an email address and a phone number were requested. Age was not verified when signing in, although a PIN was required to verify phone numbers on the website.
At the 19,000-seat BOK Center in Tulsa, where Trump thundered that “the silent majority is stronger than ever”, numerous seats were empty. Andy Little, spokesman for the Tulsa Fire Department, said the city firefighter’s office reported a crowd of just under 6,200 people in the arena.
City officials had expected a crowd of 100,000 or more in downtown Tulsa, but that never materialized. However, the rally, which was broadcast over cable, was also aimed at voters in battlefield states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
Social media users who have been watching recent events may not be surprised at how young people (and some older people) have mobilized to troll the president. Not only did they do it on TikTok, but also on Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook. K-pop fans, who have a massive, coordinated online community and a keen sense of humor, have become an unexpected ally for American Black Lives Matter protesters.
Over the past few weeks, they have re-used their usual platforms and hashtags from raising their favorite stars to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. They flooded right-wing hashtags like “White Lives Matter” and police apps with short video clips and memes from K-pop stars. Much of the early social media messages asking people to sign up for tickets to Trump’s rally highlighted the fact that the event was originally scheduled for June 19th, marking the end of slavery in the United States United States remembered. Tulsa, the site of the rally, was the scene of one of the worst white-on-black attacks in American history in 1921.
Schmidt said he wasn’t surprised. Today’s teenagers grew up with phones and “absolutely” mastered them, he said. They are also the first generation to have remote zoom classes and have a “subversive sense of humor” having grown up in a world of online trolls and memes. Most of all, he said, “You know what’s going on around you.”
“Like salmon in a river, they participate politically in the methods and means of their lives,” added Schmidt.
However, the original idea for the bulk ticket troll may not have come from a teenager, but from an Iowa woman. Political website Iowa Starting Line noted that a TikTok video posted on June 11 by Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother from Fort Dodge, Iowa, suggested booking free tickets to “make sure free places are available ”. Laupp’s video, which also told viewers how to stop receiving texts from the Trump campaign after entering a telephone number (simply text “STOP”), had more than 700,000 likes.
It was also possible to sign up for the rally with a fake or temporary phone number from Google Voice.
As Parscale himself pointed out in a June 14 tweet, ticket registrations weren’t just about bringing corpses to the rally. He called it the “largest 10x data transfer and rally registration ever” – that is, the hundreds of thousands of email addresses and phone numbers the campaign now has to advertise micro-targeting and potential voters to reach .
Sure, it’s possible that many of the emails are fake and that the ticket holders have no intention of voting for Trump in November. While it is possible that this “bad data” could prove useless or even harm the Trump campaign in some way, experts say there is one clear beneficiary in the end and that is Facebook. That’s because of the complex, somber way Trump’s political advertising machine is connected to the social media giant. Facebook wants data about people, and whether that’s “good” or “bad” it is used to train its systems.
“No matter who registers or whether they go to a rally, Trump receives data to train re-targeting on Facebook. The FB system will use this data in a way that has nothing to do with Trump, ”tweeted Ian Bogost, a communications professor at Georgia Tech. “Could these ‘wrong’ registrations mess up the Trump team’s target dates? Maybe it could to some extent. But the whole system is so extensive and incomprehensible that we will never really know. “