A typology of some online Trump supporters

A non-exhaustive typology of online Trump supporters

Back when Donald Trump was first nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate and then went on to win the Presidency, I realised I had an unusual group to examine. Having spent time following the travails of a right wing insurgent group within science fiction fandom, I had already researched a kind of ersatz focus group to see how the winds of political fortune might shift or remain steady over the following years. A set of individuals with marginally different ideologies, different levels of commitment to Donald Trump but also with a prolictivity to state their opinion of the day at great length (if not always with great clarity).

The problem with using the notable Sad and Rabid Puppies as political weather gauges is that there will be groups not represented within their numbers. For example, I don’t think there is any one who is a basic core Trump supporter — i.e. somebody who without hint of irony, just found Trump appealing from the get go. I assume such people exist based on polls and other studies but I don’t think they have a clear representation in the group I’m looking at.

At this stage, I just want to introduce a terminology rather than to cite examples. The key factors are antipathy to the left, antipathy to the Republican Party establishment, self-perception of being a libertarian and emotional commitment to Trump. I’ve ranked them from the most publicly supportive of Trump to the least.

One: Ironic Cheerleaders
This group are most likely to share Trump memes, refer to him as God-Emperor and ideologically are Alt-Right. They typically have extreme views on immigration and embrace misogyny and/or white nationalism. The support of Trump is loud but rarely with substance. They like it when Trump is vulgar and they like it when he upsets the conservative establishment. They really have very little interest in any policies other than hard line anti-immigration policies and withdrawal of US forces from extended conflicts in the Middle-East. They may actually be supportive of some left policies such as student loan forgiveness. They may be former libertarians but are no longer committed to libertarian policies and rhetoric or identify as libertarian. They are more inclined to tie their religion to their politics.

However, their support for Trump is based very much on Trump winning and doing wild shit. For them he is the Commander-in-Chief of internet trolling. Whatever their real emotional commitment to Trump may be, their public commitment has typically been framed with irony and an implication that they are joking. Ironically the irony is itself ironic and the nature of the discourse they have established with each other means they themselves are often unclear as to which ideas they are deeply committed to and which ones were just meant as a joke. If/when Trump falls out of power, the range of reaction from this group will be multifold, from a shrug of the shoulders that it had all been a giant prank to potentially violent denial. So far the only really upsetting thing Trump has done in their eyes is to suggest video-games may have a role in gun violence.

Two: Reluctant converts
This group were opposed to Trump during the Republican nomination process. They may have preferred Ted Cruz or Rand Paul as nominees. They are more likely to still identify as libertarian and would vehemently oppose a policy like student loan forgiveness. After Trump was nominated they shifted position to supporting him. Since then Trump has not revealed himself to be a secret Democrat mole and they feel a lot more comfortable in publicly supporting him. That commitment has become more sincere over time and it would take a lot to shake it. They have not been concerned by Trump’s tariff policy or trade war rhetoric. They actively applaud the tough line on immigration but still frame issues in terms of “legal v illegal”. They strongly believe that voter fraud is a major issue and that Democrats have much less support than opinion polls and elections suggest.

Their support for Trump would be very hard to shake. Major tax increases, student loan reform or gun control might shift their position. They are vehemently anti-left and anti-liberal. They feel besieged and that Trump is beleaguered by the same conspiratorial forces that are beleaguering them. If/when Trump falls out of power, they will be discombobulated. They will fall back to their original opinion of him (and they still preface their support with a token expression of his faults) but they will also maintain a strong stab-in-the-back mythology about Trump i.e. he was betrayed by the deep state etc. They aren’t QAnon cultists per-se (that’s more the first group) but they are fertile ground for believing conspiracy theories. If Trump was ousted they would be happy with Mike Pence.

Three: Sceptical advocates
Woe betide you if you ever suggest one of these is a Trump supporter! They will proudly state that they didn’t vote for him or if they did that it was only to save America from Hillary Clinton. This group is anti-anti-Trump rather than pro-Trump even though they are rarely if ever critical of him. Their main policy beliefs are gun rights and military funding. They are ambiguous about support for US military intervention overseas but supportive of an expanded military. They are anti-PC, anti-SJW. If they are religious it is not that central to their public beliefs. Despite nominally being not for Trump, they will make a show of attacking those attacking Trump and sometimes praise Trump for something but add the word “grudgingly” near the start.

They will be critical of Trump if he says something that sounds too anti-business or anti-gun. Their major fear when Trump was nominated was that he would help Hillary Clinton win. The same issue still exists: if it looks like Trump’s behaviour advantages the Democrats they will want him gone. They don’t really understand how Trump won in the first place and that currently makes them a little fearful of being too anti-Trump. If they didn’t vote for Trump they feel a bit embarrassed by that. Once Trump looks politically wounded, they’ll want him gone as quickly as possible. If Trump was ousted they also would be happy with Mike Pence.


Roughly speaking, there is an overlap in age and backgrounds but I believe that group one is on average younger than the others and group two is older.

How individuals will react if Trump is pushed out or impeached & prosecuted will vary. For some, both in the alt-right and more traditionally libertarian, they may be very loud about the situation but more quietly happy to be in opposition. Like some people on the left, it can be emotionally and cognitively simpler to be out of power, particularly as if you prefer the aesthetics of being the rebel-alliance rather than the empire. Others will be more deeply discombobulated and I don’t think it will be easy to guess who will be which.

If Trump blusters his way through impeachment, he will get support from all three groups at the next election but group three will cast their support as not-really-supporting-Trump-just-that-Democrats-are-worse. Functionally this anti-Democrat position rather than pro-Trump position won’t be substantially different in the details.

The Global Authoritarian Push

Around the world, multiple governments are attempting to cement control over regions they see as rebellious or disobedient.

These examples are notable ones but this list isn’t exhaustive:

Papua

“Over the decades since Indonesia’s takeover, calls for West Papuan independence have continued and at times resulted in deadly clashes.
In recent weeks, the region’s unrest has reportedly caused dozens of deaths and injuries, but obtaining verified information is difficult because of reporting restrictions placed on international journalists in the region — and the Government is also intentionally slowing the region’s internet.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-06/west-papua-why-australia-has-little-to-say/11573734

See also

Kashmir

“A Presidential Decree revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution that guaranteed Kashmir special rights to draft its own constitution and the ability to draft laws in this 17-million strong, Muslim majority state. Sending in thousands of troops, imposing curfew restrictions, detaining so called ‘social activists’, and shutting down telephone and internet connections, Pakistan is describing Jammu Kashmir now as an open jail. “

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/the-struggle-over-kashmir/11501680

See also: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-senator-blocked-from-visiting-kashmir-as-crackdown-enters-third-month/2019/10/04/63790b18-e6bf-11e9-b0a6-3d03721b85ef_story.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/frightened-minors-held-kashmir-crackdown-191002075219434.html

Hong Kong

Thousands of defiant masked protesters streamed into Hong Kong streets after the city’s embattled leader invoked rarely used emergency powers to ban masks at rallies. Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said at an afternoon news conference earlier on Friday that the mask ban “will be an effective deterrent to radical behaviour”.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-04/hong-kong-bans-masks-for-protesters-explainer/11573842

See also https://www.thenation.com/article/hong-kong-mask-police/

Xinjiang

China’s oppression of the Uighur people appears to be expanding, with intellectuals reportedly the latest group to be targeted in a mass government crackdown. At least 100 Uighur academics are believed to have been sent to the camps as part what the UN estimates is the forced detention of at least one million of the mostly Muslim minority group.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/uighur-prisoner-speaks-of-torture-inside-chinese-detention-camps/10696008

See also https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-23/video-uyghurs-shaved-blindfolded-xinjiang-train-station-china/11537628

Cat psychology

A reader asks me:

“Hi Cam,
You are lucky that your cat can talk and is so ready to share his views. I never know what my cat is thinking. Can you share some of your experience with Timothy and give us all some insights into the inner lives of our cats?”

I’m always happy to help and I’ve compiled this chart to help you match your cat’s facial expression to their thought process. Obviously this is based on Timothy and your own cat maybe different.

Using My Time Machine to Fix Right Wing Views on Climate

Ha! Tricked you all! This is a post about Larry Correia again! Larry has suddenly decided that he is really into more literary science-fiction and is making an assertive defence of Dan Simmons.

Simmons (an author whose books I do actively seek out) went off an a bit of anti-Greta Thunberg thung on Facebook. Many people objected. There was a post at File 770 about it: http://file770.com/dan-simmons-criticized-for-remarks-about-thunberg/

Larry, who has made a point of stating how he nor very few other people read File 770 apparently read the post and was unhappy with people being unhappy with Simmons and discovered that he is a big fan of Simmons. Is it their mutual love of John Keats or the their shared interest in Proust? Larry doesn’t say. He does claim that File 770’s post critical of Simmons led to Simmon’s novel Hyperion being “number one” on Amazon.

However, I want to focus on a particular criticism of Greta Thunberg that I’ve seen from Simmons, Correia, and other right wing science fiction writers:

“Oh yeah, and it’s the ultimate Motte and Bailey play, because they can put an uneducated teenager with no scientific creds at all in front of one of the biggest government bodies in the world to demand socialism now or else, and when you go LOL WUT they switch to We Just Want A Clean Environment Why Do You Hate Children. It’s total bullshit.”

OK, there’s a germ of a point there – after all Greta Thunberg isn’t a climate scientist. How about instead of a school kid they got the most relevant and credentialed scientists up there instead! [Yes, we will ignore that Thunberg was speaking at a youth conference with multiple amazing young people trying to make their world a better place https://www.insider.com/greta-thunberg-activists-climate-change-who-are-they-2019-9 ]

OK but I can fix that with my time machine. Clearly what these authors need to see is not kids but scientists. Show them authoritative people, who know their stuff and the whole “no scientific creds” issue is dealt with. Yet, it’s no good doing it now when the warming is already substantial. I need to CHANGE THE PAST! Instead of scolding these guys they want hard science and reason and they need it years ago!

OK – to my time machine! I’ll be right back!

[weird groaning noises as if a Tardis is dematerialising and then rematerialising which are then revealed to be a fat cat snoring…]

Phew! Fixed it! I’ve changed the timeline! I went all the way back to 1988! Hopefully enough time to change everybody’s mind! Instead of scolding people I changed the past so the UN got together an international panel on climate change with experts from around the world! If you check Wikipedia you can now see in our new timeline an entry on the IPCC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Climate_Change

What’s that you say? My new amazing timeline with the UN promoting highly credentialed scientists to explain the detailed science of climate change for the past 30 odd years is EXACTLY the same? But, but, that’s not possible! For that to be true it would almost have to be that these conservatives never gave two shits about the science and where just moaning about credentials because Greta Thunberg was actually making a difference and got climate change and global warming back into the headlines!

Events…

In the UK the Supreme Court has ruled that Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful ( https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/09/u-k-supreme-court-boris-johnson-suspension-prorogue-parliament-unlawful-illegal.html ). The ruling doesn’t itself bring a solution to Brexit any closer (except in terms of the no-deal deadline getting closer just by the passage of time) but it is a hefty blow to Johnson trying to play the authoritarian strong-man role.

Jeremy Corbyn remains in the ironic position of ending up in a classic error-mode for Labour leaders: avoiding taking a clear position of the day because of their own personal doubts on policy and fear of alienating a set of voters. Of course in the past, the policy problem bedevilling a Labour leader is when they try to sit on a more centrist fence when a better policy lies to their left which, as a frustrated support, you think they could win voters over with IF ONLY they they got fully behind it. I sympathise with his dilemma but it’s also clear that what’s needed from the opposition is a far more assertive Remain position.

Meanwhile, In the USA it really looks like there is movement towards impeachment of Donald Trump. Of course, that is a long road but it is another area where tactics and necessity have (apparently) been hard to resolve for the more progressive side of politics. In the end though, Trump’s boundary pushing for Presidential behaviour has to have a response from Congress if precedents are not to be set. Already, Trump has demonstrated the extent to which an otherwise incompetent person can get away with extreme mismanagement and unethical behaviour once they are in the office of the President of the United States. The US and the world has been lucky that so far Trump’s on cognitive limitations have helped thwart some of his worse intents. Looking at the real human damage Trump has already caused and reflecting that this is not as bad as he could have made it if he could think more coherently is deeply alarming.

Meanwhile, across the world from West Papua to Kashmir to Hong Kong to Xinjiang to Tibet to the West Bank, nationalist governments of various kinds are increasingly open about suppression and abuse of human rights. Trump and Brexit are a distraction in a real sense, as in events that we have to pay attention to but which suck attention from deeper horrors.

Trump Appoints New Secretary of National Security

The sudden firing/resignation of National Security Adviser John Bolton marks the third person in this role in as many years. Seeking a more consistent and stable approach to the role, the President has sought to appoint the well known political commentator and publishing guru, Timothy the Talking Cat.

Once tipped as a possible Vice Presidential running mate for Hillary Clinton, Mr The Talking Cat sees no conflict in his new appointment.

“Really all I have to do is stand around at meetings and occasionally vandalise graphs. Frankly I was made for this job. I already know how to ignore advice and scrawl all over important documents.”

When quizzed whether he has sufficient experience for the role Mr The Talking Cat responded:

“John Bolton left me the ceremonial moustache of the war-hawk-in-chief that has been handed on to overly belligerent politicians since Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve already had a go drawing with the Presidential Sharpie and have made some significant improvements to the GDP forecasts with it.”

Update: Since going to air Donald Trump has published this tweet:

Mr The Talking Cat could not be reached for comment.