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In the era of Trump, there are two kinds of trolls. The white supremacists with power and influence and the white supremacists whose own antics have relegated them mostly to the sidelines. The former can cause a hell of a lot more damage than the latter, but the latter still receive plenty of media coverage, despite their diminished status.
It’s easy to understand why. The stunts of far-right figures desperate to be relevant are guaranteed to be outlandish and make for entertaining hate-watching. Their antics make for great clickbait and their enemies always seem game to talk to reporters or leak private chats. I’ll cop up to enjoying the downfall of figures like Milo, Alex Jones, Jacob Wohl, etc.
The problem is that less theatrical White Supremacist trolls, with the same ideology as the grandstanders currently hold key positions in the Trump Administration and have infiltrated the Republican party. Their influence puts American lives and American national security at risk, but their presence in our government and politics has been almost completely normalized.
This week, SPLC’s Michael Edison Hayden released a bombshell trove of emails that White House Senior Policy Advisor, Stephen Miller sent to a Breitbart editor in 2015 and 2016. The emails “promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage.”
Miller doesn’t just hold white supremacist views, he’s setting white supremacist policies and influencing a white supremacist president. As Hayden reminds us in the report, Miller’s own words “showcase the extremist, anti-immigrant ideology that undergirds the policies he has helped create as an architect of Donald Trump’s presidency. These policies include reportedly setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, an executive order effectively banning immigration from five Muslim-majority countries and a policy of family separation at refugee resettlement facilities that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General said is causing “intense trauma” in children.”
Emails like this should get anyone working in the federal government, especially the White House fired. But we all know that Miller won’t be. And as Amanda Marcotte points out in Salon “people don’t think this news is a surprise.” Many Americans are just numb to all of this now, or they don’t know about it at all. As Jared Holt pointed out on Twitter, the New York Times political team in particular didn’t even report on SPLC’s findings until more than 24 hours after the report was released, and only after a lot of shaming on Twitter.
Miller isn’t the only one making headlines this week. The Jackson Free Press has an article about outgoing Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his ties to pro-Brexit groups and funding in the UK. The organization Bryant is involved in, World4Brexit is associated with several influential figures in President Trump’s orbit, including Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski. As I was reading the article, I wondered how much of this activity did the people of Mississippi know during the majority of Bryant’s two terms in office?
Turning back to the circus, in what feels like a throwback to the so-called alt-right’s heyday, a group of far-right trolls are disrupting pro-Trump events like Donald Jr.’s book signings and pro-Trump Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s university speaking event. You’ll be shocked to learn that their leader is a YouTuber using these stunts to drive traffic to his various video channels. Their antics have generated a ton of press this week, mostly due to the novelty of the events they’re choosing to disrupt. Their goal was to get as much media attention as possible for themselves. It worked.
My advice whether you’re covering the trolls, campaigning against them, or just consuming news about them is this: focus most of your energy on the trolls with power. The ones who work in government, hold elected office or have influence with the Trump administration. Do your best not to give the trolls that don’t more oxygen. Media attention is the only path to relevance they have left. We (myself included) can all do better to avoid giving them additional amplification.
Attribution: Gage Skidmore