Twitter has become increasingly captivated with a new hashtag, one clearly meant to speak truth to power in the most noble and compelling way. It shall be a historical beacon for the ages. What hashtag, you ask?
Yes, that is a real hashtag, but it is actually far from noble. And while it may be funny, it should raise red flags for anyone concerned with the crisis going on within the Republican Party due to Donald Trump’s rise to prominence.
The #NoBallsTrump hashtag got started after author and National Review editor Rich Lowry sat down with Megyn Kelly on her Fox News program earlier this week. When asked why Donald Trump has attacked Carly Fiorina in recent days, he opined that Fiorina had castrated trump “with the precision of a surgeon” in last week’s CNN Debate.
(Lowry’s comments start around the 1:00 mark, with his now infamous comment coming up around 1:20.)
While that comment was clearly measured to shock listeners, it also angered Trump himself, who initiated another of his now-common Twitter tirades by demanding that Lowry be fined by the FCC. Lowry was clearly amused that he had provoked a response, and this ignited a firestorm on Twitter, with hundreds of people chiming in to join the conversation.
Some responses were genuinely funny, and others went overboard. But many tweets, like one featuring a photoshopped image of Carly Fiorina holding an amputated pair of testicles (obviously, the image is slightly NSWF), went hard into the realm of the excessive and inappropriate.
It’s the over-the-top tweets that highlight the problems within the Republican Party.
As GOP media expert Rick Wilson explained last week in an article on The Daily Beast, Trump’s excess has begun hijacking the conservative movement by enthralling and exploiting the outrage of ill-informed conservatives, in much the same way that Obama captured and exploited the outrage of ill-informed liberals and millennials. The Troll Party, as Wilson calls it, ejects reason and principle in the name of personality.
It’s where Wilson highlights the online tactics of the Troll Party that his article becomes instructive for the #NoBallsTrump phenomenon:
The Troll Party substitutes rage on social media for the fundamentals. They believe likes, shares, and retweets substitute entirely for organizing, door-knocking, calling, quality candidates, and the real work of campaigns. They attack with volleys of hashtags like #cuckservative (seriously, don’t ask), #GOPe, and #GOPSmartset, and pro-Trump memes. Their digital torches and pitchforks have turned conservative Twitter into a daily Two Minutes Hate for their targets of the moment.
If the conservative movement is going to be able to rein in the Troll Party element keeping Trump afloat, it cannot itself rely on Troll Party tactics.
Satire is both funny and intelligent. Consider South Park’s recent Trump episode: it contained a lot of crass humor, but was highly calculated to make a political point. While funny and intelligent jokes can definitely be great online material (let’s face it, it’s Twitter for crying out loud), #NoBallsTrump isn’t really being used intelligently. At best, it’s a cheap and convenient tactic intended to emasculate.
It is critical that conservatives push back against Trump, but they have to do so by using intelligent satire, facts, and actual work. Retweeting #NoBallsTrump isn’t itself courageous or, for lack of a better term, “ballsy.” It’s exactly the kind of thing the Troll Partiers do in emulation of their glorious leader, and it drags good people down to a lower level.
Fight smarter, conservatives, not dumber.