The president held a social media summit to feed his trolls.
In full re-election mode, Trump decried supposed shadow- and actual outright bans from the tech giants he didn’t invite to the event, nodding at reality as he steamrolled through it: “In all fairness, some of you I can almost understand. I mean, some of you guys are out there. But even you should have a voice.” He added, “I mean, it’s genius, but it’s bad.”
It was a who’s who of conspiracy theorists and grifters Thursday at the White House, along with the president’s large adult son at his summit for conservatives like him, who have supposedly been mistreated by social media. No one in the crowd had actually been deplatformed (Laura Loomer and Alex Jones were not invited), perhaps because without those platforms they wouldn’t be useful for the president’s 2020 push.
Today, Trump opened the White House to the trolls, in the hopes they can help him win four more years there. The crowd included some of the most problematic figures on the internet like Ali Alexander (the guy who started a birther-like smear campaign about Kamala Harris), famous plagiarist Benny Johnson, famous snowflake Charlie Kirk, famous enormous-headed Skyper Bill Mitchell (who also dabbles in QAnon) and not-very-bright Jim Hoft.
At one point, Trump asked Scientologist Joy Villa to stand up. "Stand up. I like your dresses. Saw you the other day. You looked fantastic,” he said, as he complained about his follower count: “up, down, up, down.”
“There's no doubt in my mind that I should have millions and millions—I have millions of people, so many people I wouldn't believe it, but I know that we’ve been blocked, People come up to me and they say, ‘Sir, I can’t get you. I can't follow you.’”
He boasted and whined in the same breath, about what a winner he was and how unfair things were for him: “Remember, we won. We have a bigger voice than anybody but we don’t get covered fairly.”
He found the real crime: “That’s the collusion—it’s collusion between the democrats and the media and social media and these platforms. It’s a disgraceful thing.”
And he complained about Democrats, Joe Biden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elizabeth Warren, basically reeling off his greatest hits before finally taking a question from “journalist” and former White House aide “Doctor” Sebastian Gorka.
The assembled trolls may not be winning any Pulitzers but they are Trump’s people, the people who speak to his base, the people who amplify his message no matter how crazy, and the president wanted to reward them for the support. At one point, Charlie Kirk said, straight-faced, “This is the most powerful room of influencers I've ever seen.”
Later, a lawyer named Harmeet Dhillon got up and floated the no-puppet idea that the tech giants are why Democrats retook the House in 2018: “I’m very concerned that they affect the outcome of the 2018 election.”
Through it all, Trump made clear that he would game the referees, to be sure they don’t even try and fix the mistakes they made in 2016 and beyond, and to make clear he’ll hurt them if they don’t make space for these bad people. He circled back, again and again, to how this wasn’t about “us”—meaning the conservatives he said were being “discriminated” against—but about fair rules for everyone and American values.
Nice internet you got there; be a shame if anything happened to it, Trump said, as 2020 shapes up to be a complete and total hellscape.