reddit
March 23, 2017

Reddit is the the fifth-most-popular website in the United States, and it is organized into subreddits, single-topic communities where like-minded users can gather by the thousands or even millions to discuss their shared interests, from news to DIY projects to grilled cheese. Among these groups is a subreddit called r/The_Donald, a 380,000-member community devoted to adoring all things Trump.

As FiveThirtyEight chronicles in a new profile of the group, r/The_Donald calls President Trump its "God Emperor," "daddy," and, naturally, "Big Daddy God Emperor." This is arguably the epicenter of the president's most enthusiastic online supporters:

Its membership has grown steadily since the 2016 presidential election, though its members were especially active during the campaign. They mobilized to comb through the hacked Democratic National Committee emails published on WikiLeaks and played a large role in spreading information and theories about those emails. More broadly, they waged the "Great Meme War": an effort to get Trump elected by bombarding the internet with social-media-ready content promoting Trump or bashing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Some of those memes played on Clinton's campaign gaffes, such as her use of the phrase "basket of deplorables," while others involved an emerging pro-Trump iconography centered around images of Pepe the Frog — a cartoon character with a convoluted history that gained especial prominence after it was co-opted by white nationalists as a sort of unofficial mascot. [FiveThirtyEight]

The Trump campaign was aware of r/The_Donald, with staffers using it as a sort of digital focus group to keep an eye on messages that resonated among Trump fans. In July of 2016, the campaign organized within the subreddit an "Ask Me Anything" event — a Reddit tradition where famous or otherwise interesting people take questions from users for a set period of time — with then-candidate Trump. The subreddit was delighted, and more than 21,000 comments poured into that single discussion thread.

Of course, this group inevitably represents just a tiny fraction of the president's supporters, but FiveThirtyEight's analysis, which focuses on where r/The_Donald fits in Reddit's larger web of communities of widely varying quality and ethics, is intriguing context for our present political moment nonetheless. Read the full profile here. Bonnie Kristian

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