Tactical innovation, COVID, K-Pop, and cars.

I learned of the Tik-Tok K-Pop Trump ticket troll from my teen Trump rally attendees wait for the President to arrive at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20, 2020. | Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos for TIMEdaughter, when the large crowds the Trump campaign didn’t quite turn up in Tulsa. She told me that many of her friends, high school students in Southern California, had requested tickets–even though they didn’t support Trump and had no way of getting to Tulsa.

Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, had been bragging that more than one million people had requested tickets for the event, and Trump himself always bragged about the crowds. There was no way that they could all be accommodated, of course, but Parscale was pleased to announce that he was harvesting data. Tickets would be first-come, first-serve, with arena seating; the campaign planned an overflow outside the BOK arena, which could hold somewhere near 20,000 people.

Although die-hards had started lining up outside the arena days in advance, giving interviews testifying to their commitment, plus an obliviousness to the ongoing global pandemic (>120,000 deaths in America at this writing), there was no overflow event because there was no overflow. Fire officials estimated the arena was a little under 1/3 full. Enough space to socially distance, but the pictures look like everyone was trying to get up close.

Too bad.

There was no way the teen trolls could have cut into the turnout–the campaign kept announcing a welcome until the rally started, and took requests up until the last minute. But they surely could have tricked Trump’s staff into massively inflating expectations for everyone–especially Trump’s.

That was the plan. Media accounts credit K-Pop and Tik-Tok fans, but Demonstrators march near the BOK Center where President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday, June 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)my daughter says she saw the action on Instagram. The point is that it was a low-cost, low-risk effort by (mostly) young people to dip into a political protest. They trolled Trump, got into the news, and occasioned the chance for all of us to talk about Trump’s very weak support among young people, underscored by the demonstrators outside in Tulsa. Anyway, the kids got to laugh or smirk or smile knowingly.

They had to give some contact information to the Trump campaign, which may mean some annoying email appeals. It’s pretty unlikely that they’ll offer much in the way of campaign contributions.

The ticket trolling requests represent a tactical innovation, one of many responses to the challenges of the #coronacrisis. Quarantines and caution have imposed new strictures on political protesters. Initially, I thought most activism would move online, and organizers would struggle to find ways to get attention and exercise influence.

Early on, we saw driving protests by immigrant rights activists, and then by the open-up protesters. But people were quick to get out of their cars and assemble at State Houses–and elsewhere, deploying familiar forms of demonstrations, sometimes armed, sometimes costumed.

The racial justice protests were larger and more extensive, and it looks like a greater share of the protesters wore masks. But large assemblies, even outdoors, represent risk in the pandemic, and organizers will keep trying to find new ways to protest and build a future.

Less amusing is a smaller contagion of car attacks launched by right-wing extremists on protesting crowds. You’ll remember that in Charlottesville, a frustrated white nationalist demonstrator drove his car into a crowd, killing a young woman, Heather Heyer.

It doesn’t take a lot of organization or coordination, and it seems to be spreading. There have been at least 50 vehicle ramming incidents at demonstrations in the past couple of months, more than a third linked to deliberate right-wing efforts, with another two dozen under active police investigation. Unlike the teen ticket trolls, this is criminal and punishable.

In America, people will find a way to protest, even in pandemic, and there will be more coming.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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2 Responses to Tactical innovation, COVID, K-Pop, and cars.

  1. James G Doyle says:

    Hi David- I enjoyed the article, thanks. I always do! I think the kids managed to artificially lift expectations to a campaign that’s groping for good news and a president who feeds on adulation as a succubus feeds on souls. Parscale needed to deliver, lowered his guard/standards to go ‘all in’ because he *needed* it to be true. Trump needed howling crowds full of hate and fear. The rest do whatever Trump says, as if “Just following orders” works to absolve responsibility for humanitarian crises. Ugh.

    I find myself harkening back to your book “The Resistors” when I read your pieces. While reading the book, I started highlighting parts that got me thinking about things I’d ask in order to dive deeper into if I were a journalist…interest points, I guess. I had feelings while reading it, and I have to ask about it.

    By the end, the highlighting had gotten more frequent and at some point, it became clear there was a thing threading through the highlighted portions…my thinking “But Trump’s supporters were lying and/or making that part/thing/problem up,” and it felt unfair to not note that in the text, just to present things without comment as if they were ‘givens’ and/or equal throughout the book. I imagine it’s tough to write neutrally and objectively as science prescribes while addressing…this…but they are radically unequal.

    It felt like there was a balance…a back and forth…between the Resistance and Trump’s Republican Brand as if there was ‘a balance’ between the two…one side, representing 25% of Americans, using lies and propaganda to collectively disinform the public, the other representing 75% working to resist same with information, facts, and science.

    I remember saying “But *they* were LYING about that!” over and over again in my head as I read. I’m interested in why that stuck in my craw so much…and whether it’s easy or tough to write about this in that way?

    I enjoyed the book, it made me think a lot. It’s been quite a while since I read it and it comes up in my brain now and again!


    Jim Doyle

    • Thanks for those thoughtful comments, Jim. Particularly, I appreciate your thoughts about standing up for fact. In that light, I must confess that I didn’t write “the resisters.” sigh.

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