They’re damn well going to try.
Donald Trump is incredibly popular on the social platforms, both of which are notorious for their juvenile pranks and subversive humor. It was 4chan, for example, that rigged Time’s Person of the Year poll to feature Kim Jong-un in 2012.
Now Trump’s supporters there are rapidly organizing around tabloid reports that say Ted Cruz is a serial cheater. The goal is to dominate social media, push the news onto mainstream media, crush Cruz’s Christian conservative image, and ultimately end his challenge to Trump’s presidential run.
The new rumors come just days after Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife.
Late Wednesday night, supermarket tabloid National Enquirer published a story titled SHOCKING CLAIMS: Pervy Ted Cruz Caught Cheating — With 5 Secret Mistresses! The short article cited a “Washington insider” who claimed “private detectives are digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had.” The Enquirer reported that “Cruz’s claimed mistresses include a foxy political consultant and a high-placed D.C. attorney!”
Fox News contributor, Trump supporter, and Clueless actress Stacey Dash jumped on the article.
She personally dislikes the Enquirer, she explained, and it’s gotten stories utterly wrong in the past. But it did break affair news about John Edwards in 2008 and Gary Hart in 1988. That’s two presidential campaigns ended in 30 years, thanks to Enquirer reports.
“With the race coming down to two viable candidates, the GOP needs to know — Is Ted Cruz hiding five mistresses that Hillary could use against us in the general election?” Dash asked. “Let’s get to the bottom of this.”
Cue 4chan and Reddit.
It’s easy to laugh off or dismiss the political power of either of these two sites. Those who do, however, miss how influential and well-organized they can be. 4chan and Reddit regularly create popular Internet memes and influence American media. The sites can’t alter a presidential race on their own, but they offer a powerful amplifier to any idea they take a liking to.
Organizers are pushing a hashtag (#CruzSexScandal) and teaching Trump supporters how to push the tabloid story to local media. One other option for clever hashtags was #TedScruz.
“We need this to go viral,” one 4chan user wrote. “Send this to as many news sites as possible, even news sites that aren’t that big or credible.”
The hashtag was trending nationally on Twitter with over 40,000 posts just after midnight Friday morning.
Next, 4chan looked inside the latest issue of National Enquirer and tried to identify the women.
The guesses included a Donald Trump spokeswoman (Katrina Pierson) and a pro-Trump Fox News anchor (Andreas Tantaroa) because the National Enquirer very likely used their slightly blurred photos inside the magazine.
Reddit’s Trump supporters on r/The_Donald, always happy to follow in the wake of 4chan, pushed the scandal to Reddit’s popular front page and thought out loud about how to “spin” the report to claim that Cruz is a “predator” “just like Bill Clinton.”
Among the tens of thousands of Trump supporters who jumped on the #CruzSexScandal early, there’s been virtually no talk about the truthfulness of the report. That’s because the truth of the affair doesn’t matter much.
“If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Comeback.
But Trump supporters are not worried about his past.
The truth of the Cruz affair reports has nothing to do with the Internet crusade currently ramping up against him. Instead, it’s a smart, calculated attempt to sweep the rug out from under a candidate who cites his religious Christian bonafides almost every time he speaks.
“It is exactly right that in terms of who I am, I am a Christian first,” Cruz said earlier this year. “I am an American second. I’m a conservative third. And I’m a Republican fourth. And I’ll tell ya, there are a lot of Americans who feel the same way.”
By early Friday morning, the 4chan and Reddit offensive spread to the wider right-wing base of Trump. Expect mainstream media to report on the rumors soon. If and when they do, you might hear a round of cheers go up from 4chan and Reddit’s increasingly energized Trump corps, even if the mainstream media is quiet about just how the scandal became so big so fast.
Update 2:13pm CT, March 25: Cruz has responded to the rumors in a Facebook post, blaming Trump and “his friends at the National Enquirer and his political henchmen” for the “garbage” attacks:
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)