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It was hard to ignore #ReleaseTheMemo. But perhaps that is exactly what was intended.
While Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee recently released their rebuttal to the controversial FISA memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), it’s clear that it did not get as much fervent attention as its right-wing counterpart. There were no trending hashtags, no weeks-long speculation over its contents, or echo-chamber reinforcing tweetstorms. In fact, it seemed like President Donald Trump‘s tweets about the Democrats memo got more attention than the memo itself.
Using data provided by social media analytics firm SocialRank, the Daily Dot was able piece together just how far and feverishly conservative #ReleaseTheMemo spread across Twitter and dwarfed the buzz of the Democrats’ rebuttal. The data shows that despite the criticism of Nunes’ memo being short on evidence, it did create an intense hype-filled hashtag that roped in some of the biggest names of right-wing Twitter.
And it sucked the oxygen out of anything Democrats could proffer in return.
#ReleaseTheMemo was shared by nearly 158,000 people in mid-February according to SocialRank’s data. Additionally, more than 60 percent of people sharing the hashtag identified as men. The movement was amplified by 863 “verified” Twitter handles who shared the hashtag in mid-February, according to the data.
Two hashtags that cropped up after the Democrats released their rebuttal to the Nunes memo–#SchiffMemo and #DemocratMemo–had only 2,600 people sharing the hashtags combined, a far cry from the 158,000 people chattering about #ReleaseTheMemo.
Perhaps not shockingly, accounts using the conservative hashtag appeared to be big supporters of Trump–with words such as “MAGA,” “Trump,” “God,” “American” and the American flag emoji being the most popular words in the Twitter bios of those who tweeted about #ReleaseTheMemo, the data shows. The users also shared other trending hashtags such as #MAGA, #SchumerShutdown, #FakeNews, and #DrainTheSwamp.
The memo was eventually released in February (despite objections from the FBI) alleging abuses by the FBI and Department of Justice in its attempts to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page. While some said the Nunes memo did not live up to the hype, and didn’t provide clear evidence of FISA abuse, it’s evident that Republicans were able to create a fervor about their memo from their most conspiracy-peddling parts of their base on social media.
The same can’t be said for Democrats.
But what’s most impressive is how quickly the hashtag permeated far-right Twitter after its inception.
Social Rank for Content’s data shows that some of the earliest tweets about Nunes’ memo were shared by popular conservative power Twitter users, pushing it through a conservative Twitter echo chamber.
On Jan. 18, Fox News contributor Sara Carter tweeted about a “bombshell” FISA memo that caught Twitter by storm, generating 2,200 replies, 14,000 retweets, and 21,000 likes and introducing the partisan document to the internet.
Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, the conservative organization Judicial Watch, Michael Flynn Jr., former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson and other right-wing accounts engaged and amplified Carter’s tweet.
#ReleaseTheMemo quickly became a popular hashtag among those who engaged with the tweet, according to SocialRank, developing in the comments immediately:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also tweeted about the memo several times on January 18th, calling its contents “jaw-dropping.”
The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice...There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy.https://t.co/CgC0qEqlSp— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 18, 2018
The facts contained in the Intelligence Committee's memo regarding the @FBI and @TheJusticeDept are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency. The House must make public the #FISAmemo immediately. https://t.co/CgC0qEqlSp— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 18, 2018
Gaetz’s first tweet about the Nunes memo gained quite a bit of attention.
“The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice…There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy,” Gaetz wrote.
Gorka, far-right media personality Mike Cernovich, and Flynn Jr. all engaged with the tweet, which garnered more than 11,000 retweets. In the comments, #ReleaseTheMemo also began to pop up as well.
Gaetz’s second tweet was retweeted more than 6,000 times. Conservative Twitter users like Gorka, Breitbart writer Kristina Wong, America First Media group founder Matt Couch, and others engaged with the tweet, according to SocialRank.
The day after Carter and Gaetz’s tweets, Donald Trump Jr. got on the trending hashtag, send out eight #ReleaseThe Memo tweets on Jan. 19 that garnered over 500,000 likes and retweets, driving it into the national discourse and keeping it there for two weeks the memo’s ultimate release.
The Democratic rebuttal—released nearly a month after conservatives were whipped up into a feverish pitch, and without the year-long belief of a government conspiracy percolating just below the surface of their ideology—never stood a chance on Twitter.
Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).