Well, the bigoted bloke from The Apprentice has been elected leader of the free world, and everybody’s throwing in their tuppence. I seriously doubt that anybody will be turning to me for astute political analysis, so I will jot down my gut reactions.
Firstly, I see a lot of my friends in the US – people who belong to minority groups, be they racial, sexual or health-related – are terrified, not so much of Trump himself but of the electorate that voted him into power. They are terrified, and it is heartbreaking. Never before have I seen so many people who I know personally and care about be so afraid of what the future holds for them. (I should clarify that, during 9/11, my friends were teenagers on video game forums whose anxieties tended to manifest in less direct forms).
As I typed the above paragraph, I let out a sigh at the realisation that somebody, somewhere, would describe it as “virtue signalling”. This, like “concern trolling”, is a phrase that may once have meant something specific, but is now used as a lazy way of dismissing someone’s opinion as insincere and consequently unworthy of consideration. The Internet, which has done so much to facilitate conversation, has also inspired an impressive range of ways for conversation to be killed stone dead.
Internet analogies have been occurring to me all through the election. After all, I am one of the despised Millennials, and the lion’s share of my adolescent socialisation occurred in the web. Most of the forums I visited had at least one class clown – “troll” is the term that comes immediately to mind, although it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient – who delighted in contrariness and wacky antics. Over time, as the regular member bases moved on, the forums would atrophy; all that was left would be the clowns, dancing on the wreckage of what was once a community, hurling abuse at anyone who came their way, yet supported by people who felt that the communities had become too boring. I seriously doubt that I’m the first to make this comparison, but I suspect that – had Trump been 55 years younger – he would be one of those forum clowns.