The blue bar appears on my phone. It’s a twitter alert. I quickly press the little blue bird icon. The bird icon opens and I’m delighted to see that 26 seconds ago, an epic rant in 140 characters was posted by Donald Trump. It features his usual misspelling and grammatical inconsistencies. My blood runs cold through my veins. I feel the rush of a heroin addict about to cop. I search through my catalog of photos and memes, some from Occupy Democrats, a group I would have crossed the street to avoid 11 months ago. We are now comrades in arms. A lot can change in 11 months.
There is something truly delicious about trolling the world’s biggest internet troll. Something intensely gratifying about degrading him the way he has degraded everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Jeb Bush and Megyn Kelly. It’s rare in life to have a justified resentment, and rarer still to be able to hit someone back in the way he has hit half the known world. Trump became a political figure by trolling Obama with baseless claims about Obama’s birthplace. In fact, so much of his twisted rhetoric is on Twitter, you can find tweets directly contradicting things that he currently does. Like his famous 2013 tweet that proclaimed, “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!”
I never thought of myself as a particularly political person. I was a distracted Democrat. I voted for Democratic presidential candidates but I’ve also fought with many local Democrats, including one mayor with whom I went to war about his inability to plow the snow on the streets of my neighborhood. I wasn’t a passionate Democrat. In fact, I sort of thought of myself as a secret Republican. I wouldn’t have ever voted for a Mitt Romney, but as someone married to a venture capitalist, the idea of having a private equity guy in the White House secretly excited me. I didn’t vote for Mitt, but I could have.
That all changed in July when the Mango Mussolini rose from a pile of too many Republican nominees. I would have stayed quiet for a John Kasich, a Jeb Bush, even a Marco Rubio. But this was too much for me to bear. I could not stay silent. I could not watch a nationalist run for the highest office in the land. As a Jew, I knew that the people with the swastikas are not our friends. Even if right now they were focused on tormenting some other ethnic group, sooner or later they would turn to us.
But what was there for me to do? I have no great insights into policy or lawmaking. I'm hardly a political activist. I write novels no one reads. I have children. I’m far from particularly relevant to today’s political discourse. What was there for me, a modern-day Erma Bombeck (but not as cute), to do?
And then it occurred to me, I do love looking at my phone. I love checking my email (though I don’t love answering it). I love checking social media (for what, I’m not entirely sure).
That’s when it started, the checking. As a child I had suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is excellent for Trump trolling. I noticed if one were to respond to one of Donald Trump’s tweets with a meme of the Prima Donald superimposed on a prison, it got his basket of deplorables really really really upset. And since everyone else was posting their white nationalist propaganda at Hillary Clinton’s thoughtful well-researched posts, then why couldn’t I fight the Trumpers in man-to-bot combat on the last great battlefield, the internet?
It wasn’t marching with Martin Luther King in Selma but it was something. And there is honor among trolls: @tonyposnanski has stood up for me as we have side by side (and often simultaneously) posted endless photos of a topless Trump and Putin riding bareback on a horse. @cernovich called me proof that the resistance is mentally unhealthy and @jenh58 jumped to my defense. @teapainusa has more than once defended my digital honor.
My best tweets have involved an excellent Trumpian graphic and a pithy comment but the timing is always the most important element. Twitter is like screaming at someone on the subway: With two people involved, it’s a fight; one person involved and you’re mentally ill.
Alt-right trolls with a lot of time on their hands have made memes of me. Once someone put a Hitler mustache on an old book jacket photo of me. But since I grew up with a mother who had been called “a mammoth pudenda” by a critic, that kind of stuff doesn’t really bother me, though I disabled the messaging function after I got a few photos of guns and messages that started, “hey bitch.”
But do we really matter? We are after all just tiny voices in a world filled with #MAGA and hate, in a land populated by red hats and Richard Spencer wannabes and bots. In this post-truth world, it felt invigorating to be able to say the truth, even if not all that many people were listening.
The trolling eventually led me to more action. It spurred me to go canvass for Hillary in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I saw a lot of things that we did wrong. This pushed me to join a group called the Arena Summit, which holds boot camps every few months to train young progressives who want to run for office. We help nurture these young Democrats by connecting them with people who help them do everything from shaping their narratives to raising money. It’s a productive way to combat the alt-right, but my first love will always be internet trolling.
We Trump trolls are a tightly bonded group. Together we fight nationalists, religious zealots, and Russian teenagers being paid $5 an hour to type misworded posts about their love of the Second Amendment (concerning a well-regulated militia). There is honor among us: We like each other’s memes and we follow one another. Is it meaningless? Are we the children whistling in the dark to keep ourselves from being afraid. Perhaps. But maybe not. Maybe we are influencing the culture, turning the tide, fighting fire with fire. Maybe we are just what the internet needs to counter the Infowars and the Prison Planets of the world. And if nothing else, when my children ask me why I did nothing to try to stop Trump, I can tell them that while I was waiting for them at basketball practice, Mama was a Trump troll.