The Trump Effect: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Racist Right's Internet Rhetoric
Brett A. Barnett
Slippery Rock University, US
Dr. Brett A. Barnett is Professor of Communication at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Untangling the Web of Hate: Are Online 'Hate Sites' Deserving of First Amendment Protection (Youngstown, NY: Cambria Press, 2007).
The divisiveness witnessed during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, a nationwide discord on a scale not witnessed since the tumultuous Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace campaign of 1968, has necessitated an examination of hate within the United States. Characterized by rhetoric of nationalism and isolationism reminiscent of ideologies espoused by white nationalists, Trump’s campaign energized the American racist right. Indeed, the most prominent US-based white supremacist websites, the neo-Nazi Stormfront and The Daily Stormer, launched extensive online campaigns supporting Trump’s presidential bid, and both sites experienced dramatic increases in traffic. This essay examines some of the divisive rhetoric Trump employed during his presidential campaign and the various ways in which that rhetoric appears to have resonated with US-based white supremacists. Examining white supremacists’ Internet rhetoric enables persons to be alerted to the possibility of white supremacist advocacy or activity and to better understand how white supremacists attempt to form, or become a part of, a community of like-minded persons. While several acts of murderous violence in the United States have been associated with white supremacist content appearing online, examinations of US-based white supremacists’ Internet rhetoric may assist individuals, including law enforcement and homeland security professionals, in guarding against similar violence in the future.
Keywords: Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign, Stormfront, The Daily Stormer, white supremacists