Why not try this at home?

AP reported this yesterday:

Did teens, TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music troll the president of the United States?

For more than a week before Donald Trump’s first campaign rally in three months on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, these tech-savvy groups opposing the president mobilized to reserve tickets for an event they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to Saturday’s disappointing show.

If those kids had actually caused the low attendance (only about 1/3 of the seats were occupied), they would have done a service to those who failed to get a seat – by keeping them out of a coronavirus super-spreader event. A service to them, to their families, their loved ones, their colleagues and other contacts. But causality is always tricky: perhaps their role was minuscule after all. Regardless, it’s hardly a victory for Trump: either he got played by a bunch of kids or his fans didn’t turn out en masse.

I’m more interested in the social mechanics of this stunt. Back to the AP report:

Social media users who have followed recent events might not be surprised by the way young people (and some older folks) mobilized to troll the president. They did it not just on TikTok but also on Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook. K-Pop fans — who have a massive, coordinated online community and a cutting sense of humor — have become an unexpected ally to American Black Lives Matter protesters.

In recent weeks, they’ve been repurposing their usual platforms and hashtags from boosting their favorite stars to backing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Why isn’t it happening elsewhere? K-Pop is a big thing in Russia, as far as I know, and so is TikTok, increasingly. Independent opinion polls suggest an avalanche of disappointment in Putin’s policies, in particular his handling of the Covid-19 crisis, his necrophiliac WWII worship, and his anti-constitutional referendum. Russia’s urban young have little sympathy for the ugly old man in the Kremlin. Perhaps they aren’t politicized enough?

Has the Russian opposition learned anything from Trump’s 2016 victory, made possible by his penetration of the social networks? Switching to a paranoid mode of reasoning, what if savvy online operators in the Kremlin’s pay both propelled Trump’s campaign in 2016 and fueled the George Floyd protests in 2020? It would conveniently explain why the Russian opposition hasn’t advanced as far on Russian social networks as it should have – every time it starts making gains, it runs into a smartly managed counter-operation and loses momentum, assaulted by noisome trolls and nasty cyber-provocateurs.

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