Social Advocacy and Politics: Are Hashtags Amusing Us to Death?
This has certainly been the most bizarre Presidential race in modern history.
From all of the pundits failed predictions of Donald Trump's demise in the primaries, to his bragging about his physical endowment during a Republican candidate debate, this campaign season has been crazy - and looking at the latest spate of hashtags, it's clear we have a long way to go before we hit rock-bottom.
This past week, we saw the explosion of a couple of pretty ridiculous hashtags:
These hashtags focus on some of the more outrageous aspects of Trump's campaign and do so with a great deal of humor and irony.
Playing off Trump's reality TV show The Apprentice, #FireTrumpIn4Words lit up Twitter with 69,000 tweets on its first day of use. It solicits haiku-esque 4-word things you would say to Donald Trump as you fire him.
The tweets range from quips about his legendary hair:
To his welcoming of disgraced pedophile, former Congressman Mark Foley, to his "vetted seat" behind his podium at a rally:
But the really crazy stuff has been about Katrina Pierson, the official spokeswoman of the Trump campaign (she self-identifies as a spokes "woman" in her Twitter bio).
After several instances of Pierson blaming Clinton and Obama for things they didn't do (like Captain Humayun Khan's death and starting the war with Afghanistan, both of which happened while George W. Bush was President), the #KatrinaPiersonHistory hashtag showcased some pretty hysterical tweets.
Obama called every innkeeper and told them not to rent to Mary and Joseph #KatrinaPiersonHistory- Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) August 13, 2016
President Obama not only, shot the Sheriff, he shot the deputy, too.#KatrinaPiersonHistory- Molly (@Plantflowes) August 13, 2016
That said, there are some more reasonable and legitimate hashtags circulating, such as #TrumpTaxReturns, which focuses on current news that is substantively relevant to the campaign.
In the wake of Hillary Clinton releasing her latest tax returns (she already released previous returns), calls for Trump to release his tax returns grew predictably louder.
Of course, even this serious hashtag wasn't immune to the silliness, as some people combined it with #KatrinaPiersonHistory:
Across the aisle, the hashtags being used to criticize Hillary Clinton are far from funny - though they are certainly silly.
Hashtag attacks on Clinton, which are less explosive but more steady in their use, often expose deep-seeded anger:
These hashtag shenanigans make for entertaining reading at times, and self-reinforcing reading at others, but they're also a sad indicator of the disappointing state of American elections and the American obsession with fluff (not the yummy marshmallow stuff I used to eat on my peanut butter sandwiches, but the excessively silly and shallow considerations of the American electorate).
Fortunately, serious issue hashtags still aggregate large national conversations. For all the silly campaign hashtags mentioned above, we're still seeing a great deal of activity on #ClimateChange, #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter, to name a few.
On the other hand, hashtags like #RIPMileyCyrus still dwarf politics and issues all the time, so maybe we're all terminally silly and my dream for more substance in our national conversation is a hopeless pipe dream. You may say that I'm a dreamer, but (I hope) I'm not the only one.
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