This election won’t be a troll in the park for Donald Trump | editorials | Hindustan Times
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This election won’t be a troll in the park for Donald Trump

The Trump routine is part of what is a very social media mindset driven genre of outré-tainment. But such shtick grows old after the initial fervour. This election won’t be a troll in the park for him.

editorials Updated: Jul 25, 2015 09:01 IST

If 2012 was trumpeted as America’s first social media presidential election, this cycle of the quadrennial reality show now has a candidate who typifies its manufacturing of industrial-grade outrage: Donald Trump.

In effect, Trump has emerged as that beast that defines social media — the troll. In keeping with the tenor of our times, as evidenced by Twitter tantrums, The Donald not only rubbished an entire nation in Mexico while trashing illegal immigration, but also said this of sitting Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain: “He was a war hero because he was captured.”

The troll, as those familiar with the bhakt versus libtard viciousness will vouch, is various things to various people.

The dictionary meaning of the term is that of a cave-dwelling creature depicted as either a giant or a dwarf. That’s fitting, given the protests and praise Trump has attracted. In the latest polls, he has assumed a lead within the Republican field. He somewhat presciently told Fox News recently, “We’re a bunch of very very foolishly led people”.

In India, almost every decade there’s a debate over whether the presidential form of government is preferable to the parliamentary model in place.

While there is plenty of homespun hooey in our campaigns, it’s still not close to the descent into drivel that the current US race is exhibiting, mainly because the fringe gets the benefit of media play being a potential nominee of a national party. And that element also gets a place on the podium during primary debates.

This is trolling gone mainstream where anonymous handles can’t just be muted. Of course, the interwebs haven’t ever met a meta meme that it can resist, as evidenced by Time’s online Donald Trump Insult Generator.

Trolling, the dictionary will also tell you, means using a lure or bait for fishing. Trump’s fishing expedition has worked famously.

In his best-selling 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, he wrote, “The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.” That, certainly, has helped the US presidential election cycle degenerate into a sort of beauty contest, not unlike the Miss America pageant that was till recently part of the Trump portfolio.

Trump, though, is obviously not vying for Miss Congeniality.

It helps that he has name recognition from his real estate empire, his famous comb-over and the hit network television reality show The Apprentice. He’s also lucky that his paternal grandfather chose to change the family name from Drumpf.

Otherwise, those developments across New York City, several cities across the world and even Pune and Mumbai, and now in politics, may not have sounded quite as brand perfect as Trump.

In keeping with the pattern of segueing into the online world of self-promotion amid provocation, Trump isn’t quite known for a blaze of modesty.

His official bio on the Trump Organization’s website contains over 4,000 words, including this achievement: “In 2012, Mr Trump partnered with Parlux to launch his fragrance Success by Trump. Because of its success, his second fragrance Empire was launched in 2015.” That, of course, is not his only launch this year that smells.

For his current avatar as a fire-breathing conservative who makes the Tea Party seem lukewarm, Trump has an interesting history.

A former Democrat, he has donated liberally in the past to that party’s candidates for Congress and, over a dozen times to its putative presidential nominee for 2016, Hillary Clinton. When Trump married Melanie Knauss, wife number three, in 2005, Hillary was front-and-centre at the chapel in Palm Beach, Florida. Bill showed up for the reception.

Once upon a time, we had the term infotainment. The Trump routine is part of what is a very social media mindset driven genre of outré-tainment. But such shtick grows old after the initial fervour. This election won’t be a troll in the park for him.

Ultimately, you have to wonder if Trump isn’t trolling just the Republican Party but also the American presidential election system itself.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs. The views expressed by the author are personal.