Inside #Cult45 is an ongoing contributor project and as such will be presented as a series, updated with new chapters as the project progresses. This post will include the fifth and sixth chapters, Meet the Tribe and A Line of Questioning. Any specific identifying information to the contributor has been altered to protect the privacy of the author and the subjects.
Meet the Tribe
Human beings are social creatures. And as social creatures we seek company often with those similar to us in interests, opinions and physical traits. We are tribal. With the MAGA subculture this was no different. The first things I noticed was their profiles and their methods of indicating their tribe. They were all eerily similar, to the extent that they seemed mass manufactured. (Which is entirely possible due to the foreign bot and troll infestation on Twitter) The hashtags were all the same, profile and background pictures all the same themes, American flags, pictures of Trump, gun porn, anti-lib memes, the bald eagle, and other symbols of patriotism. Patriotic symbol worship on a grand scale. A myriad of ways to identify yourself as a MAGA Patriot. Again, similar to the left with their Twitter blue wave and rainbow flag emojis. The two factions, the Patriots vs the Resistance. Christianity and god was an extremely commonplace theme as well with their own slogans. Every other follower was a god-fearing American Patriot.
When there were actual photos of people, ones that appeared to be legitimate, actual people, they were 99% of the time white. I found very little African Americans, very few hispanics and not many other ethnicities. This differed little from the real world. This was in stark contrast to the liberal Resistance circles on Twitter that I frequent where there are any number of ethnic groups, genders, gender identities and sexual orientations. The left has always been known for it’s embracing of diversity. This subculture by comparison seemed very homogeneous.
A Line of Questioning
As I built up my following, I was starting to devise a line of Tweeting to hopefully reveal some insights into people via their replies. This had to be done carefully, worded just right, to elicit answers without tipping people off. I didn’t want to out myself as a lefty. On my first day, I posed this question. “Ok. Serious question here. Do you have family or friends that are liberals, and how do you deal with em? I can’t stand when POTUS is ridiculed. I mean, Christ people, have some respect! How do you all deal with it?” Due to the viral, transient, rapid nature of Twitter, however, tweets often get swallowed up in the ether. Which happened to this particular Tweet. It gained zero attention. I would need more followers to get a sampling of opinions on questions like this. Perhaps thousands of them.
I read up on studies on how framing “controversial” liberal political topics changed the responses of the people identifying as conservative. In Twitter, this would be used to avoid to avoid the shutdown reflex that is common with those who ascribe to far right ideology. Often these topics turn into arguments due to perceived contrary viewpoints. However, I do believe when you actually pose these questions in a way that the social group can ascribe to their own beliefs, you can find similarities in the opinions and answers. This is anecdotal evidence that I have noticed in my own life when dealing with coworkers, family and friends.
For example, one study that I read, had very helpful insights into framing. In this study by Stanford University department of sociology sociologists Jan G. Voelkel and Rob Willer, their Abstract reads as follows:
“While polls show progressive economic policies are popular, progressive candidates typically lose elections in the U.S. One explanation for this progressive paradox is that the opponents of progressive candidates often win through “symbolic politics,” successfully harnessing values and ideologies that receive broad support from the general public. Here we explore one solution to the progressive paradox, testing whether progressive candidates achieve greater support by framing their policy platforms in terms of values and ideologies that resonate beyond the progressive base. We tested this claim in two experiments (total N=4,138), including one pre- registered experiment conducted on a nationally representative sample. We found that a presidential candidate who framed his progressive economic platform to be consistent with more conservative value concerns like patriotism, family, and respect for tradition – as opposed to more liberal value concerns like equality and social justice – was supported significantly more by conservatives and, unexpectedly, by moderates as well. These effects were mediated by perceived value similarity with the candidate. Furthermore, a manipulation of how progressive the candidate’s platform was had weak and inconsistent effects, and did not interact with the framing of the platform. These findings indicate that in our experiments framing mattered more than policy, suggesting that moral reframing could be an effective alternative to policy centrism for candidates seeking broader support. Our results illustrate the important effects of value framing of economic policy, offering a solution to the longstanding puzzle regarding the gap between progressive policy and candidate support.”
Now. Like I said, I’m not an academic. But perhaps something similar could be attempted to accomplish finding some answers. Tweets meant to elicit responses with discussions of news topics would be used. Polls with carefully crafted options would be another tool. Again, unscientific due to the nature of the testing group, but it would have to do.
These methods would be deployed as soon as I was more assimilated into the group, and had gained more trust as a member. I had only been in for three days and I didn’t want to risk the project by starting the “fact” finding too quickly. I was there to socialize and join in the MAGA party of #Cult45.