If you count yourself among the ranks of the Terminally Online, you may have seen a hashtag called “#NoMenMidterms” making the rounds over the past week or so. #NoMenMidterms is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a call for men or anyone who identifies as male to not vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Or, as a number of memes bearing the hashtag put it: “Sit this one out.”
Historically speaking, the Republican Party’s position on women’s rights ranges anywhere from indifference to complete disregard. As such, the strategy of achieving female empowerment by providing the GOP a clear path to victory in the midterms would seem a tad ill-advised. And with so much riding on the outcome of the 2018 midterms, who in the world would think forfeiting the elections to strike a blow against The Patriarchy™ is a good idea? More to the point, how does encouraging women to vote for a slate of largely-male candidates even achieve that goal?
To normal people, this suggestion is incomprehensible. But to the aggrieved trolls of 4chan’s /pol/, it’s the perfect ruse to prevent Democrats from regaining control of the House and Senate.
A Google search of “NoMenMidterms” yields relatively few (for Google) results, but what does show up is telling. The first mention of it occurred on July 17th /pol/, when a user posted a blank meme template and urged others to “Create these and spread them over Twitter under the tag #NoMenMidTerms.” The plan soon migrated to Reddit, finding a home at r/The_Donald, Reddit’s one-stop shop for racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.
A Twitter account called @NMidterms, was also recently created, seemingly for the purpose of propagating use of #NoMenMidterms. The account’s bio identifies the user as a “Proud Latinx de Mexico” and uses the hashtags #Democrats, #NoMenMidterms and #DemocraticSocialism. That someone would identify with both the Democrats and the DSA, given the latter’s unbridled disdain for the former is curious; even more eyebrow-raising, however, are the accounts with whom @NMidterms interacts.
The most recent activity on the @NMidterms page is a retweet of a user called @AntifaBranson:
The @AntifaBranson account was created in 2009, and until late last month, most of the account’s tweets were bog-standard conservative “humor”:
A day after /pol/ unveiled its grand plan, however, the tone shifted from thinly-veiled mockery to earnest cosplaying as a leftist. But, because the folks on r/The_Donald and /pol/ would rather spend their time constructing the perfect leftist straw man than actually trying to understand leftists, the result is a mishmash of incompatible ideologies. For example, it is highly unlikely that a self-proclaimed member of Antifa would list “#TheResistance” in their bio, considering Antifa hold just as much disdain for establishment/centrist Democrats as they do for Republicans.
Meanwhile, on @NMidterms’ page, the account’s tweets have garnered likes from people who don’t normally support progressive or leftist politics: there’s a flat-earth truther, multiple accounts railing against George Soros and the Deep State, the aforementioned @AntifaBranson, and at least one account with a Kekistan avatar. (Kekistan is the fictional country adopted by alt-right trolls.)
On its face, the plan and its execution leave something to be desired; anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the difference between, say, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton would be able to sniff out a fraud. But /pol/ isn’t trying to pass the smell test with leftists. Instead, they’re banking on the inevitability of Poe’s Law: the idea that unless satire is explicitly labeled as such, there will always be those who believe it to be true.
The larger question is, what is the point of this? The answer varies from person to person. For some, the purpose is political: they despise the left and want progressive policies to fail. If those policies fail because Democrats can’t retake Congress, great; if they fail because the general public believes that supporting Democratic candidates is a losing proposition, so much the better. For others, the politics of it all are beside the point; they merely want to stir up some shit and make people angry. The act of trolling is its own justification.
Thus far, the #NoMenMidterms hashtag hasn’t taken off, and analytics show its use has declined since the initial spike. Considering that r/The_Donald and /pol/ are pushing this strategy, it’s possible that the hashtag will see a resurgence will in the near future. And, as more than one 4chan poster pointed out, the hashtag could theoretically catch on with an unlikely crowd: #Resistance Twitter.
So named for their unyielding commitment to “resisting” Donald Trump’s policies, #Resistance Twitter is in the business of pretending that every problem in America magically appeared on January 20, 2017. Of course, these problems have existed for decades — the only difference is under Trump, it’s a lot more difficult to ignore them. Members of #Resistance Twitter firmly believe that the investigative work of lunatics like Eric Garland and Louise Mensch will be the undoing of the Trump administration. They’re the kind of people who believe Robert Mueller will fix everything, instead of acknowledging that American political discourse has become at once frighteningly toxic and profoundly stupid. They say things like “At least George W. Bush was a good man!” They teared up when Kate McKinnon dressed up as Hillary Clinton and sang “Hallelujah” on SNL.
These people, more than any other group, are the most likely to fall for 4chan’s ruse. #Resistance Twitter is bursting at the seams with people who attended the Women’s March (or totally would have, but traffic was just TERRIBLE) and spent the whole time taking Instagram shots to demonstrate off their nascent — and trendy — political awareness. These people can afford to act in half-measures because their economic and/or racial status inoculates them against the Trump administration’s most harmful policies. They’re insulated enough from reality that an expression of performative wokeness is worth two more years of a GOP-led Congress.
Even if it doesn’t catch on with the #StillWithHer set, the idea is just clever enough to trick the dumbest — and loudest — among us. Once that happens, it will become one of those pernicious myths that bounces around the internet. Conservatives will dredge it up whenever they need evidence of PC culture run amok or of liberalism as a mental disorder. Nobody on the right will bother to investigate the origin of the hashtag; why spoil a perfectly good talking point?
If this one doesn’t stick, they’ll just keep trying until they find one that does, because ultimately, the goal isn’t to actually convince left-leaning male voters to stay home. The goal is to sow confusion, to stoke anti-progressive sentiment, and to paint anyone left of Newt Gingrich as a hyper-PC reactionary. For the apolitical members of /pol/ (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one), pissing people off is reward enough.
The lesson, as always: don’t feed the trolls.