Chait points to this report by Benjy Sarlin: "How an army of pro-Donald Trump trolls are taking over Reddit." Excerpt:
Longtime users said Trump taps into an anti-PC counterculture within Reddit that feasts on spreading offensive material... and then reveling in the response. Certain corners of Reddit have long served as an assembly line for posts mocking “SJWs,” slang for “social justice warriors,” whom they view as a humorless cabal of left-wing oppressors. It just took the right users to recognize the crossover appeal with Trump.I can't summarize Sarlin's explanation of what CisWhiteMaelstrom did and the interplay with the mechanisms and mentalities of Reddit. As Chait puts it:
In interviews with MSNBC, r/The_Donald’s moderators declined to provide their real names, but credited the subreddit’s rapid growth to CisWhiteMaelstrom, who took the lead promoting it earlier this year after messaging its creators with a master plan....
... CisWhiteMaelstrom identified opposition to political correctness as an issue he could use to broaden Trump’s appeal. By provoking opponents to protest against his right to express himself, he attracted to his side people who were not originally inclined to support the substance of his opinion. The point is not that pro-Trump Redditors were actual victims of repression (there’s no reason to believe they were) or that there is anything attractive about their beliefs or their methods....So I guess the lesson is: If you don't like Trump, stop repressing his supporters.
[Some] people like the idea of rebelliousness and standing up against censorship, and the more convincingly any movement can depict itself as the victim of censorship, the more successfully it will recruit those attracted to this form of rebellion. In the 1950s, McCarthyist repression lent American communists the allure of the forbidden. Rather than being seen as pawns of a murderous dictatorship, communist sympathizers acquired the glamour of rebellious independent thought, and pride of place on the front lines of a cultural struggle on behalf of Americans aghast at McCarthy.
That calls to mind this passage from Justice Douglas's opinion in Dennis v. United States, which we happened to be reading in my conlaw2 class yesterday:
Communists in this country have never made a respectable or serious showing in any election. I would doubt that there is a village, let alone a city or county or state, which the Communists could carry. Communism in the world scene is no bogeyman; but Communism as a political faction or party in this country plainly is. Communism has been so thoroughly exposed in this country that it has been crippled as a political force. Free speech has destroyed it as an effective political party. It is inconceivable that those who went up and down this country preaching the doctrine of revolution which petitioners espouse would have any success. In days of trouble and confusion, when bread lines were long, when the unemployed walked the streets, when people were starving, the advocates of a short-cut by revolution might have a chance to gain adherents. But today there are no such conditions. The country is not in despair; the people know Soviet Communism; the doctrine of Soviet revolution is exposed in all of its ugliness, and the American people want none of it.Douglas was dissenting, the year was 1951, and the repression Chait calls glamorizing was just gearing up.