Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court perfectly illustrates how the Trump administration's behaviour mirrors the cruelest tendencies of the internet.
On October 6, 2018, in Washington DC, internet trolls and Evangelical Christians celebrated the birth of their baby: the American Trollvangelical.
The creature has been gestating for years in a vat of viscous spite somewhere beneath the streets of the nation’s capital. On the day Brett Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court justice, this beast burst through the walls of its underground womb and crowned itself king of our republic.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation process stitched together a culture of crass harassment online and unyielding white Evangelical fanaticism into one hideous Frankenstein, composed from rotting ideas revived by lightning fast connectivity.
In more precise terms, the Trollvangelical isn’t exactly some escaped laboratory monster, but a new American political species in the country’s already vast menagerie. Although they number in the millions, they are by no means a majority of the country. They are, in fact, a minority among all Americans and even among those who call themselves Christians.
But they are an extremely powerful minority, who have set their eyes on ensuring minority rule in the United States. Some prefer an exclusively white rule in the US, and others an exclusively pious one.
Either way, their plan means making sure a minority seizes control over the future of the country.
Authoritarianism and outraged zealotry combine in the Trollvangelical to create a crisis for the concept of representative government.
Over the last month, online and offline, trolls and evangelicals, who used to be more distinct factions of American political life, have started to sound more and more the same, picking up ideas from each other on ways to revel in the fear and rage of strangers, especially women who were survivors of sexual assault.
Trolls always knew they can wound others psychologically by glorifying rape or denying the trauma of sexual assault survivors. The last month has provided them with a countless opportunities to make bad pain hurt even worse.
On Saturday, white nationalist and reactionary trolls took pleasure in the idea of doing away with reproductive rights and even the right of women to vote.
Evangelicals enjoyed a victory against democracy, managing to compel just 50 senators, out of 100, to help them take away the rights of millions of women yet to be born.
One thing trolls don’t care about is lying. Accuse someone of some baseless claim, and watch their reaction.
Trollvangelicals revel in dishonesty, too, learning just how fun it can be to break a few commandments, something trolls have known all along.
“Congratulations Judge Kavanaugh! Instead of a 6-3 liberal Supreme Court under Hillary Clinton, we now have a 5-4 conservative Supreme Court under President @realDonaldTrump, cementing a tremendous legacy for the President and a better future for America,” tweeted White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday, an Evangelical displaying the glowing gloat of an Internet troll, a Trollvangelical.
Sanders’ glee defied previous statements by Kavanaugh, to senators and in the pages of Wall Street Journal, where he insisted he would be an impartial, non-partisan judge.
But Sanders couldn’t help “owning the libs” and congratulating her famously narcissistic boss.
It would be impossible to list every single instance of Trollvangelical behavior, online or offline. But suffice it to say that Donald Trump himself is the other kind of Trollvangelical.
He’s not a church-going man, although he has laughably described his favorite book as being “the Bible.” In fact, the religious right’s loyalty to the non-religious president is one of the strangest things about this particular time in American history.
Sanders’ enthusiasm for Kavanaugh’s confirmation was joined by countless misogynistic Twitter accounts, which for years have made attacking women online something of a sport. But you won’t find these anime cartoon avatars quoting biblical verses. The controversy over Kavanaugh brought them both together in a common purpose, and showed them that, together, they can win.
There is a dangerous misconception that “America is more divided than ever,” as though the close polls in tense house and senate races indicate some kind of 50/50 split.
That’s not what’s going on.
A minority of the country, Trollvangelicals, are succeeding at seizing power. The marketing material behind social media companies includes phrases like “building communities” and “connecting people,” but sometimes they bring people together who would be better off separate.
I’m not one to make these statements lightly, but Trollvangelicalism is heresy, borne out of the cruellest tendencies of the Internet.
It’s not a Christian value to delight in the psychological suffering of others, or to anonymously badger survivors of sexual violence. Christ himself, the Bible tells, saved a woman accused of adultery from stoning by an angry crowd.
Despite what Christ said about mercy, charity and humility, 2018’s Trollvangelicals would be the ones to throw the first stone at a stranger, just for fun. That’s must be what they mean by “America first.”
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