Yeah, That Pro-Trump Black Voter's Twitter Account Is Probably Fake
There's a mad rush on social media to make people believe Donald Trump has Black friends. He doesn't. Not only does Joe Biden lead Trump by at least 81 points among Black voters, but Black people are more likely to state that they are voting for Biden and not just against Trump, although we're happy to do both. We're good multitaskers.
According to the Washington Post, Clemson University social media researcher Darren Linvill has tracked a "network of more than two dozen" phony Twitter accounts from supposed Black Trump supporters. We know they're fake because they are "Black Trump supporters." Candace Owns can't be everywhere.
Sunday, Twitter suspended the account for @CopJrCliff, which passed itself off as a Black police officer and Trump fanboy who urged people to VOTE REPUBLICAN! (in all-caps, naturally). It was active for six days, tweeted just eight times, but managed to amass 24,000 followers. Mr. CopJrCliff's most popular tweet was liked 75,000 times and didn't even include a funny cat video.
"Digital blackface" is a scurrilous practice online. The fake accounts can promote misleading narratives faster than Twitter can take them down.
Many of the accounts used profile pictures of Black men taken from news reports or other sources. Several of the accounts claimed to be from members of groups with pro-Trump leanings, including veterans, police officers, steelworkers, businessmen and avid Christians. One of the fake accounts had, in the place of a profile photo, the words "black man photo" — a hint of sloppiness by the network's creators.
Admittedly, when I was single, I had the best luck on dating apps if I just used the words “Black Man Photo" instead of actual photos of myself.
The @CopJrCliff account claimed it was a police officer from Pennsylvania, a regular steel-driving man, but the account's profile photo was swiped from a recent article about a Black police officer in Portland, Oregon. The account often tweeted such authentic messages as "YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!"
The Portland officer, Jakhary Jackson, became a darling of conservative media when he criticized white protesters for being mean to cops. Conservatives are deeply invested in the 1950s-style myth that actual Black people don't have a problem with law enforcement or racism in general. That's all just hyped up by rabble-rousing white commies. The city of Portland has a small percentage of Black residents, so it's not hard to find images of white protesters shouting at a Black cop. Just shoot that into the veins of the Tucker Carlson audience.
Jackson told the Post that he doesn't use social media, but this isn't the first time his image has been co-opted on Twitter. He's probably a handsome guy. He insists his remarks, which every conservative grandma shared on Facebook, weren't "weren't pro-Trump, they weren't pro-Biden. But people will use people of color to push certain agendas."
Darren Linvill found evidence of foreign manipulation behind the accounts "with a few traces of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet appearing in online record." The "digital blackface" accounts surged in activity in the months after the Republican National Convention, which featured Senator Tim Scott and some other sad Black folks in prominent speaking roles. If you only watched those speeches and skipped over all the other shouty, racist speeches, you might believe the modern GOP was like a "Cosby Show" rerun ... so upstanding, so non-threatening, but the friendly veneer hides gross corruption.
Trump's trying to simultaneously run George Wallace's 1968 campaign and George W. Bush's 2000 “compassionate conservative" campaign. It's not working. His campaign manager, Bill Stepien, thinks the minority vote is still in play despite the air horns the administration uses instead of dog whistles. Trump's support among seniors has eroded significantly since 2016, but Stepien told reporters Monday that the president could offset those losses with "gains in certain voting populations — Black, Hispanic and others, based on the president's appeal, his policies and the outreach he's been conducting for the last four years."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."