How Social Media Killed This Election

Illustration: david pratt

by Tess F. Stevens

Rolling Stone magazine recently ran a piece on their cover entitled, “Trump Unbound on the Campaign Trail”. You’d think the magazine that fostered some of the shrewdest political reporting of all time would give you an exposé. Something that would rock your world and make you understand the exact effect of what’s happening today.

1035x1407-R1256_coverInstead, while sipping on a cold glass of water in the middle of a 70 degree day in California, I was treated to a mish-mash of half-baked metaphors and sugar-coated anger. Later, I was treated to an endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The truth is that we can’t ask the major media to tell the truth about this election. And, even though I’m a huge fan of Rolling Stone, and used to collect them as a little girl, for fear of missing a life-changing article, I can’t get behind this article.

The title should be, “The End Is Nigh: Trump as President”.

Or better: “How Social Media Killed Politics”.

So, I’m going to write the article that Rolling Stone was afraid to write. No, not afraid to write – I’m sure somebody wrote this, they were just too afraid to publish.

I understand that this is long but please, for the love of God, just fucking read it.

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2016 has proven to be a foul year so far. With the death of David Bowie, Prince, and the unbridled horror of the presidential election, the distinct sense of doom surrounding social media is millennial culture. Some days it’s almost too hard for me to get out of bed. This is my generation, destroying itself one Tweet at a time: myself included in that destruction.

I understand that being “into” politics is a new trend, and it’s better than everyone following the Kardashians around. But is it any different?

You can feel it all around you. In the vines of Bernie Sanders throwing “shade” at Hillary Clinton and the gifs of Donald Trump’s facial expressions, as if they were trying to trigger a Snapchat filter. We are all making light of the fate we’ve been dealt by the most underhanded poker dealer of them all – the American Government.

Maybe these viral jokes make us feel more connected to the election, or maybe they’re just a sign of the times. I laugh at them every day.

Regardless, it appears that us twenty-somethings have a lot to say about who is going to be president but can’t seem to align our thoughts into anything concrete.

Yes, the rallies and marches seem to be sparking some attention from the media – but it’s simply not enough. I was there when 30,000 people descended on Bonney Field in Sacramento. What came after? Facebook posts. Twitter rants. Shared blogs from some on the left claiming: “HILLARY RIGGED THE ELECTION”; “THE NEVADA CAUCUS IS RUN BY A PACK OF WOLVES”; “WHEN WILL THE HORROR END”!?

When someone like Donald Trump not only gets past the caucuses, but wins them, it speaks to a much larger issue than anyone wants to deal with.

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It’s 92 degrees and sunny in the Bay Area today. This is an example of what most would call “the perfect day”. There’s no humidity and, unlike mid-western summers, there is nothing sticking to you. It’s dry heat. Something that can only come up from the desert and mellow-out once it hits the water of the Pacific.

I try to stay as far away from the World Wide Web as I can on these days. Because the heat and the sun feels so real and beautiful and the cold, hard reality of this campaign feels so artificial. It’s like putting a flower in the freezer with a bag of processed chicken nuggets. Some things aren’t meant to be placed side-by-side.

Sometimes, I’ll sit outside and read the paper. The sun cushions the blows of reality. It’s a practice I encourage all of you political junkies to partake in. It’s a practice I encourage all millennials to partake in. I’ve taken a page out of my aunt and uncle’s book. They’ve graciously let me stay at their home in California’s State Capital. They have a lush back patio with carefully planted flowers. They have interests outside of their jobs. They are real people.

Being outside on days like this might save you some worry. I’m leafing through the San Francisco Chronicle whose new tagline should be, Good Writing, But Who Cares?

Week after week, I pick up the paper and there is only one name in the headlines – Donald Trump. Sometimes, if the editors are feeling frisky, they’ll throw a “J” in there to mix things up.

That name always ruins my day, and like the fog hanging over the bay, it alters my mood.

Someone who’s mere name gives me the shakes is not something new. The last person to make me feel as strongly was George W. Bush. Whom I later learned was doomed from the start and couldn’t be helped. I place blame on Dick Cheney – whom I’ve written about as the “anti-Christ” along with Richard M. Nixon. I’m thankful to not have been alive during his time on earth.

I don’t take the shakes lightly. It’s my body telling me that something is desperately wrong. It’s like when animals can sense that an earthquake is coming. They start acting all crazily, flinging their tails at trees and chasing each other around in circles. Birds start flying into windows and kill themselves accidentally, because the earth’s axis is off . . . and they’re the only ones that know it.

That’s how I’m starting to feel about modern political reporting and Donald Trump. It’s as if we all know that something is wrong and some of us are flying into windows trying to make a sound big enough for someone to notice.

The earthquake will come either way. It’s just more painful for the animals that can sense it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to view this campaign from the outside and unfortunate enough to not be able to tell what the hell the real story is. You see, much like you, I am running only off of what I have seen, and to an extent, experienced. Which can be a detriment to political reporting because part of the fun and horror is actually being there.

I have made some pretty “outrageous” claims about Donald Trump in the past, and as I have always stated, my articles do not come from any sort of objective point of view. They are the truth though, which might come as a shock to some dissenters.

My main point in this rambling introduction and body of an article that should have never been written is this:

This campaign is not about money.

This campaign is not about “the system”.

This campaign is not about the electorate or the people.

This campaign hinges on one thing and one thing only:


Someone like Donald Trump cannot exist without fear. Some political pundits might call it xenophobia. Others may call it patriotism. In reality, it’s patriotism wearing the mask of fear. It’s the fear that we’re not going to be the world’s superpower anymore. Fear that one day our kids will be bowing down to someone in the Middle East, or worse, Europe.

The fear is that we’re losing our revolutionary edge. That we are outsourcing our products to the ungrateful swine of elsewhere. We are propelled by the idea that everyone hates us. We are encouraged by people like Donald Trump to buck the system of political correctness and transcend to the biggest I Don’t Give A Fuck era of all-time.

Trump wants us to surpass our founding fathers as the revolutionaries of the world and assert our American noses where they don’t belong. Everyone else’s God-damn business.

Trump operates on the idea that Joe the Plumber and John the Billionaire can both sit in a room together and share the same racist, sexist, bigoted ideas and sing Kumbaya – but not like those filthy hippies do.

Fear is the most powerful thing on the planet next to hope.

We understand now that the last election hinged on hope. So, it’s no wonder that this election chose fear as its counterpart.

I understand that politics are confusing, so allow me to translate for you. Everyone in this nation who is afraid of something will vote for Donald J. Trump.

It is a fact that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Notice that I used the word fact.

People are focusing on the primaries and caucuses, stunned that he is able to win anything short of a hot dog eating contest or a reality television award. In a similar vein, Bernie Sanders plays off that same disbelief – just on the liberal side.

We, as an American people, need to get over the shock factor and get settled in for a presidency under someone who has no experience or business being within 1,000 feet of the White House. The cold hard truth is that we did this to ourselves. We let this happen.

We laughed.

We created memes.

We shared vines.

We talked to our friends about how ridiculous things have gotten.

We’ve tweeted.

We’ve liked.

We’ve shared.

We’ve given up.

The people who gather at rallies are just a microcosm of the people who are talking about this election (in whatever small way) on the Internet. A lot of political correspondents will tell you that it’s a win. Young people are involved, yes, but do they care? Will they go out to the polls? Will they actually pull through like so many generations before them didn’t?

America has always gotten what it’s wanted, but now we’re getting what we deserve.