The Kids Are (More Than) All Right

I went to bed Saturday night just after Trump started his rally, and I had considerable trepidation about the headlines that would confront me on Sunday morning. I worried that the people who’d been lining up for the event–and been interviewed incessantly by the media–would be joined by huge numbers of other “fans” of our deeply disturbed President; I worried about violence between protestors and supporters; and most of all, I worried that the event would jump-start  enthusiasm for Trump’s re-election campaign.

Schadenfreude alert! I woke yesterday to headlines characterizing the rally as a dud, and televised photos of a half-full arena.

One of my favorite headlines was from the Guardian: “Trump sows division and promises “greatness” at Tulsa rally flop.” In the same issue, opinion writer Richard Wolffe called the rally a “farce,” and wrote that “It was so toe-curlingly cringeworthy, such a crushing humiliation. There are 80s pop bands who have enjoyed greater comebacks than Donald Trump.”

The New York Times  used less disparaging verbiage, as one might expect, but the report was equally damning.

The rally had been designed to jumpstart the campaign of a would-be demagogue who takes his energy–and cues–from the adulation of crowds. (He seems totally unaware of how unrepresentative those crowds are of the voting public.) The campaign boasted that a million tickets had been spoken for, and it clearly anticipated a huge turnout.

The campaign got pranked–mostly by teenagers who know their way around algorithms and social media. 

Tulsa’s BOK Center holds 19,000;  just under 6,200 actually showed up. Apparently, fans of Korean pop music who use TikTok, along with Instagram and Snapchat users, had participated in a pretty sophisticated effort to order free tickets they had no intention of using.

When I say the effort was sophisticated–these kids didn’t simply order tickets. They were clearly aware of the way political campaigns harvest and use the information disclosed by people reserving tickets or otherwise contacting campaigns (in 2016, the Trump campaign had made savvy use of that information), so most of them created fake accounts and used Google phone numbers–and then deleted them. They also deleted social media posts referring to the plan, to minimize the chances of Trump folks finding out about it.

As a result, Trump’s campaign was caught totally unawares. Workers had to rush to dismantle the outdoor staging erected in anticipation of an overflow crowd.

It wasn’t only the turnout that was embarrassing. Trump delivered his usual, interminable word-salad, but rather than the usual chanting, the crowd seemed…bored. Attendees were caught on camera yawning and checking their phones. And then there was “the sentence”–the shocking admission that pundits predict will anchor hundreds of Biden campaign spots: “When you do more testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”

Because if you don’t test, Trump can lie with impunity…

Heather Cox Richardson summed it up: 

Far from energizing Trump’s 2020 campaign, the rally made Trump look like a washed-up performer who has lost his audience and become a punchline for the new kids in town. According to White House reporter Andrew Feinberg, a Trump campaign staffer told him that Biden “should have to report our costs to the [Federal Election Commission] as a contribution to his campaign.”

As happy and relieved as I am at what I can only describe as a “best case” outcome, the campaign that truly makes me hopeful is the one waged by the thousands of teenagers who knew their way around technology and social media, and who clearly have their hearts and heads in the right place.

The Times headline was “TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally.” (Full disclosure: I had no idea what “K-Pop Stans” even were before this.)

“It spread mostly through Alt TikTok — we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism,” said the YouTuber Elijah Daniel, 26, who participated in the social media campaign. “K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”

I still don’t know what “Alt-TikTok” is. But what I know or don’t know doesn’t matter–my generation has passed its “sell-by” date. What does matter is the mounting evidence that the students I see in my classes are genuinely representative of a generation that is more inclusive, more humane, and less receptive to authoritarianism than mine.

The kids are all right.


  1. Even bats cleared the arena before remnants of the Wuhan Trump Rally frontline filed in. Captain Cook will be plagued once again by TikTok. Welcome to NeverNever Land.

  2. Trick me once, shame on you; trick me twice, shame on me!

    Now is NOT the time to become complacent because Trump had one rally turn out to be a flop; for which there could be many reasons other than the polls are correct and Biden is double digits ahead. Gossip had it that those on the left had requested tickets to the rally and had no intention to show up, thereby causing the low numbers. The one arrest shown; 3 or 4 Tulsa police arrested for trespassing and dragging a white woman wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” tee shirt claimed to be a Tulsa resident and having a ticket to the rally. There are those who were among the expected 19,000 supporters crammed into the area who remain concerned about the Covid-19 Pandemic. There were protesters with other issues to protest and those who were holding Juneteenth celebrations elsewhere in Tulsa.

    Trump and Corporate American still have those multi-millions to spread around, still control Red states and swing states where the Electoral College members are rubbing their hands together, waiting for their turn to cast their deciding point. Joe Biden is struggling to campaign safely during the Pandemic, the ugly situation of “Defund Police” vs. “Black Lives Matter”, continuing protests on our streets and struggling for donations to run his presidential campaign honestly and safely…against all odds of winning…contrary to the poll numbers.

    We need to be encouraging others to put their petty dislikes of Joe Biden aside and remember how Trump got the Keys to the Kingdom four years ago because it appears to be on the horizon again. So far we do not have two additional campaigns running to give people who don’t want either candidate to win as an out; will those Bernie Bros write in his name even though he dropped out of the race or will they show their petty personal dislike by not voting?

    I have one question for all who are watching the goings-on; DO YOU LOVE THIS COUNTRY AND DO YOU WANT TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY FROM THE CURRENT DECONSTRUCTION OF DEMOCRACY, RULE OF LAW AND ENDING THE CONSTITUTION? Your vote is the only answer to this question.

  3. I agree, the “kids are all right!” I also find the boredom of the crowd to be very important. If even the red meat rabid base is getting bored, rather than pumped up to organize and vote, he really is in trouble. The side that is most passionate is the most likely to win, so any diminution of red passion is truly encouraging!

  4. Lately it seems that it is just one defeat after another for the fake president. I enjoyed a good laugh when I read how those kids had duped his campaign. The perfect coda will be for the attendees to get COVID19 – the fake version of course.

  5. Sheila is not the only one who’s “sell by” date has passed, so while I was amused by the antics of the “tik-tok” people, I also have no idea what that’s all about. But I love it!

  6. The kids are alright, but will they vote? They seem to be exactly what we need in America today and we will see if they are what they seem to be on November 3rd. Never count out someone who is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants, especially when he is in a position of great power.

  7. I have no doubt that the “kids” duped the Trump campaign but not to the tune of 993,800 additional fans. What is clear is that Trump managed to insult any and all of his base who did stay away for fear of the virus. He has turned the pandemic into a political issue that pits his supporters against anyone who dares to believe the medical professionals and takes precautions so as not to get sick. Or maybe, just maybe, much of his base left a long time ago.

  8. More than Trump’s long-winded diatribe about nothing but saving his ego from the bruising it’s been taking, the arrest of a 62-year-old art teacher praying at the event in a, “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt has Twitter abuzz. It was caught on video so Tulsa should be facing a civil rights case.

    Her arrest seems to have been ordered by Trump’s campaign staff and the secret service. She was literally praying when the Tulsa police arrested her and drug her off. She also had a ticket for the rally and lived two blocks from the rally. They simply didn’t like her t-shirt.

    Before releasing her to the press, the Tulsa police administered a psych evaluation. I believe the ACLU in Tulsa will be helping Ms. Buck fight the police-state in our country:

    “Police told her the blocks around the city-owned arena are “like a private home, and if you’ve been asked to leave, you have to leave.’”

    She told police she had as much right to be there, in a public street blocks from her own home, as the president. “I said, ‘I live in Tulsa. This is my home. This is my country,’ and I was praying … and they arrested me, handcuffed me and shoved me away,” Buck said. The interaction with police at the scene lasted a few minutes.”

  9. Yes, it was delightful to watch Trump struggle with a room that didn’t seem to care that they were there. Only the VIPs seemed engaged and even Tom Cotton and Jim Inhofe looked embarrassed.

    Well, his next rally won’t allow this “invasion of the Tiki’s-Tokkers” to spoil his fun. Thing is, the crowd will probably be smaller.

    Yes, the kids need to vote too. Pranks only last a short time, and we’ve been “pranked” by Donald Trump for almost four years.

  10. bumper sticker:
    do we need to say more? whether trumps so called fans bailed for the virus,or, a masse buyup of the seats,(damn thats funny) the info the trump campaign should be released to see how they used it,prior to the scam being take that data,after the fact,and aee how it can be used against trump..then again,im sure trumps mob will somehow retaliate against any faction that,made his,(your guess) go limp..The defund police issue,see for a view.and its not to elliminate anything,just how it should operate,for the people..the fear stoked by fake news,(fox etc) has made a sham out of what,the people need and pay for,(taxed,poverty wages,that fill,the pockets of the rich from the work done)of course the investors demand theiir eternal prison for all,(and economic slavery) become reality now if one resists what the rightnwing demands. if the plan carries past november with a rightwing win,then i suppose we will establish internment camps for those like myself,which will never conform to the mcconnel dream of total control,for profit..

  11. Maybe, just maybe, Trump’s juvenile whining about how “they’re out to get me” and assorted other such projections (e.g., “enemies of the people,” “thugs,”) aren’t red meat to his base anymore – which could explain how some were working their phones while he was telling us that we would have less virus patients if we didn’t count them. He’s not just dumb, but perhaps worse, boring. However, one good thing arising from his twisted logic on display in Tulsa is that it ends the eternal brawl we have had between pro choice and pro life factions. Thus is we don’t test for pregnancies, there aren’t any. Problem solved. Thanks, Don.

    Trump is flailing but as some on this blog have noted – is not politically dead yet. Now is no time for us to sit back (as we did with Hillary) and assume that we are coasting to victory. Thus if the polls show Biden is winning by 40 points my advice is full steam ahead come November. As old politicians advised me long ago – always run scared. They were and are right.

  12. I understand that sense of glee The Trumpet was conned by “kids”. I suspect some of the Trumpter’s may have had second thoughts about attending The Klandemic Rally. The Trumpet ever eager to use Fear as a motivator, blamed the Radical Leftists.

    It bothers me that hackers, and Electronic Vandals can be cheered. What would be the reaction if the same hacking and Electronic Vandalism was directed at Biden, etc?? We know the answer to that question they would be accused of being Russian Bots or some Dark Web, Dark Money types.

  13. One of the many thematic elements of the great divide between Republicans and Democrats now is adaptation vs extinction.

    Democrats seem to be united around the concept that we are here in the fastest changing world ever with a population and lifestyles that are already greater demands on the earth than it can sustain. What are we going to do?

    Republicans avow that the 1950s worked once even though with much fewer of us living much lower on the hog so lets return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and pretend that we’ll have a future.

    Of course there are no new things to disagree on because we’ve been through all of them several times before. This one’s no exception. As always it’s a generation gap which means that largely the generations who don’t own the future want to pass on their experience in the past to those who don’t need or want it.

    It seems to me that the world now is returning to the track where it must to adapt to what’s coming not what’s been. It’s too bad though that the future now has a huge mess to clean up.

  14. In spite of Trump’s troubles this past week , complacency is a no no. A lot can happen in 5 months and as President Trump has possible avenues that are horrible to con
    template. This Thursday he visits a shipyard in my hometown of Marinette, Wis., a Republican stronghold. I have contacted relatives and friends to show up in protest. But as a small town it has no big arena to hold a rally. So we will see what venue they choose. Wisconsin is up for grabs. The battle continues. We can’t let up.

  15. Jees!
    It would have been so much more informative of a Trump decline if all those empty seats were empty because of honest political reasons.

    Interfering with Trump’s rally may raise a few laughs, and it may inform of an increase in childish electronic mischief, but it hides other more significant reasons that could have caused the rally to fail. It certainly does not speak well of the younger generation, nor of anything positive they have to offer in the way of judgement. The “prank” seems to me to be just a kind of convoluted Rube Goldberg contraption designed to break things. A very sad ha-ha.

  16. In the rest of the world, the temperature in a Siberian town above the Arctic Circle registered above 100 degrees F. yesterday, P*tin continues to maneuver allowing his re-election (again), China and India continue at swords’ points, Brazilians and Latin Americans are dying in astronomical numbers every day as recurring waves of the virus pop up worldwide and in 23 U.S. states. Netanyahu is preparing to annex the West Bank with our full approval (or our full distraction). Roberts presented Barr with a detailed plan for canceling DACA, voters are struggling with how to vote by mail, absentee or any other way in primaries around the country, the newly affirmed head of the Global Media Agency (a Bannon approved nominee) has gutted the agency that is a federally funded independent news source broadcasting such programs as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, all while we are so focused on the daily chaos that we miss the forest for the trees.
    Voter turnout is critical. We must insist on any and all options to make registration and voting available to all citizens. Otherwise, he will steal this one, too.

  17. I’m also of the dinosaur age and have much to learn about this digital age, but I’d like to see some quantification of how many pranks there actually were. Additionally, if tickets were that available for anyone and everyone to access, then Trump supporters also had access and didn’t use it which is the bigger story.

    There are reports of 3-4 million digital viewers of his message, but that would include folks like me who are not supporters but wanted to see if the pre-rally hype would match the reality. I’ve yet to see how the 3-4 million viewers compare to digital viewers of his previous rallies.

    The President’s campaign manager is the guy who managed his millions in Facebook ads and other digital mastery in 2016. Surely he was aware of how people were pranking the system, and still the president bragged a million would show up at his rally. Did the campaign manager not alert the White House or did Trump refuse to believe that he was more anxious to see supporters than they were to see him?

    The pranking will now become the norm for all political events for all candidates. It masks reality and misleads. I hate that.

  18. Nancy Pappas makes a good point. Nobody showed up, despite the pranking. If you had a ticket and you wanted in, they would have let you in. They gave out unlimited number of tickets. People did not even show up for the outdoor rally which would have been much safer, but still not risk free. That is the real story.

    The prank allows Fox and other Trump Fans to continue to deny reality and an excuse as to why nobody showed up.

    I thought it was funny and what is even funnier, for once maybe somebody on the Trump side did not lie when they said they handed out close to one million tickets.

  19. Montonous Languor: It bothers me that hackers, and Electronic Vandals can be cheered. What would be the reaction if the same hacking and Electronic Vandalism was directed at Biden, etc?? We know the answer to that question they would be accused of being Russian Bots or some Dark Web, Dark Money types.

    They weren’t hacked or vandalized. They simply signed up for tickets, just as anyone else could. To receive the tickets, they had to be present at the arena.

    It’s possible they discouraged would-be Trump supporters from signing up or registering for tickets because they thought demand was too high and there wasn’t a point of trying to fight that crowd. However, if so, that’s on the Trump campaign for bragging about the million requests.

Comments are closed.