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President Trump: The Social Media Celebration and Protest

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The world is still reeling from Republican candidate Donald Trump's shock victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential election early Wednesday morning. The result, which is widely thought to be one of the biggest political upsets in living memory, brings to an end Trump's long-fought run to the White House, which has, throughout its time, been widely characterised as a deeply polarising force in American social and political life. Reflecting this sentiment, onlookers across the globe made their voices audible through laptops, tablets and mobile phones as they took to social media to express their feelings of shock, adulation, fear and relief in what can only be described as one of the most emotional, varied and divided outpourings of celebration, rationalisation, dark humour and stupefaction ever to have occupied our collective news feed. 

Trump's candidacy has mustered groundswells of both support and opposition since it began in June 2015. The reactions which dominated our Facebook and Twitter feeds as the election results trickled through on Tuesday night reflected this rift in popular opinion. Many in Britain stayed up through the night to watch the results being tallied by major news networks. For Clinton supporters here and across the Pond, comments began with a note of cautious optimism, as the Democratic candidate opened up an early lead.

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However, as late night became early morning, Trump supporters found a cause for hope as the Republican challenger's victories in several tightly-fought key states became clear. Between roughly 4am and 5am GMT Wednesday morning, the NBC electoral maps of Idaho, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia turned red, along with those of most other major news channels. With these killer blows having seemingly been dealt, many commentators were prompted to call the result early in Trump's favour. Shortly before Wisconsin was also called for Trump (at roughly 8am GMT) Hillary Clinton phoned up her rival to concede defeat. For some, the outcome prompted anger and justified the use of grave comparisons. 

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Nevertheless, many others were delighted by the news.

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As time passed, however, onlookers' general elation, shock, surprise and disorientation crystallised into more coherent articulations of their longer-term sentiments. Many Trump advocates dug into prior research in order to assert various claims as to the legitimacy of their new President-Elect.

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Understandably, however, perhaps the greatest level of attention thus far has been paid to issues surrounding race relations in the United States. From recent polls it's clear to see that Clinton won the vote of minority communities, whilst Trump's main support came from white voters, especially men. Donald Trump, in a victory speech at about 8am GMT, sought to reassure the public that his America will work 'for every single American,' promising that 'The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.' 

In contrast, however, among the highest trending topics on Facebook at that time were comments made by CNN's Van Jones, who claimed 'this was a Whitelash against a changing country.' Nevertheless, Trump claimed his victory to be one for everybody, and described his ascendancy as the result of 'a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs.' 

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As more organised responses began filtering through, social media was increasingly dominated by commentary on the morning's revelations. By about 9am GMT, the L.A. Times was using Facebook to live-stream protest marches in downtown Los Angeles, in the heart of a state which voted for Hillary Clinton. As such, L.A.'s citizens spoke assertively in the video of their shock, sadness and anger at the overall result. Celebrity voices also came to the fore during the morning, with the likes of Lady Gaga tweeting their renewed support for the Black Lives Matter campaign, and urging followers to 'stand up for kindness, equality, and love.' 

But of course, there also emerged throughout the morning examples of the kind of non-partisan satire which only reach for the garb of 'dark humour' when the world is reeling from a seismic event. 

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Nevertheless, most of the comments one could encounter throughout the morning were acting either upon elation or concern. By noon GMT, as the initial shock began to wear away, many continued to use social media as a platform from which to express their views, reasoning, thoughts and predictions. As many  pro-Trump onlookers felt their surprise turn to calm, there began to emerge grassroots commentary which afforded a unobstructed window into the profound discontent which underwrote their decision to vote for the outsider candidate whose promises of radical reform, job creation and a renewed economic Greatness for America had clearly struck a profound chord.

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Others, meanwhile, sought alternative explanations for the rise of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, yet could also be seen to be colouring their interpretations with far darker analyses.

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If the past few months have taught us anything, it's that today's result is, in no small part, a consequence of conflicting visions of American identity, as defined along sharp lines and varying perceptions of disenfranchisement. In other words, the causes of this result are not only quantitative but are also highly social. It's only fitting, therefore, that the particular strain of media which owes its name to such phenomena has thus far afforded us so useful an insight in our attempts to understand and rationalise these tectonic shifts in the Western world, as defined by its freedoms of speech and personal expression. Now, it seems, a good course of action moving forward is a continued effort to watching what occurs in these social spheres, in order to understand what effects this election result will have on American social and political life in the coming months.



James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London. Follow him @Songbird_James


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President Trump: The Social Media Celebration and Protest Reviewed by James Darvill on Wednesday, November 09, 2016 Rating: 5

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