Controversial tweets are apparently in the Trump genes. Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr (pictured above), has caused outrage by sharing an image which declares:
“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?
“That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016
The internet quickly hit back. The Washington Post pointed out the chance of being killed by a refugee in a terrorist attack was one in 3.6bn – far less likely than eating a poisoned Skittle in Trump Jr’s theoretical pack. The parent company of Skittles itself felt compelled to remind Trump that: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.”
But on the right of the internet, someone reacted for a very different reason.
Joe Walsh, a former Republican Congressman, pointed out that he had made the exact same analogy in August.
“That’s the point I made last month,” he tweeted. “Glad you agree.”
Hey @DonaldJTrumpJr, that’s the point I made last month.
Glad you agree. pic.twitter.com/Nssw6KC1HY
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) 20 September 2016
Indeed, the Skittles meme is symptomatic of the right-wing internet culture styling itself as the “alt-right”. While somewhat in flux, the alt-right tends to support Trump, promote white nationalism and nativism, and put across its points in memes.
Breitbart, a popular news website with the alt-right, describes the movement as “born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet” that wants to “say the unsayable”.
The alt right, in its telling, are railing against the authoritarian progressives, and get a “thrill” out of doing so.
In Breitbart‘s own coverage of the Skittles story, the “political meme warrior Donald Trump Jr. sent leftists into a rage”.
One reader commented of the analogy: “Makes sense to me. I mean, I can read English without looking through the lenses of political correctness. If you are offended – tough!”
Another said: “Donald Jr. makes Democrats’ heads explode BECAUSE he is stating the truth using a clear and easily understood analogy.”
To those in the alt-right, the fact Trump Jr has shocked and appalled so many mainstream commentators is something to be celebrated. It is not a gaffe, but a successful provocation. Within hours, a member of a pro-Trump Reddit group had created a picture of Pepe, a cartoon frog associated with the alt right, from Skittles.