When the history books eventually tackle Donald Trump’s surprising climb from reality television to the White House, r/The Donald will no doubt go down as one of the odder phenomena driving the 2016 campaign.
Started just after Trump announced his candidacy, the subreddit, or Reddit page dedicated to a single topic, quickly ballooned into a clearinghouse — tinged with extremism — for all things Trump, including conspiracy theories and memes, virulent nationalism and Pepe the Frog iconography. Leading up to the election, Trump’s campaign reportedly eyed the subreddit as a weather vane for what messages worked with the base. After the victory, the site has remained, as The Washington Post once said, “Reddit’s largest and most active pro-Trump subreddit.”
Now, on the other side of the ideological line of scrimmage, we have r/The Mueller.
The subreddit, which according to its page boasts nearly 70,000 readers, is focused on “Dank Mueller memes” and links to information about the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Stick to memes,” the post states. “This is meant to be a silly subreddit … Don’t get your knickers in a twist over a silly meme.”
But the Mueller page, with its clear reference to Trump’s own Reddit cheering section, definitely taps into two main threads regarding the special counsel’s place in pop culture. One: Anti-Trump folks are placing a lot of hope in Mueller’s work. And two: Mueller and his team, completely tight-lipped about their investigation, remain an enigma — inviting only more fervor among supporters.
The intensity of r/The_Donald is why it has remained controversial. As Politico has reported, the subreddit was Ground Zero for the “Great Meme War,” the “decentralized efforts of a swarm of anonymous Internet nerds to harass Trump’s detractors and flood the Web with pro-Trump, anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda.” The page’s users were so successful at creating noise online, including fake news and baseless conspiracies, that Reddit’s founders launched a revamped algorithm to cut down on the visibility of such groups.
“I cannot deny their behavior hastened its deployment,” a company executive said in a statement posted June 16, 2016. “We have seen many communities like r/the_donald over the years — ones that attempt to dominate the conversation on Reddit at the expense of everyone else. This undermines Reddit, and we are not going to allow it.”
The Mueller subreddit seems to purposely set itself against the behavior of the r/The_Donald. The subreddit’s moderators warn against “racism, sexism, general bigotry, etc., as well as other assorted personal insults.”
Most of the memes recast Mueller and his mission in familiar popular culture terms. For example, the president’s weekend tweets blasting the special counsel triggered a series of “Star Wars”-themed images.
Mueller’s face has also been swapped in with a character from “Lord of the Rings”:
Other posters have plastered Mueller’s face into iconic pictures from the recent political past:
Or even religious iconography:
Another popular meme channels a certain hit Police song:
“Trump supporters won’t be banned on sight,” r/The_Mueller’s moderators note on the page. “Unlike a certain similarly named subreddit, dissent is tolerated. Just don’t break the rules in your dissenting.”
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