Donald Trump has more than 12 million followers on Twitter, but only follows 41 accounts. They include family members, employees and accounts for Trump properties. Only one appears to be the profile of a black person.
Meet @DiamondandSilk, a joint handle by sisters Lynette Hardaway (Diamond) and Rochelle Richardson (Silk), two African-American video bloggers and Trump supporters. Their prominent place in the Trump online universe paints a picture of the echo-chamber that is Trump’s online life — and the narrow silos of affiliation that social media can create.
The sisters say they started making videos in 2014, mostly calling out media bias. Then Trump came onto the scene.
They were won over by his refreshing outsider status compared to career politicians like Hillary Clinton, a politics-as-usual “puppet” controlled by donors and special interests, says Hardaway.
Born Democrats, they switched their registrations last year to vote in the North Carolina primary for Trump, who was finally talking about what they saw as real solutions for a key issue, illegal immigration and a secure border — “Don’t you secure your house?” Hardaway asks. Her sister murmers in agreement.
How to get followed by Donald Trump
They are concerned about jobs — both say they worked in manufacturing before quitting to video-blog full time.
In Trump, they had found someone who appears to tell it like it is. And in them, Trump had found a combative surrogate, given his nearly non-existent support from African-American voters.
The sisters already had been promoting Trump heavily in their videos when they met the candidate in North Carolina last year. Along with some others, they were “whisked” by staffers to the VIP room to await his arrival. When he entered amid camera flashes and requests for selfies, he quickly caught sight of Richardson, she says, and pointed at the pair, asking them to come talk — recognizing them because of their videos, they assumed.
“He listened,” says Hardaway. “He didn’t tune us out.” Soon they were appearing at rallies. They’ve recently been on a “Women’s Empowerment Tour” for Trump, paid for by sources they would not divulge.
They say they have been received ecstatically on the campaign trail, and it’s not hard to see why: In their videos and at Trump rallies, they talk about “hell on earth” in American cities and the need for more “law and order.” Plus their use of the phrase All Lives Matter and belief that accepting Syrian refugees is a failure to put “America first.” Coming from African-American women, it validates the audience’s pre-existing beliefs. Shared widely, it obscures the limited support for Trump in their demographic.
Telling the crowd what it wants to hear isn’t particularly surprising at a campaign rally. It’s not even that surprising on Twitter, where we tend to congregate among those with similar beliefs — on the left as commonly as on the right.
Trump with his 41-person Twitter feed does it, too. But it’s our news cycles and political discourse that is informed by Trump’s narrowness.
Inside Trump’s Twitterverse
In the last month, most of Trump’s tweets are updates from the campaign — reminders about rallies and upcoming Fox News appearances.
But Trump still takes the reigns for occasional off-the-cuff thoughts. That’s where we get Homeric, epithet-laden takedowns of Maureen Dowd, Mark Cuban and others.
There are retweets of people he follows, and some of people he doesn’t.
Then there is a third category: quoted tweets that seem to be copy and pasted from his mentions or hashtag searches.
“Cannot believe how often the moderator interrupts #Pence vs the other guy . . . so obvious @FoxNews,” says @anyonetennis during the vice presidential debate. She promptly found her words communicated around the world.
“#TheDonald’s hair gets the #JimmyKimmel treatment on #TheTonightShow #TrumpPence16,” says @ak_tweet after a Trump late-night appearance.
These compliments tend to be from regular people with miniscule followings, picked out of the blue, absent the courtesy of retweeting. But they seem not to mind.
Trump finds tweets from handles full of Pepe memes and mentions of “libtards” and “the thugs of Charlotte.” They have names laced with profanity. Their feeds are generally entirely devoted to the presidential race and the dangers therein.
They seem to get fueled by him, and he gets his fuel from them. They are talking to each other in a spiral of selectivity and distrust of anyone outside the cone.
@DiamondandSilk have that same distrust of outside forces. Their original point of entry to Trump was skepticism of mainstream media, who “take and feed you a narrative and make you go along with it,” Hardaway says.
But they’ve found a new narrative.
“We can feed ourselves,” she says.
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