Wednesday, May 4, 2016

News and Commentary: Political Opposition Against Trump HQ Continues


By Bixyl Shuftan

Last week, I wrote more about the "Trump Wall" erected towering over the Sanders HQ by Trump supporters, in what the head of the Trump HQ JP Laszlo called a prank. Since then, there's been more written about the drama between the two groups of supporters, and the Trump HQ. The "Washington Liberals" blog  posted about the wall and people griefing the Sanders HQ, as did Motherboard. One picture posted by Washington Liberals which has been reprinted in several other articles, including a New World Notes article by Hamlet Au last week, shows "demons," which are among the "vampire" avatars available to newcomers to Second Life on day one, described as harassing people there with "Trump! Trump!" spam.

Jeff Grubb of "Venture Beat" was also curious and went inworld to check out the Trump HQ, "Second Life is still weird. The 2016 United States Presidential election is weird, but the Internet is doing its best to prove it can always get stranger." Comparing the people he met in the place to 4chan users, "... it's not offensive when it's sad. ... They think they are so brash, and they are if you take them at face value. But mostly, they just seem lonely. You can laugh at that. I certainly did. But that wears off quickly....You can tell all anyone in the Trump HQ wants is to offend people. I have that desire as well, but it’s something that I’ve tried to outgrow." Despite being briefly banned after a joke, that had nothing to with politics, taken the wrong way, he stated that overall he was seen as okay as long as the subject of politics didn't come up. But when on to say when he took people to task over certain issues, the mood turned defensive, "Predictably, the Trump fans went with their well-worn defense mechanism: 'Every example of racism is a joke or a liberal troll trying to make Trump look bad.'"

Another issue that's come up is the use of a flax mixing the Nazi swastika with the Trump name, which Sanders HQ owner Macaria Wind snapped a picture of, "There is a picture I managed to capture of one of the flags spewing from a particle dispenser at HQ," she told Hamlet Au, "Left there by one of Trump's supporters when no one was around." JP Lazlo has previously admitted such trolling takes place, but "I am not responsible for every troll claiming to be a Trump supporter, just as she is not responsible for every troll claiming to be for Bernie." There's also that the Nazi flag is universally reviled by liberals and conservatives alike, appealing only to a tiny few reactionaries who dismiss both of them. Since the individuals displaying such banners are unnamed, it's less than clear whether it's by some extremist acting out for reasons of politics, or by a troll who just wants to cause trouble.

For some however, they have seen enough and feel it's time for Linden Lab to take action. This week, Hamlet Au wrote a commentary stating that Linden Lab needs to shut down the Trump HQ for repeated violations of Second Life's community standards. Hamlet made a comparison to the Confederate flag controversy last year (of which I had a differing opinion than his). But Linden Lab didn't ban the flag from the virtual world, just quietly remove it from the Marketplace some time since he and I wrote about the issue (NWN article), though stores were sill free to sell it inworld. Banning the Trump HQ and it's group like it did the Woodbury group which had become infamous for being a griefer hangout (especially among my furry friends) years ago, would be difficult for Linden Lab to pull off without looking like it was taking sides in politics, and could risk alienating it's more conservative members, even those who have problems with the brash candidate. Hamlet's argument that these are not supporters of a political candidate but trolls using politics as an excuse to grief can easily get lost in the passions of an election campaign, particularly those of recent years in which people whom once saw supporters of the other party as simply having a difference of opinion are increasingly questioning their judgement, ethics, sanity, and intentions.

With Trump's remaining opponents for the Republican nomination dropping out last night and today following the results of the Indiana primary, the candidate's victory there is simply a formality. Sander's victory there over Clinton is a needed morale boost to the "Berners," and a reminder to the Democrats' own establishment they intend to take the race all the way to the last state. So it's likely for a few more weeks the tension between the political groups in Second Life will continue. But with the Democratic front-runner having such a huge lead in pledged and unpledged delegates combined, the best he can reasonably hope for is a brokered convention. Most likely the nomination will go to Clinton. As she has failed to inspire the same kind of enthusiasm Sanders has, it's possible rather than change the names of their locations from Sanders to Clinton, Second Life's "Berners" at the Sanders HQ and the new "Feel the Bern" hangout in the Young sim may simply take down their political banners and devote their Second Lives to other activities. And deprived of a target, both the Trump group and the trolls acting in the candidates name could get bored and lose interest. Which is probably what Linden Lab is hoping for. But if the Sanders HQ and "Feel the Bern"can be convinced to get behind the establishment Democrat, it's going to be "interesting times" in Second Life for those with a taste in politics, and a headache for the Lab which no doubt wanted people to pay attention to the virtual world for reasons other than "cyber noogie," but not like this.

Sources: Washington Liberals, Motherboard, VentureBeat, New World Notes, CNN 

Bixyl Shuftan

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