U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) made an appearance at the Fremont County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner last Saturday, and delivered her rehearsed and flippant quip to the friendly crowd:
“I’m having the time of my life there [in Congress], because every single day I get to troll liberals.”
Apparently, she read the room fairly well. Her message resonated somewhat, as her audience chortled and snickered after the briefest delay in responding to Boebert’s cue, a pause to wait for the laughter.
It was a very “meta” moment, since her glib comment about trolling liberals could effectively serve to actually troll liberals.
Trolling can be defined as commentary which is designed to stir contention and emotional response for fun or entertainment, and which doesn’t propose or promote specific platform ideas or positions.
Fact checking Boebert’s statement to the Fremont County Republicans, it appears that on Twitter — arguably the most popular social media platform for trolls — her statement can be rated as “mostly true.”
In an anecdotal survey, scrolling through the past week of tweets from Boebert’s two Twitter accounts — @laurenboebert and @RepBoebert — it was determined that, using narrow criteria to identify trolling tweets*, Boebert averaged nearly 2 per day, or about 1/3 of all her tweets.
But with more liberal criteria (pardon the expression), Boebert’s trolling tweets could account for half or a slight majority of her posts.
Political content rates among the highest of categories in terms of where trolling is observed.
With the rise of divisive and oppositional partisan politics, 24-hour cable infotainment channels, and a broadening of the social media landscape, trolling in the political realm has become a popular device to engage audiences and fortify a base of followers who are ideological allies. But its efficacy as an electoral strategy of persuasion and coalition building is harder to calculate.
Boebert’s propensity for trolling was obvious even before she launched her campaign for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat, representing southern and western parts of the state, when she drove from Rifle to Denver with her Glock strapped to her hip to troll Beto O’Rourke on the campaign trail.
And she hasn’t slowed down since.
Is Boebert a capable troll? Liberals will have to judge.
Since arriving in Washington D.C., Boebert has demonstrated an aptitude for leveraging her social media presence and garnering spots on conservative cable “news” shows to fuel her notoriety.
Among all freshman legislators, Boebert’s name recognition, public profile, and visibility are indisputably ranked in the top 3 or 4, accompanied by Marjorie Taylor Greene, another noted troll and provocateur with Republican affiliation.
Boebert and Greene’s association with QAnon and conspiracy theorists significantly elevates their troll rating, building their audiences on the foundation of unsubstantiated innuendo and rumor while targeting established political institutions and public individuals, predominantly Democrats.
Certainly, Boebert’s legislative record is not contributing to her elevated public profile, since none “of her sponsored or cosponsored bills have even passed the House, let alone become law.” She generally focuses her commentary on criticizing her opposition.
The problem posed by Boebert’s trolling, though, is important to acknowledge. In governing, constructive collaboration and compromise ultimately determine success in enacting policy. Divisive bomb-throwing and baiting emotional reactions undermine that. Plus, the metastasis of misinformation is often a direct byproduct of trolling.
And how do we know if Boebert really believes her hateful mean tweets, or whether they’re simply a device to garner more attention and notoriety? As with all trolling, it can appear to be simple hate speech even when it’s sarcastic or a joke. The consumer is left to interpret the authenticity of the troll’s comments and their intended meaning. And sometimes, “it is hate speech and will lead to the same consequences.“
*narrow criteria used to identify liberal-trolling tweets by Boebert: 1) antagonistic, baiting, emotionally triggering, AND; 2) does not promote a position or idea, AND; 3) explicitly names, “liberals,” “libs,” “progressives,” “proggies,” “the left,” “lefties,” “leftists,” “Dems,” “Democrats,” “DemonRats (and all variations),” “socialists,” “communists,” etc.