By Torraine Walker
In American politics, the loudest voices in online debate are usually the alt-right. Using a mix of personal attacks and misinformation, the right has managed to turn online chatter into a force powerful enough to influence public opinion and elections. But one social media personality has begun to challenge that.
In December 2016, a Twitter user with the screen name of Freeyourmindkid began posting before and after screenshots of Trump voter tweets after their candidate reneged on one campaign promise after another. Since then, he has become a sort of anti-Trump source, posting daily rebuttals to alt-right talking points on racism, immigration, and Trump administration legislation.
With a Twitter following that grew from 400 followers to nearly 50,000 in nine months, a website that catalogs the buyer's remorse of disgruntled Trump voters, and a t-shirt line, he has gained internet fame and increasing influence, but also constant harassment and threats from the alt-right.
I met with Freeyourmindkid to talk about his activism and goals. This interview has been edited for clarity, and I honored his request that his identity be kept anonymous.
When did you get the idea to do this?
“After the election, I saw the Trump Regrets page and I noticed they weren't doing before shots of people who regretted their votes so I did a Twitter search and found the tweets of people right after the election who were celebrating Trump’s win, rubbing it in everyone's face, and I contrasted that with their later comments when they were upset that they didn't get what they voted for. I just kept doing that over and over and it eventually took off. They featured me on The David Pakman Show and that's how I got the bulk of my followers. After that people suggested that I make a website. So I did, the site took off, and things have been rolling from there.”
What sort of responses have you gotten from Trump supporters and people who are resisting him?
“It's funny, when Trump supporters respond, especially the ones whose regrets I posted, a lot of them are regretful initially, but once they saw what he said then they get aggressive and they say, ‘well, he's better than Hillary’, or ‘well at least I'm not a stupid liberal.’ I think a lot of people are still behind him because they see a binary world. You're either liberal or conservative, you're either right or wrong. They pick a side and their side is Trump, no matter how screwed up his policies are and no matter how incompetent he is, because in their binary world, he's the closest thing in their mind to right.”
As far as people who are against Trump, most of them love it. Especially considering they said before the election, ‘you're gonna regret voting for this moron’ and this is showing their prediction came true.”
Have you had any politicians confront you about your content?
“I actually have a few politicians follow me. None of them have confronted me directly, I guess because that would be politically muddy for them, but they read it and just sorta stay back.”
Were you involved in politics at all before this?
“I actually did some work for local Democrats back when I was in undergrad. I was in an immigration march back in 2010, and we also worked on immigrant profiling at the Canadian border when people who appeared to be brown or Muslim were getting pulled off buses. I was in New York at the time, and they have a rule that if you're within 100 miles of the Canadian border you can be pulled off and searched. That was happening a lot, so we documented it. So I’ve been involved in politics for a while but with everything picking up after the election this is the deepest I've gone into it.”
Have you learned anything about the people you've interacted with?
“I've learned that a lot of people are open-minded and want to learn, but I've also learned that some people are really stubborn and they don't wanna learn at all. No matter how many times you confront them with facts, or try to have an open conversation with them, they always wanna double down on their preconceived mindset or whatever.”
Have you managed to convert any people?
“A few, who were living in their own world but are willing to look at things from a different perspective.”
Has anybody threatened you?
“A few people have. I have a block program now but before then, someone with 100,000 followers would retweet me and then I would get angry anime characters and trolls in my mentions sending me violent photos and threatening to murder me and my family. That's sorta died down, but there's still threats. Some guy was like ‘we're gonna find this guy’ but nothing happened, thank God. But you know, what can you do? Everybody gets threats when they're outspoken.”
How's your website and t-shirts doing?
“It's actually doing pretty good, I try to come out with a t-shirt once a month, the best t-shirt I had was the MLK one, that's the one people have loved the most, so I'm probably gonna reissue that one. Basically I keep an open mind and I get a lot of ideas from my followers so there'll be more shirts to come, but it's been pretty good so far.”
Where do you see this going?
“I really wasn't trying to blow up like this. It wasn't my goal, but now that I do have such a big platform, I wanna do something with it. I want to hold politicians accountable since so many people are watching my Twitter. At some point I want to get people together to talk about what we can do about problematic policies...maybe call out companies that are investing in the prison system, people who are benefitting from the additional raids on immigrants, and try to get people to divest from them, and help turn the tide we've seen since Trump has been elected.”
Torraine Walker is a writer, independent journalist, and content creator for digital media. His work has appeared in publications including the Huffington Post, Fusion, Abernathy, and Brain Mill Press. In 2015, his blog SUMCity won WordPress' Freshly Pressed Award for best new blogs.