- President Donald Trump’s big comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday was a disappointment, with a relatively small number of supporters attending and rows of empty seats.
- On social media, teenagers and K-pop fans are claiming victory.
- In recent days they’ve been signing up to tickets for the event – with no intention of attending.
- In a viral TikTok meme, teenagers have posted images of Trump rally reservation tickets while dancing to the “macarena” pop song.
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President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Saturday, was billed as his big comeback from the crises that have beset his administration in recent months.
But instead of a packed 19,000 capacity stadium of cheering supporters, the president was greeted on Saturday night by the sight of rows of empty seats.
Attendance was so poor that the president had to scrap plans to make a speech outside the venue, where expected crowds of supporters who couldn’t get into the stadium failed to show up.
On Twitter, Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, blamed “radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage,” claiming they stopped Trump supporters getting into the venue. Reporters at the scene said the anti-Trump protests in the city were relatively small.
—Brandon Levesque (@brandonlevek) June 21, 2020
—Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2020
But the real reason for the poor showing may be a viral campaign that’s swept social media platforms TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
On the platforms, teenagers have been reserving tickets for the rally … with no plans of actually showing up.
Key to the campaign, reported The New York Times, is the huge online network of fans of Korean pop music — K-pop. In recent months they have pivoted from celebrating their favorite groups and artists to political causes, such as swamping right-wing hashtags and raising millions for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Trump campaign had called for supporters to sign up for a free ticket to the rally using their mobile phone in a June 11 tweet, and K-pop fan accounts urged people to do so to prank the campaign.
But it wasn’t a teenager who played the key role in rallying support for the prank — but Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother, living in Fort Dodge, Iowa. In a TikTok video that went viral, she urged people to take part, racking up hundreds of thousands of likes.
Laup told CNN last week she had worked on Democrat Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. It was Trump’s initial decision to stage the rally on Juneteenth (a decision that he later reversed), the date marking the end of slavery, that inspired her to act.
On TikTok a meme has been spreading, where users post a picture of their Trump rally reservation ticket, which they don’t intend to use, and dance to 1993 pop hit the “Macarena.”
Parents on Twitter shared stories of their kids taking part in the viral campaign.
—C.J. Chivers (@cjchivers) June 21, 2020
“The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonaldTrump. All across America teens ordered tickets to this event. The fools on the campaign bragged about a million tickets. lol,” tweeted veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt.
Parscale had previously bragged of the huge turnout expected at the rally, tweeting on June 14 that the event was the “biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x.” The campaign uses data like mobile phone numbers used to sign up for tickets to target adverts and propaganda to supporters.
But in videos, K-pop fans and teenagers had provided tips on registering for the tickets with mobile numbers that weren’t the ones they regularly use, to avoid being spammed by the campaign.
We may never know to what extent the viral campaign responsible for the Trump rally flop on Saturday. But it seems likely that a lot of that data haul Parscale boasted of won’t be particularly useful to the Trump campaign.