Donald Trump’s first rally since coronavirus shut the world down is scheduled this weekend, and he couldn’t be happier.
He’s thrilled to be returning to his natural habitat, where he expects to fill a 20,000 seat stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with adoring supporters ready to consume his latest servings of word salad in preparation for his upcoming Presidential campaign.
On Monday, he boasted on Twitter that “almost one million people” had requested tickets to his planned return this weekend, and his campaign manager also tweeted, “Biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x. Saturday is going to be amazing!”
However, these numbers may have been artificially inflated by the power of TikTok virality. On the platform, a passionate call-to-action from one user with just a few thousands followers went viral in an attempt to disrupt the rally, and explains why the requested tickets are so big for a city with a population of just 200,000.
Mary Jo Laupp, a 51 year-old grandmother from Iowa, made a video in which she encourages everyone to sign up and request the two free tickets to the rally with the intention of not turning up, in order to leave Trump potentially speaking to an empty stadium on his big return.
Her protest was in response to the rally originally being scheduled for Juneteenth – the day marking the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa as a location also holds historical significance in that it was the site of a massacre of hundreds of African Americans in 1921 during racial unrest. Trump was apparently clueless of these two important historical facts, and actually only heard of Juneteenth after the public outcry at his rally.
So far her video has been seen by almost 2 million people, and has almost 700,000 likes, suggesting that a large portion of the “haul” of supporters who had signed up for the rally were in fact TikTok trolls, and not Trump supporters.
K-Pop fans, who recently assisted the Black Lives Matter cause, were also called into action, signing up to the rally with no intention of showing up too, as the TikTok challenge gained momentum across different social channels.
One Twitter user said they called a few Tulsa hotels to check room availability – you’d expect if the huge demand for tickets was legitimate as Trump suggested, a room would be hard to come by. This wasn’t the case. They posted: “Called a hotel in Tulsa this morning to see if there are any rooms available. Found one that’s inexpensive and a 9 minute walk from the BOK Center. “We have several rooms available for this Saturday”“
Someone else tweeted: “just checked Marriott for Friday and Saturday and I have numerous options available.. including the convention center for $113/night.”
However, hopes of embarrassing the Trump campaign with an empty stadium don’t seem likely. The principal deputy communications director for the campaign, Erin Perrine, said that this happens all the time, and all the protestors are really doing is giving Trump’s team access to their contact information.
In fact, the rallies work on a first come first served basis, and the ticket applications exist really to give the campaign an idea of the turnout and to collect data of those who sign up.
What sounds like a good idea will in all likelihood have no real impact, but it is fascinating to see how such a huge social movement can sprout so quickly from such a small account on TikTok. I discussed last month the potential power of the platform and the role it could play in the 2020 election cycle, and here is a great example of that power being wielded.