It’s October 13, 2015, way too early in the morning. While everyone else in the United States is asleep, prolific Twitter user Donald Trump is in the middle of a feverish retweet session at 4:53 a.m. This is something he does often, to share his fans’ love.
Wedged between a tweet claiming that Trump is “looking and sounding more presidential every day” and one that links to a conspiracy theory claiming that a Jeb Bush staffer was planted to disrupt a recent rally sits a somewhat horrifying image: the golden-maned billionaire reimagined as a frog, standing at a lecturn donned with a presidential seal.
The seven-minute video associated with the image is entitled “You Can’t Stump the Trump (Volume 4).” It begins with what sounds like Mr. Moviefone saying “just like the tarantula it’s killing, the centipede has two curved hollow fangs which inject paralyzing venom,” as the camera careens to focus on Trump during the first GOP debate.
“The centipede is a predator,” the voice says as the frame freezes on Trump and a slow zoom begins on his face and industrial music only a Nine Inch Nail could love crescendos in the background. The video, which is the fourth in a series, goes on for another six minutes, splicing and meshing real slow-motion footage and pulsing synths to prove a point: Trump can’t be stumped. It has been watched almost 300,000 times, retweeted almost 6,000 and it originated on 4chan.
4chan is notorious for a number of things—whether it’s intentionally framing someone for the Umpqua Community College shooting this month, egging on murders and suicides, or inspiring other reclusive online hatred. But recently, a wide swath of 4chan’s userbase has been turning its attention to politics—specifically their love for “dank” presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Like any great meme, it’s hard to trace where the image of an amphibious Trump originated. It is, however, based on the ubiquitous image of Pepe the Frog—a kind of bug-eyed anthropomorphic animal that walks on two legs.
Throughout its near decade-long existence, it has taken on many iterations including but not limited to Angry Pepe and Poo Poo Pee Pee. And now, of course, there’s Trump Pepe.
“Trump PEPE confirmed,” an anonymous user posted on 4chan on October 13, excitedly sharing the news that the very individual depicted in the meme had retweeted the image. “There is no dispute, the debate is now finished. Trump is the /Pol/ candidate,” another user wrote in the same thread, referring to the “politically incorrect” forum of the site where politics are most often discussed.
Trump had been a hot topic on boards like 4chan’s /b/ months before the now infamous retweet. One post, for example, fantasizes about what would happen if Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted the candidate on stage.
“Donald is forced to defend himself on live TV,” the post reads. “Donald punches one nog who falls instantly to the ground. Donald punches another and she goes down. there are too many, the Donald can’t hold any longer. suddenly a voice loudly screams from the side of the stage. “I’M COMING BROTHER!!!” Hulk Hogan struts out to Real American blasting in the background. “Whatchu gonna do N-ggers, when Hulkmania runs wild on you!?”
It goes on like that for a little while longer before the post ends with “and that’s how Trump announces his VP.”
Posts mirroring this one are not unique. Written in stream-of-consciousness prose, like elaborate fanfictions for the real estate mogul, they litter 4chan’s /pol/ board—and they’re often violent, filled with derogatory and racial slurs.
There’s even 4chan’s own slogan that’s been developed to explain how Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls. “Can’t Stump the Trump” is thrown around like 2008’s “Yes, We Can.”
And while 4chan relishes in its own ability to troll and romp anarchically through the Internet, over half a dozen users told The Daily Beast that they’re not kidding.
They really like Donald Trump, they say. No joke.
“I didn’t support him at first but the memes were too dank to ignore. So yes I support him now,” user HonkHonkSkeeter said. He wished to remain anonymous, as many did many others. (The conversations mostly took place through direct message on Reddit.) “I thought that his perspicacious usage of contemporary cultural memetics is both humorous and effective at garnering support.”
Dank should be read in this context as “fantastic” or “great,” lathered affectionately—and usually ironically—by many users. But their endorsements ring genuine.
“He is the dankest of candidates,” said user cant_stump_da_trump, who requested that he be referred to as “chicka-chicka slim shady.”
“With the way politics have been in the last 20 or so years, the people like the refreshing honesty of Trump, he doesn’t really hide the things he does or apologize for stupid shit.”
Others waded into the waters of Trump’s policies when talking about their support.
“I have many reasons [to support him] with a few that stuck out one of them being his immigration policy,” wrote user MT6Anime, who requested to be called Daniel Duran.
Duran wrote that he lives in south Texas and has “lots of friends who are here illegally but who excel at their education.” He referenced the Dream Act, which allowed for undocumented immigrants to apply for legal residency with a sponsorship, but failed to pass because of earmarks. Duran said the act it would have saved someone like referencing the story of Eric Balderas, a Harvard biology student who faced deportation in 2010.
“Trump, in one of his interviews, actually pointed out this aforementioned student and said that it was crazy. That people like him should be welcomed into this nation,” he said.
That is markedly more aware than many casual presidential fans—and notably more sincere trolls for that matter. Others were slightly more skeptical about what Trump would actually be able to accomplish as president.
“I agree with his immigration policies and admire his bravery to tell the truth rather than be PC,” Soccadude123 said. “Honestly, though, I think he’ll either make this country great again, like he says, or burn it to the ground. Either way, it should be interesting.”
At this point, no one is really sure why Trump retweeted the video. The Daily Beast asked spokesperson Hope Hicks if Trump had watched it and if so what he thought. Hicks did not respond.
But one thing is for certain: 4chan users are just as surprised as everyone else that Trump has lasted this long. And, for them, it comes down to the same reason why Trump appeals to everyone else: He simply doesn’t give a damn about being politically correct.
“As the campaign has developed, Trump has become the guy who doesn’t filter himself to appease the masses, he just says what he’s thinking without regard for offending people,” Brobi_WanKenobi said. “4chan as a whole is pretty vocal about how they think. No matter what you do these days, you are bound to offend somebody, even over meaningless little things—sually doing so by coming up with the most offensive stuff they can think of. So Trump almost acts as a sort of amalgamation of what 4chan would say if 4chan was a singular person.”
Donald Trump, or Pepe Trump, is the first 4chan candidate. And he’s not going anywhere.