Once again, Donald Trump is amplifying the voices of people who have been marginalized for good reason, electrifying the angry who have felt shut out of the mainsteam conversation.
He’s done it for white supremacists by sharing bogus, racist crime statistics, and having black students barred from his events. And now he’s doing it for misogynists.
A little before midnight on Wednesday, Trump manually retweeted an image juxtaposing an unfortunate picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, with a clearly posed image of Trump’s own wife, Melania, who happens to be an internationally recognized model. “A picture is worth a thousands words,” it reads, with a caption on the image saying “No need to Spill the Beans,” referencing a threat Trump had made the night before on Twitter, his 24/7 live feed to cable news.
So-called men’s rights activists applauded, praising Trump for his virility and the attractiveness of his wife, and cheering that their ideas were at last getting a wider hearing. Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh, leader of the “pro-rape” organization Return of Kings, told The Daily Beast that the tweet was warranted.
“Trump’s actions are justified self-defense,” he said. “Cruz got one of his Super PAC’s to denigrate Melania and so Trump did the appropriate thing in defending his wife’s honor by retweeting an image made by a supporter. If a man goes after your wife, I hope you have the balls to defend her by attacking back.”
When informed that Cruz had nothing to do with the ad in question and told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he condemned it, Valizadeh would not be moved.
“That doesn’t appear to be a proven fact,” he said. “Even if it is, for Cruz to be completely unaware of the actions of his campaign network shows incompetence and a lack of awareness that is not at all presidential. The last thing we need is a president who passes the buck when something goes wrong on his watch.”
This sort of implausible deniability is a common trait in some Trump supporters. When it comes to inciting violence, encouraging racist narratives and—in this case—demeaning women, it’s never Trump’s fault. It’s the politically correct left-wing media that misinterprets his actions. And for them, Trump is the mainstream funnel for ideas that have long been relegated to private computers in American basements.
“So, is it really an ‘attack’?” a spokesman for Men Going Their Own Way—a group that preaches the preservation of male sovereignty at all costs, including by staying away from women entirely—asked rhetorically. The spokesman, who didn’t give his name, continued:
“If someone feels ‘attacked’ by a tweet… they should probably get off the Internet.”
As to Trump’s initial threat to “spill the beans,” he said he presumed it was in reference to a 2005 incident in which Heidi Cruz, struggling with depression, was found on the side of a Texas highway, which he referred to as her “nutcase meltdown.”
He also, unprompted, brought up an online campaign from women threatening to withhold sex from Trump supporters, and shrugged: “As if vagina is more important than America.”
Others tied to the loosely organized MRA movement seemed similarly excited by Trump.
“People who have ugly wives should not comment on other men’s wives,” one user in a private chat room for MRAs said in response to a question from The Daily Beast.
The group hosting the conservation, in which The Daily Beast participated, is meant for believers in The Red Pill, an Internet-generated ideology that purports that men are oppressed and women are not.
“For what it’s worth, I think Trump handled it wrong,” another user chimed in. “His response was defensive, whereas I think the much better response would have been ‘sorry my wife is attractive’ or something along those lines in Trump language.”
“Looks like a good first lady to me, Clinton wouldn’t have been getting blowies by secretaries,” said one.
“She always looks like a dog ready to be put down,” another said of Heidi Cruz.
These are people hiding behind usernames who have never seen their ideas validated by a major political figure until now. There’s an entire section of the The Red Pill subreddit that seeks to explain how Trump’s ideas align with theirs.
It uses Trump’s attack lines against Megyn Kelly, viewed by many as abhorrent and disgusting, to explain the group’s life philosophies.
“Let’s say you are flirting with a hot girl at a party. Maybe you say something uncalibrated and she takes offense. She then calls you out on it. Ask yourself, ‘what would Donald Trump do?’ would he apologize? Nope! Even if you make a mistake, NEVER apologize to a girl. Especially when you’re in public. Sometimes you need to welcome the incoming conflict that develops. Don’t run away from it with the excuse of ‘I don’t want to rock the boat’ or ‘I will look like an asshole.’ This is EXACTLY what the girl wants you to do and think.”
But what more could one expect of a guy who once wrote in his 2007 book Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life: “The women I have dated over the years could have any man they want; they are the top models and most beautiful women in the world. I have been able to date (screw) them all because I have something that many men do not have. I don’t know what it is but women have always liked it.”
Trump, who says things about women like “you have to treat ’em like shit,” and does things like pouring wine on female reporters or bearing witness as his campaign manager physically grabs them, sounds a lot like the Internet commenters in their basements.
It’s just that he’s the leading Republican presidential candidate.