One of Donald Trump’s most ardent fringe message boards appeared to turn on its candidate of choice during Monday night’s debate, saying he “got played” and that “this was not supposed to happen.”
4chan, the alt-right forum that Trump and his campaign surrogates have mined for memes and image macros to repurpose on campaign Twitter accounts as recently as two weeks ago, devolved into arguments about whether the usually uniformly pro-Trump website had been overrun by “shills” or if the candidate had simply lost the debate.
“I watched it with family mixed Democrat/Republican,” wrote one user. “Every single person on both sides thought Trump looked horrible.”
Still, some users took time to attempt to game online polls soliciting opinions on who won the debate, imploring users to “abuse airplane mode toggling” to allow for more votes for Trump on websites like CNBC, Time, ABC News, and CNN.
Trump then spent the night pointing his Twitter users to those same poll numbers, which had been brigaded by 4chan and Trump's Reddit community r/The_Donald. "Great debate poll numbers - I will be on @foxandfriends at 7:00 to discuss," he wrote. "Enjoy!"
“OK guys, let’s cut the bullshit. Trump actually sucked tonight,” wrote post ID 3h7UYcU0. (All posts are anonymous on 4chan.) “Let’s talk about where we go from here. What does Trump need to do better next debate?”
A few users appeared to have an answer to that question. They took issue with Trump’s decision during the debate to blame the Democratic National Committee hack, which U.S. officials believe was perpetrated by Russia, on “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
“[Your face when] Trump calls you out for being a 400 pound hacker,” wrote one user, alongside an image titled fat-computer-guy.gif.
“Which one of you 400lb ass holes hacked the DNC,” asked another.
4chan—and its sister site 8chan, which was spawned because founder Frederick Brennan believed 4chan had become too “authoritarian”—has served as a breeding ground for some of the racist and anti-Semitic memes that have made their way onto Trump’s Twitter feed. Both sites have seen massive spikes in traffic since Trump locked up the nomination, with 4chan jumping to about 140 million August visitors from 110 million visitors in April 2016.
Trump infamously tweeted of a Star of David next to Hillary Clinton’s face over a pile of money in a Photoshopped image that was widely distributed by 8chan back in July.
But on Monday night, even 8chan’s users noticed that 4chan was reeling.
4chan’s de facto white-nationalist mascot Pepe, a cartoon frog that has come to represent both pro-Trump and anti-Semitic users on the site over the last year, even had its hand Photoshopped onto a smiling Clinton. Another meme showed Pepe pointing a machine gun at the back of its head.
A third showed the mascot drinking wine, along with the caption “Just for the record I never actually supported Trump. I just did it for the memes.”
4chan’s sentiment tended to coincide with anonymous money being gambled on the web.
According to the website PredictIt, which allows American users to bet on who will win the election, Clinton at one point netted a 15-percentage point swing between the start and end of the debate.
Shares for Clinton to win the presidency started the debate at 64 cents to every dollar bet and reached a high of 70 cents during the debate.
Trump, who started the debate at 39 cents, fared much worse.
“Trump went between 39 and 38 cents for most of the debate, ended at the low of 33, only to fall to 31 after the debate ended,” PredictIt’s Christopher Chidzik told The Daily Beast.
In the prop bet market for how many false statements Trump would make over the course of the debate (as determined by PolitiFact), “Trump making seven or more false statements rose by 20 cents over the course of the debate,” Chidzik said.
North Carolina, a state that bettors believed was headed into GOP hands before the debate, flipped for the Democrats over the course of the debate.
Back on 4chan, conspiracy theories still prevailed. One user thought he noticed a dark spot on Clinton’s clothes.
“Why would you ever vote for a person who DROOLS on her own clothes?” the user wrote, circling the spot with Photoshop.
Other users responded quickly. “That’s a microphone shadow, ya dingus.”