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The Internet Reacts to #TrumpTapes: Could This Be the Nail in the Trump Campaign’s Coffin? Not… Everything Else Before Now?

Hardly the first time that Donald Trump has shown his true colors. And yet, here we are.

When I saw the news yesterday that Donald Trump had made statements about groping women back in 2005, I assumed this disgusting piece of news about him would get ignored by everyone, just like every other piece of news that’s ever emerged about Trump’s racism, sexism, and huge personality problems that clearly make him unfit for public office.

That, and other similar pieces of news about Donald Trump didn’t seem to stick in the past; for example, when Donald Trump was still married to Ivana Trump, she alleged that he raped her, and the only reason why it didn’t stick in court was because Trump’s legal defense argued that “you cannot rape your spouse.” After this point, Trump’s lawyers forced Ivana Trump to pen this apology regarding the incident: “As a woman, I felt violated… I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

Donald Trump has also been accused of raping a thirteen-year-old girl back in 1994. The accusations don’t end there, either. One of his business acquaintances, Jill Harth, accused him of attempted rape back in 1997. These are not new cases the only appeared after Trump started running for office. These are decades-old incidents.

So, hearing that Donald Trump made disgusting comments about groping women against their will in 2005 shouldn’t come as any big surprise to anyone who has read about these statements from women describing their own experiences. Yet, apparently, people needed to hear Trump saying these comments in order to “prove” there’s a problem?

It’s not like this is the first time Donald Trump has done or said something reprehensible that could be proven, either! He’s made outright racist statements and discriminated against people on the basis of race throughout his career. Not to mention his litany of misogynistic comments made on the record over the years. So, why now? Why is America upset about his comments at this point, but not at any other point in the past?

The internet is here to explain the problem:

The answer to “why now? why not before?” is complicated and frustrating. Why didn’t anyone listen to the women who described their experiences with Donald Trump? Why didn’t people care about the sexism and racism espoused by Donald Trump, and his own actions taken as a supposed business leader? Why did this particular audio of Donald Trump go viral, when many of his other words and actions haven’t seemed to have any effect?

It seems like people care more about the comments Trump made in this tape, than they do about the actual marked effects that he had on the lives of people around him. Also, the fact that the GOP has used this scandal as an opportunity to ask Trump to step down indicates where their priorities lie; seems like they care more about appearances than the fact that catering to sexists and racists allowed Trump to rise to the top of the GOP ticket in the first place. The only problem, in their eyes, is that Trump got caught on tape admitting to having done the things that women have already said that he’s done. The actual problems with Trump’s policies, and with the policies of any other candidate who might conceivably replace him, have gone unnoticed.

What’s more, I’m still not convinced that this tape will actually change the minds of the people who support Trump. But time will tell on that one. What’s interesting about this from an internet perspective is that it’s very difficult to tell what types of news items will go viral, and what won’t. The #TrumpTapes scandal has been trending on Twitter since yesterday evening, and it’s still going strong at the time of this writing.

As for why Trump’s other scandals didn’t happen to go viral, while this one did? Well, there are systemic biases that could speak to that: we care more about the experiences of white women than any other women–and we also only care about those experiences if we have “proof” from a male source, not those women themselves.

In addition to that, though, internet virality isn’t widely understood even by those who study it for a living. Marketing experts and campaign managers everywhere want to capture virality in a bottle and use it to their own ends. If they could, then they could rule the internet–and Trump’s own undeniable gift for using Twitter to encapsulate his bizarreness has certainly been a boon for him in this post-internet campaign. However, even he might not be able to control this particular story, because once the internet decides that a story is going to go viral, it does. And there’s no stopping it now.

(image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (