Gabe Whaley has used the internet in 2017, so he is aware of what happens when many Trump supporters stumble across a story about Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, or anything involving race issues online.
What happens is often pure rage.
“Most of the Trump supporters I know are real sensitive when you bring up issues regarding social justice and equality that are very real and that people deal with every day,” said Whaley.
So he and his collective, Mschf, came up with an idea to help those people out. It just wasn’t a new one.
“We had been mulling the concept of a safe space for Trump supporters during the election because there was this big trend of the Trump camp giving everyone a lot of shit for being very sensitive,” said Whaley. “We made this to say, ‘No, Trump supporters, you’re actually the sensitive ones.’”
That’s where Alt-Space came from. It’s a very real Chrome extension that serves as a “safe space online for those who want to Make America Great Again.”
Anytime a user of Alt-Space stumbles on a website that features issues like immigration, Planned Parenthood, feminism, LGBT rights, or global warming, among others, the user will presented with a bright yellow screen that blares an all-caps “TRIGGER WARNING!”
“[Trump supporters] appropriated the words ‘safe space’ and ‘trigger warning.’ And now they’ve appropriated ‘fake news,’” said Whaley. “Let’s turn this back around and put it back on them. They actually need it.”
The last 24 hours offered some extreme examples of the trivial phrases that could set off a certain set of Trump supporters (and the Chrome extension). Many commentators on Fox News, for example, “refuse[d] to watch” the Oscars because the show wouldn’t “quit bashing President Trump.” In an interview with Fox & Friends taped on Monday, Trump himself accused the Oscars of somehow “pulling the race card” after persistent anti-Oscars coverage on Fox properties over the weekend.
Some far-right Trump defenders went to the mat for the president’s most off-the-map quirks on Monday. After it was revealed the president eats his steak very well done and with ketchup, editor of pro-Trump conspiracy site Infowars Paul Joseph Watson wrote “Fact: Only idiot hipsters who are trying to be trendy order their steaks anything less than medium-well.”
So Whaley might need to add “Oscars” and “steak” to the Alt-Space trigger word list pretty soon. He says there are currently about 40 subjects that set off the alarm, governed by two rules.
“Are these issues related to social justice and equality, for one? You can’t just put in the word Obama and have it stop you,” he said. “The second is, ‘Will any mere mention of this issue put someone in the Trump camp on the defensive?’ Then we do it.”
You might remember Whaley’s team at Mschf from the website FriendsWhoLikeTrump.com, which automatically redirects you to a Facebook page showing you which of your Facebook friends hold Trumpian sympathies. That’s the sort of thing he and his group are trying to do with their tiny culture hacks.
“There’s a lot of talk in media and advertising about trying to “make the world a better place” right now,” he said. “We have our narrative. We know what we wanna say.”
And one of those things, for now, is ‘TRIGGER WARNING’ to a lot of people who haven’t yet had it thrown back at themselves.