Meet the anti-MAGA trolls

That wasn’t an ordinary day in r/ParlerTrick, but it is representative of the group’s culture. Members of the forum—which was created shortly after the 2020 election and is named after the social-media app Parler—pretend to be prototypical social-media “patriots” in order to sow confusion in right-wing online spaces. They boosted the hashtag #DeleteParler as part of an effort to convince other Parler users that the app is a “wholly-owned project of the FBI” and that everything posted there is subject to surveillance by the “Deep State.” In the days following the Capitol riot, they spread a rumor that anyone who attended would be pardoned by Trump if they turned themselves in before the end of his term. Recently, r/ParlerTrick subscribers signed up for free tickets to an event hosted at the Iowa Corn Palace by the MyPillow CEO and Trump loyalist Mike Lindell in order to limit actual attendance, and then congratulated themselves on their choices of fake names: Harry Sach, Yura Dumas, Ann T. Fa...

While the sequestering of the MAGA internet has made surveillance of far-right ideas seem more important, it has also made trolling MAGA diehards easier (and, for some, more fun). An excursion onto a platform like Parler can be exactly that for pranksters—a quick trip behind enemy lines, where you know you’ll find a target-rich environment, and where your mischief might be less likely to cause collateral damage. (Parler, for its part, seems to welcome the additional activity. An updated set of community guidelines added in February specifically allows “trolling content.”) But constant engagement with the ideas that gain the most traction on Parler and similar platforms might still have risks for the people who are trolling. When I asked Michael whether he thought r/ParlerTrick members could ever role-play themselves into having actual hateful beliefs, he expressed concern but in an unconcerned tone of voice. “You have to be aware of that,” he said. “You have to really be thinking and conscious in the moment and know what you’re looking at.”