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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Quantifying Trump Derangement Syndrome: New York Times's Comment Section

How bad is Trump Derangement Syndrome?

This phenomenon leaves (presumably) once rational and reasonable people apoplectic and incoherent, and is arguably the most amazing outcome of the US's 2016 Presidential election

While a casual survey would show that this affliction is prevalent, I decided to formally measure it by looking at the top 100 Facebook comments of The New York Times's post on Trump's skills-based immigration plan (out of 1,041 in total).

The post is dated May 16th 4:17 AM (Singapore time, presumably) and I write this at 10+pm on 21st May, so after 5 days it surely has gotten the vast majority of comments it's ever going to get. In other words, the dataset should have stabilised by now.

I did not weight them by likes or other forms of popularity like replies, partially for simplicity and partially because I can't think of a good way to do so, but the raw numbers should speak for themselves, especially since these are the top 100 comments. Also I had a quick look at the rest and they were more of the same.

I looked only at top level comments (ignoring replies) and have classified them into one of the following categories, trying to be generous in divining that they were trying to be relevant:

Mocking Melania and/or her family and/or Trump

Mocking native-born Americans

Snide remarks about what Trump will do next related to this measure

Slamming Trump's motives, or insulting the Republican Party and/or white men

Irrelevant general commentary on the US and/or its history or culture (e.g. deploring the state of education in the US, asking if this is to deter asylum seekers despite being totally irrelevant)

Other irrelevant comments

Talking about (or alluding to) possible problems with the policy (even if they are very vague about it)

Relevant general commentary on the US and/or its history or culture (I am being generous here and even including a remark about throwing a tarp over Lady Liberty)

Comparison to other countries' immigration systems


You will note that only the last three categories are directly related to the article (one could argue that insulting the Republican Party and/or white men might be too if you want to look at a possible partisan political angle for this proposed policy, or slamming Trump's motives).

And the results are:

Mocking Melania and/or her family and/or Trump: 66
Mocking native-born Americans: 1
Snide remarks about what Trump will do next related to this measure: 2
Slamming Trump's motives, or insulting the Republican Party and/or white men: 7
Irrelevant general commentary on the US and/or its history or culture: 2
Other irrelevant comments: 1
Talking about (or alluding to) possible problems with the policy : 10
Relevant general commentary on the US and/or its history or culture: 8
Comparison to other countries' immigration systems: 4

(This adds up to 101 so either Facebook gave me one extra or there was a double count somewhere, but that won't materially change the results).


What stands out is that a full two thirds of comments are unequivocably irrelevant (not to mention puerile), consisting as they do of mocking Melania, her family and/or Trump. Mostly Melania actually. Given that their hatred is for him, bashing her seems cruelty on the level of, dare I say, Donald Trump himself.

Were you expecting New York Times readers to leave intelligent comments about the policy and its implications, or thinking about how other countries do their merit-based migration? Well, me neither, and indeed only 14% did.

It looks like more than 2 years on, liberals are still ree-ing at the sky.
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