[Part 2] Anatomy of a Troll Account: Hunters Against NRA
A troll account linked to the Fake Antifa campaign is provoking Americans left and right on social media — here’s how they do it.
In Part 1, we briefly covered the history of Hunters Against NRA (HANRA), and were introduced to the character it’s playing on social media.
To summarize, HANRA is acting as a “conservative #NeverAgain activist group” on Twitter. On Facebook, it’s “the definitive Anti-NRA page” and a “conservative defense against the NRA.”
In this article, we will see how HANRA plays its character and how its target audience reacts to said character.
1. HANRA retweets and praises David Hogg and Emma González, activists against gun violence.
A sure way of convincing your audience of your character on social media is by sharing content created by accounts related to your character. In other words, HANRA asked itself: Who would my character follow? What would they share online?
HANRA decided that to convince its audience that it’s a #NeverAgain organization it would celebrate two prominent gun reform activists in the United States — David Hogg and Emma González.
At the time of this article’s publication, HANRA has retweeted Hogg twelve times. Here are several screenshots of that.
HANRA has also mentioned David Hogg fifteen times on its Twitter account. In five of those instances, the account said Hogg should be the next Supreme Court Justice.
Additionally, HANRA posted about Emma González and even called her “wife material.” This is a little bizarre, but there’s a point to all of this.
By posting dozens of times about Hogg and González, HANRA is trying very hard to convince people of its character. But the seemingly outrageous meme that HANRA is spreading, that Hogg should be a Supreme Court Justice, and the account’s near-obsession with González, sends different messages to two subaudiences — leftists and rightists.
To leftists, HANRA appears to be so passionate about gun reform that it wants Hogg to serve as a Supreme Court Justice and has tweeted several times about González’s perceived beauty. “It’s a little crazy,” some leftists may think. “But if he’s that passionate about the gun reform cause, he must be legitimate.”
This tactic works. For example, take a look at who liked HANRA’s “wife material” tweet: four leftist accounts.
There are other examples of leftist accounts liking, retweeting, and following HANRA on Twitter, but for the sake of the article’s length, I have decided to exclude them. I encourage readers to check the account for themselves.
To rightists, the abovementioned tendencies of the account validate another meme that is already well planted in their minds: that liberals/leftists are outrageous, radical, and mentally ill. “This HANRA dude is off his rocker,” a rightist may think. “He actually thinks Hogg can be a Supreme Court Justice! And how could he call Emma González [a perceived threat to my constitutional right to bear arms] ‘wife material’?”
Again, we see that this worked to attract and provoke right-wingers, one of the account’s intended subaudiences.
For instance, on June 24, HANRA uploaded a video on Twitter titled, “A Poem to David Hogg.”
As expected, rightists were quick to insult the activist. Many called Hogg a “fool” and sarcastically thanked him for “the increase in [NRA] memberships.”
On Facebook, a Hogg-Supreme Court Justice post on June 27 garnered 70 laughing-face reactions.
And many negative comments. One person even asked if HANRA was “dropped on your head as a child.” Another shared a meme that stated liberals were “stupid.”
On the same day, HANRA shared an article that praised Emma González’s work. Without adding anything, HANRA’s post gained fifty-seven laughing-face reactions, as well as comments that called González “stupid,” a “dumbass,” and a “skank.”
Here we are beginning to see HANRA’s primary mission: to provoke pro-gun conservatives with inflammatory content.
Nevertheless, HANRA understands that just posting about Hogg and González isn’t enough to send home the message that it is who it says it is.
2. HANRA shares left-wing tweets and images.
To protect its true identity, HANRA has shared left-wing media on its social media profiles, particularly content related to the gun reform movement. Again, this signals to its subaudiences that it is a genuine anti-NRA organization. Here are some examples of that.
3. HANRA continuously uses pro-gun reform hashtags.
Remember, to troll is to act. And HANRA is playing a character to better troll others, especially right-wing people. So it would make sense for the character to use the #NeverAgain hashtag.
At the time of this article’s publication, HANRA-Twitter has used #NeverAgain twenty-three times in its posts, as well as #MarchForOurLives (twenty times) and #GunReformNow (four times).
It’s evident that HANRA really wants to make others sure that it’s the real deal.
But, as we reviewed in this article, it’s not. We know it’s not. On the contrary, HANRA is fake and highly manipulative. And it’s only able to do all of this because its target audience — pro-gun conservative Americans — believes that it is legitimate and their enemy.
In Part 3, we will see more clearly how the people behind HANRA inflame Americans online, particularly those who subscribe to right-wing ideas.