“Puppet” Instagram Accounts Provoke Outrage

Dominique Marley Frideger and Charlotte Olivia Karlsen

On May 13, an Instagram account was created called @batesfortrump. It claims to be a page made up of “Bates students working to support the re-election of @donaldjtrump.”

Since the page’s creation, members of the Bates community have been challenging its content. These students encountered Trump defenders on a post about an article titled “Evidence That Conservative Students Really Do Self-Censor.” Some of these people are not enrolled at Bates and instead attended other schools, as determined by their Instagram biographies. Among these defenders, The Bates Student has identified at least two accounts that appear to be puppet accounts posing as members of the Bates student body.

One of these accounts was for Erin Cornfield (@erin.cornfield), claiming to be from the Bates Class of 2022. There are no results for any students at Bates named Erin Cornfield on the Bates Faces database, in the student directory, or on Facebook. The account follows 40 people but has no followers. 

Screenshot of Erin Cornfield’s Instagram profile

It also appears that another fake account was created pretending to be a Bates student with the username @gman.eesh. This account has since been deleted. 

Bates students were quick to call out the alleged puppet account. Rishi Madnani ‘23 (@rish.dog) is one student who questioned the validity of these Trump defenders.

“I honestly wasn’t trying to police anybody’s political views or comments, but I found it a little hard to believe that two apparent students of color (one African-American, one Indian-American) would publicly defend and endorse Donald Trump, an unarguably racist individual,” wrote Madnani in a statement for The Student. “I think I can speak on behalf of most, but not all, Indian and Black students when I say that we are offended and repulsed by the potential appropriation of our identities to support an individual that incessantly dehumanizes and demonizes people of color in the name of ‘making America great again.’”

Screenshot of a conversation between Erin Cornfield and two Bates students. Names and images have been redacted and color-coded for each individual.

“And besides,” he continued, “If they had to hide behind fake identities to express their ‘opinions’ they must already know that what they’re saying is immoral.”

It is unknown whether there is any connection between @batesfortrump and the allegedly fake accounts.

On May 15, following considerable backlash from Bates students, the @batesfortrump Instagram page posted a photo with a caption attempting to dispel rumors and clarify the account’s intentions. They claim that they made the account in order for Trump supporters on campus to have some representation “mirroring the @batesforbiden page.” 

The @batesforbiden account is directly affiliated with the Biden campaign, however it is unclear whether the @batesfortrump account is affiliated with the Trump campaign.

The @batesfortrump statement goes on to claim that the reason no pro-Trump page had existed in the past was because “the page was pounced upon by a crowd of angry, presumably left wing, students who criticized the existence of the page.” They went on to write, “It is saddening that there are certain groups of people at our school that, from what we understand, are a vocal minority that are intolerant of opposing beliefs, to the point that they will not hesitate to unjustly label anyone that disagrees with them.” 

The existence of these alleged puppet accounts has led to questions about the origin and legitimacy of the account. In response to this critique the post says, “Additionally for those wondering, this account is in fact run by (a) Bates student(s), but by looking at the comments, hope you can understand why it is reasonable to keep names private.”

The Bates Student reached out to the owner of @batesfortrump over Instagram to verify their identity as a Bates student, but received no response.

The @batesforbiden Instagram page commented on this post, writing that they “respect the existence of conservatism on campus, but we believe the rhetoric and divisive nationalism of the Trump campaign is not a reflection of core conservative ideals” and that they would like to “stay out of discussions surrounding this account and hope that the political energy in these comments translates to votes in November instead of further divisiveness.” 

There was also an account created on May 15 called @batesagainstbatesfortrump, however there has been little activity from the account.

Roy Mathews ‘21, President of the Bates Campus Republicans wrote a statement to The Student: “I believe that you can like or hate Trump because that’s your right as an American. If you don’t like it, block the page and don’t follow it. But the fake bots impersonating Bates students of color are pathetic. These accounts are just trolls that thrive off of hatred. They want students to get angry…Anyone that has time to create fake Bates student accounts to stir up hatred at Bates truly leads a sad life.”

The Bates Campus Republicans have confirmed that they are not affiliated with the @batesfortrump Instagram account.