Donald Trump joined Twitter in March 2009, and announced his presidential campaign on June 16. Since then, if you’ve spent any time on Twitter, you’ve probably seen some variation of this joke:
Donald Trump is basically a YouTube comment section running for president
— Brian Gaar (@briangaar) December 7, 2015
This incarnation by Brian Gaar was posted last week, and got over 36,000 retweets.
But he’s hardly the first. Literally thousands of people have posted this sentiment, and I’ve personally seen several in my timeline with thousands of retweets.
Which got me thinking, who was the first and how did it evolve?
Let’s go back in reverse-chronological order, hitting some of the most popular versions.
On December 8, the day after Brian Gaar’s tweet last week, New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz got over 1,400 RTs with the same idea, this time adding an image.
— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) December 8, 2015
Many people saw it from this tweet on November 22 by @mamasnark, which got over 10,200 retweets. (I see several people citing this tweet as the original when it reappears now.)
Basically, Trump is what would happen if the comments section became a human and ran for president.
— 8 nights of snark (@mamasnark) November 22, 2015
On November 10, Jon Stewart appeared at the Stand Up for Heroes benefit at Madison Square Garden and said, “It’s like an Internet comment troll ran for president.” This quote got extensive coverage from publications like the Hollywood Reporter, MSNBC, and Huffington Post.
Four days earlier, on November 6, Keith Olbermann appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and said that Trump “sounds like an Internet comments section running for President.”
On August 7, Marc Andreesen tweeted it as an overheard comment, getting over 2,500 retweets.
OH: "Trump is like an Internet comments section decided to run for President."
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) August 8, 2015
On July 18, Barbara Haynes got over 13,000 RTs with this tweet that used the #DonaldTrump hashtag.
#DonaldTrump is like if a Comments Section ran for office.
— Barbara Haynes (@barbhaynes) July 18, 2015
On July 14, a Daily Kos blogger wrote, “Donald Trump is what would happen if a reddit comment thread ran for office.” This quote was picked up on Twitter.
On July 8, The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi got more than 2,700 retweets for her take on it.
Trump is like a YouTube comment thread that achieved sentience
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) July 9, 2015
Only a single day after Trump announced his presidency, on June 17, a Twitter user in Johannesburg drew a parallel to the News24 comments section and tweeted the idea — though as a reply and with no retweets, it was likely only seen by her 332 followers that also follow Trump.
@realDonaldTrump announcing his Presidential candidacy is like the News24 comments section running for President. Lord help us all.
— Posh Spice of Joburg (@MrsChida) June 17, 2015
But, of course, the idea that Trump is an Internet comments section goes back long before he announced his candidacy.
On April 28, this similar joke got 357 retweets.
Donald Trump is basically what would happen if every comments section on the internet merged, manifested into human form and put on a wig.
— Pat (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ (@PatsHoppedUp) April 28, 2015
On February 27, this minimalist take from @lafix for nearly 350 retweets.
Donald Trump is like if the comments section were a person.
— lafix (@lafix) February 27, 2015
How far back does this joke go? The earliest incarnation of the “Internet comment personified” idea on Twitter is this tweet by a guy named Mark on April 27, 2011.
Donald Trump is the living embodiment of an Internet message board troll.
— Mark (@PoorMeinNYC) April 27, 2011
So, did all these people rip off Mark?
No, of course not. I’ve written about the phenomenon of multiple discovery before, and nowhere is it more obvious and easily provable than in the comedy world, and especially easy to document on Twitter.
As Donald Trump came online, and as his prominence in the public eye grew, many more people started thinking about his behavior.
Of course, there are plagiarists in the world who brazenly copy jokes on Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere, sometimes resulting in huge audiences.
But most people simply drew the connection between garbage Internet comment sections and the way Trump acts, and tweeted their epiphany.
So, settle in. It’s going to be a long year.
At this rate, 30% of all Twitter activity in 2016 will be "Donald Trump is a comments section running for President" jokes.
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) December 14, 2015
Did I miss any major examples? Post a comment or tweet at me.