Donald Trump’s campaign team was bursting with excitement heading into the first re-election rally in three months.
Organisers declared a million supporters had registered interest in filing into the 19,000 seat arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the president eager to shake off mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter movement and a falling approval rating.
When he strolled out to the podium, a nearly half empty venue robbed the known performer’s chance to incite boisterous applause and the story quickly gravitated to the thousands of empty seats.
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Mr Trump is herculean in his ability to drum up support and media traction through Twitter, but users of another social media platform are taking credit for the critical political blow.
TikTok accounts and fans of Korean pop music groups claim to have registered hundreds of thousands of tickets for the campaign rally with the intention of misleading support for the President.
Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother from Iowa appears to be one of the first to create the momentum.
Last week she posted a video on TikTok evoking people to visit the Trump website, register to attend, and not show up.
“All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage,” she told her followers.
Initially the woman only had about 1000 followers, but the video has now been liked by more than 700,000 and shared by more than 136,000.
The movement snowballed, and was soon shared multiple times with accounts attracting millions of followers.
“Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally and I can’t go,” another woman joked on the cult social media platform, followed by a fake cough.
Many then deleted their videos after a day or two to not raise suspension from Trump’s campaign team, YouTuber Elijah Daniel told The New York Times.
“It spread mostly through Alt TikTok – we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism,” he said.
“K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information among each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”
Mr Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale blamed the low turnout on the “radical protests fuelled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage”, which had scared off supporters.
But this narrative was slapped down by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Actually you just got rocked by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign with fake ticket reservations and tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist Open Mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” she tweeted.
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said the movement mustered through TikTok reveals the President has a material issue with young voters.
“This is what happened tonight. I’m dead serious when I say this. The teens of America have struck a savage blow against Donald Trump,” he tweeted.