Perhaps the weirdest subplot in this year's unprecedentedly weird presidential election was the bromance between Donald Trump and Malik Obama, President Obama's half-brother. In July, Malik, a 58-year-old with dual US and Kenyan citizenship, announced that he would support Trump's presidential bid. Shortly afterward, Trump welcomed his support on Twitter. By October, the Trump campaign invited Obama to the final presidential debate, where he snapped a photo alongside Kellyanne Conway.
Malik Obama's reasons for supporting Trump remain somewhat unclear and may stem from hard feelings he has toward his half-brother. But whatever the reason, that support was vehement, particularly on Twitter, where he was so adamantly pro-Trump that his account was often accused of being a parody.
Shortly before the election, though, Obama was verified by Twitter. And since that verification, something weird has happened: Malik Obama has gone full chanterculture, shitlord troll, adopting much of the language and similar tactics to those used by the alt-right.
To wit: Obama frequently calls his opponents cucks. Obama discusses the Swahili meaning of "Harambe." Obama rails against "fake news" like CNN and the Huffington Post. Obama goes back and forth with Bill Mitchell. Obama assures his followers that he has not been "spirit cooked" (Pizzagate for "forced into a Satanic rite"). Obama shares Pepe memes of himself bearing the name "Memelik Obameme." Etc.
It's a lot to take in: Barack Obama's half-brother, who was the best man at the president's wedding, is now a proud #MAGA-loving shitlord. How could a Kenyan immigrant who is only a few years away from social security so quickly develop such a mastery of the current alt-right cultural memefield of tropes and jokes?
The only thing that's sure about the answer is that it involves Chuck Johnson in some way. According to both Obama and Johnson — the notorious journalist and troll who was controversially kicked off Twitter for asking his followers for money so he could "take out" civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson — it's all very simple: The latter taught the former how to use Twitter really, really well. On Saturday, Obama tweeted:
Responding to an email from BuzzFeed News asking how he had mastered Twitter so quickly, Obama wrote, "It's a wonderful medium for expressing oneself. Chuck Johnson got me started and my followers have taught me a lot. But most of it is just plain knack!"
Reached via email, Johnson concurred. According to him, the two connected in the spring in Washington, DC (Obama lived for years in Maryland), where Johnson began teaching Obama his method.
"I teach people neurolinguistic programming," Johnson wrote. "I have them speak while they tweet so that it appears more conversational and I make sure that they tap into people's emotions and not just their intellect. When Malik Obama told me he supported Donald Trump I helped him throughout the process."
But today WeSearchr, Johnson's crowdsourced investigations company, retweeted a tweet suggesting that Johnson had groomed Malik Obama as part of a master plan to get back at Twitter.
Both Obama and Johnson denied that Johnson writes the president's half-brother's tweets.
"Malik Obama is a grown man who does his own tweets," Johnson wrote. "I do my own stunts."
There's no question that Johnson and Obama know each other — they were photographed together for Johnson's other venture, a news site called GotNews.com.
Asked for details of how Johnson taught him Twitter, Malik Obama asked for a "token payment" of $1,000. (Obama has a history of asking journalists for money; last year he asked a Politico reporter for $10,000 to talk.)
"You want everything for free?" he asked, when refused payment.