The video, called “Let’s Get Ready to Bumble,” is a slick mash-up of President Biden’s verbal slip-ups and his stumbles set to a thumping 1990s dance track. And when it was played on a big screen at Trump rallies late last year, it consistently drew laughs and jeers from the crowd.
But Donald J. Trump thought he could improve it.
So the former president asked an adviser to pass along a few notes to one of the video’s creators: It should include a clip of the president falling off a bicycle, he suggested, and another of him flubbing a line in a recent speech.
The video’s co-creator — Bryan Heestand, a product engineer in Ohio who goes by the anonymous handle C3PMeme — rushed to incorporate the former president’s edits. He was delighted, he said later in a podcast interview, to see Mr. Trump play the new version at his final rally before the midterm elections, pausing his speech to watch it with well over a thousand supporters gathered at Dayton International Airport.
“He had some suggestions. We made it happen,” Mr. Heestand said.
Mr. Heestand doesn’t work for Mr. Trump, but he belongs to a small circle of video meme-makers who have effectively served as a shadow online ad agency for his presidential campaign. Led by a little-known podcaster and life coach, this meme team has spent much of the year flooding social media with content that lionizes the former president, promotes his White House bid and brutally denigrates his opponents.
Much of the group, which refers to itself as Trump’s Online War Machine, operates anonymously, adopting the cartoonish aesthetic and unrelenting cruelty of internet trolls.
Cheered on by Mr. Trump, the group traffics freely in misinformation, artificial intelligence and digital forgeries known as deepfakes. Its memes are riddled with racist stereotypes, demeaning tropes about L.G.B.T.Q. people and broad scatological humor. [Continue reading…]