At first glance, Donald Trump’s Facebook page seems like it’s been dead for months.
The former president’s last post is dated 3:14 p.m. Jan. 6, 2021, the afternoon of the Capitol riots, as he called for “everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful.” Not long after he published that, Facebook — and many other social networks — banned him indefinitely for inciting the riots, instantly turning the account into a time capsule of those final, chaotic days before his presidency ended.
But that’s not the whole story. Because like a whale carcass that sinks to the ocean floor, entire ecosystems popping up in the shadow of its slowly decomposing husk, the comments field below that last post is now a vibrant feeding ground where Trump’s fans and critics still converge, months later, to argue, troll and pay homage.
“I don’t know if you see any of these comments, but I wanted to let you know that We the People, miss you and love you Mr. President,” Cyndi Lane commented April 14 — 98 days after Trump wrote the post to which she was replying. “Hurry back or shall I say, hurry up 2024!”
Lane, 54, is a Missouri wedding coordinator and bridal stylist who’s been voting Republican since the Reagan years. She knew Facebook banned Trump, she told The Times, but left her comment anyway after a news story prompted her to check back in on the account.
“I had been hopeful that maybe somebody that he knows or works with shows him … that we miss him,” she said. “I almost get tearful thinking about it. I feel like our country is in a mess, and I don’t see it getting any better.”
Trump may still eventually return to the page: After enacting the initial ban, Facebook gave its independent Oversight Board the task of deciding whether he’ll ever be allowed back.
But that decision hasn’t been made yet, and until it is, Trump’s page is effectively open to everyone in the world except Trump himself (along with Trump ally Roger Stone and others who have received permanent bans). So now, in lieu of new posts to argue over, the legions of #MAGA conservatives and #Resistance liberals that once duked it out in the comments below each presidential update are stuck piling in under that last Jan. 6 post.
The post has more than 700,000 comments — most of Trump’s preceding posts received between 20,000 and 200,000 — and new replies come in every few minutes. As the first thing that visitors to Trump’s page encounter, it’s become a sort of ad hoc message board for people eager to engage with even the memory of Trump.
“We need to know you hear us,” one supporter wrote April 15.
“You killed us, but Biden is curing us,” a critic said April 21.
“Liberals are crazy as hell,” the “Hodgetwins,” two Facebook-famous conservative commentators, wrote April 3.
“I truly wish Facebook would just delete this page and everything on it. I mean … it’s all a bunch of lies and jokes anyways,” someone wrote March 14. Two days later, that got a response: “You’re addicted. You’re on a closed account for someone you hate. Get help.”
Whereas Twitter blocked Trump’s account entirely — there’s no way to see, let alone reply to, his old tweets — Facebook’s approach to banning him created space for this small but surprisingly durable pocket of political commentary.
“It’s been fascinating to, every day or every other day when I have some time, go and look at the people who write him,” said Anthony Anderson, a 69-year-old Angeleno who works in education. He’s “trying to get an understanding of how a Trump person thinks, since I live here in liberal L.A., and there are some Trump enthusiasts, but not many that I know. ”
Anderson started checking in on the page in early January but said the Jan. 6 insurrection was what really drew him in. Since then, “I haven’t stayed away.”
Other Trump critics he sees there spend their time trying to fact-check or debate Trump supporters — something…