The Real Reason I Troll Madison Cawthorn’s Instagram

I pride myself on being Madison Cawthorn’s biggest self-appointed nemesis. While this endeavor began with your garden variety social media trolling, arguably the lowest tier of meaningful communication, I’ve since elevated my trolling to the pages of the Asheville Citizen-Times, since the masses needed to hear the opinions of another middle-class white man. 

I’ve written six of seven Cawthorn hit pieces for the Citizen-Times thus far, and while the commenters there agree with my takes nine out of ten times (Asheville is a fairly left-leaning town), I’ll occasionally get feedback telling me my one-person campaign isn’t worth it since Cawthorn’s already taken himself out of the race to be Asheville’s congressman in the upcoming election or that it seems like a borderline unhealthy obsession.

Whether or not Cawthorn runs in this district, he’s our current congressman. Unfortunately, he’s also on an upward trajectory, poised to be an even bigger national problem if he stays in office. While I didn’t vote for him, I believe it’s our duty as his constituents to go about pointing out Cawthorn’s inadequacies to future voters in ways that might sway how they feel. I’m at the point where I don’t care if Cawthorn is beat in the primaries but another Republican, I just want him out of office. 

Cawthorn represents everything I despise: rich people pretending they’re disadvantaged, trust-fund nepotism, insecure men using positions of power to work through their daddy issues, faux Christians, men who conflate bragging about guns with being perceived as well endowed, etc., etc., etc. 

I recently went back to my Instagram-trolling roots. 

Cawthorn was back in the news for cleaning his pistol during a Zoom hearing. The media took the bait, writing headlines like “Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn cleans gun during virtual House hearing,” which is exactly what Maddy wanted: the chance to play the victim and make this about second amendment right. Madison’s stellar social media squad (I know in my soul that Cawthorn, along with being the type of man to photoshop his arms to look bigger in campaign photos, is the type of man who still uses the term “squad” in 2022) posted a screenshot of this CNN headline with the caption, “‘Man shows proper care for firearm. Congress and legacy media appalled.’ Seriously, have you pundits and agents for the government (aka ‘journalists’) ever been out of your cityscape hell holes even once?”

I wished the discourse focused less on the gun and more on:

  1. How Cawthorn prioritized a publicity stunt over the veterans he was supposed to be listening to at this hearing. 
  2. How you or I would be disciplined if we blatantly multitasked with our cameras on during a work meeting.

Since the mainstream media wasn’t pointing out these facts, last Friday night after dinner, I opened a bottle of wine, settled onto the couch, and started spewing my opinions in the comment section of Cawthorn’s aforementioned Instagram post. 

Ironically, just as I sat down to write this, my friend Maura shared a meme with me that read, “In the 1980s, A&W tried to compete with the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder by selling a ⅓ pound burger at a lower cost. The product failed because most customers thought the ¼ pound was bigger. This is why I don’t argue online.” The meme makes a valid point. 90% of those who engaged with my trolling weren’t reading my posts. They were simply calling me a “cuck” or a “beta” or being kind, gracious Christians, like Instagram user @ xj.v.kx (no real name or profile picture, natch) who told me to “go play in traffic.” 

But then, out of that dumpster fire rose user @southern_sassy_soul, who wrote the following. “Dude, you don’t even look old enough to vote…” There was more to her comment, but that’s all I needed to hear. 

I’m thirty-five. I like to think, as @southern_sassy_soul pointed out, that I’ve retained some of my youthful glow, but I’ve been feeling my age lately. I’ve gone up a pant size for the first time since the early aughts. I’ve started to deal with errant back hairs. Three days ago, I spent forty minutes trying to ascertain whether or not my hairline was receding. When I see photos of myself from just five years ago, I feel like I look visibly younger—I recently looked up Botox prices, just out of curiosity, of course.

Father time is coming for me, and as a vain man, that hurts, but here was @souther_sassy_soul writing in a public place that I can’t pass for eighteen. I thanked her for the compliment, logged off Instagram, and went to bed that night knowing that this trolling that often feels like a Sisyphean endeavor might be worth it, after all. 

Editor’s Note: The following morning, @southern_sassy_soul responded to me thanking her for the compliment. “@brothwellp2-wasn’t a compliment. Get over yourself!” She added a palm to the face emoji for emphasis. 

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