The full force of Donald Trump’s troll army has been unleashed on an 18-year-old intern. Yesterday, a college student named Lauren Batchelder made news for standing up at the No Labels conference in New Hampshire to ask Trump about equal pay and reproductive rights: “If you become president, will a woman make the same as a man, and do I get to choose what I do with my body?” Today, the news broke that—shocker!—Batchelder, a young woman who hangs around wonky political conferences, is involved with politics. Besides interning for New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, she volunteers for Jeb Bush, who should really step in to help her now that right-wing bullies have set out to ruin her life.
If the Bush campaign planted Batchelder—which it denies—it was a cynical move, given that Bush’s stance on the issues she raised isn’t much different than Trump’s. Attacking him and his staffers is fair enough, but naturally, Trump’s fans and allies would rather rip a young woman to shreds. Rush Limbaugh went after her by name on his radio show. Her social media feeds were dumped online, though she quickly turned them off. Her mailing address was published on Twitter. A video clip of her performing a song from The Little Mermaid circulated for the mob’s jeering delectation. One right-winger Tweeted: “Spread her name like that of that other infamous intern: Monica Lewinsky.” Others were far cruder.
Until Batchelder speaks out, there’s no way to know how shaken she is by all this. But women who end up on the wrong end of a social media pile-on can find it very hard to get their lives back. Those singled out by the angry men of GamerGate endured death threats and rape threats, and some were driven from their homes. Right now, Batchelder probably needs support. The Bush team owes it to her, given that this is happening because she supported him. But feminists should be behind her, too. However bad Batchelder’s politics might be, her trashing—like that of Sandra Fluke before her—sends a message to every young woman who might raise her voice in public that it’s just not worth it.