Due in part to a journalistic convention of respecting the privacy of children of the president, not much is known about Barron Trump and his life. He is 14, attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, plays soccer, and, in addition to English, speaks Slovenian (his mother’s first language). After that, the trail runs dry. Info on Barron is so scarce that even something as mundane as his height has led to copious internet commentary: As is customary for a boy of his age, Barron has gotten taller in the four years since his father was elected, Barron watchers have pointed out. But like, really tall, we-need-to-talk-about-it tall.
This canyon-size absence of facts is now fueling a new round of speculation, not from journalists but from Gen Z: The young internet has decided that it must “rescue” Barron from the heavily barricaded national castle known as the White House.
In the past few days, a rumor spread on TikTok—and quickly traveled to Twitter—that Barron’s account on something called Roblox had been found. (Roblox is a popular video game platform with games similar to Minecraft on it.) The rumor had it that children who attended school with Barron had confirmed that the account was his. Images circulated that purported to further prove the account’s veracity but were in fact a screenshot of a fake Donald Trump tweet. The account had the handle “JumpyTurtlee,” and its profile indicated that JumpyTurtlee likes anime and K-pop. Other elements of the profile suggested that its owner supports LGBTQ rights—and, possibly, Bernie Sanders.
There is little in the way of credible evidence to substantiate these rumors. But some social media users ran with them regardless and began to make the case that Barron, despite his widely reviled father, might not be so bad. What if he’s just another kid who likes television and sports and video games? Maybe he actually disdains his father and his administration, but he can’t say anything because he is being silenced. Maybe he’s too deep inside the Trump machine to even realize what’s going on. “WE NEED TO SAVE BARRON HES SO PURE AND INNOCENT HE DOESNT DESERVE HAVING THAT ORANGE AS A FATHER,” went one representative tweet. “@RealBarronTramp i will be ur mom now #savebarron2020,” wrote another.
These sentiments contributed to the hashtag #savebarron2020 trending on Twitter on Tuesday evening. More than one fan even brought the concept of a “fancam,” a type of video that’s popular in the K-pop fan community, to Barron: They posted videos that zoomed in on footage of him, finding moments that seemed to demonstrate his humanity or kindness, like the time he made a funny face at one of his half-sister Ivanka’s children. One such video was even accompanied by an indie-pop soundtrack. Surely some of these newly declared Barron fans were trying to be funny or ironic, but they were still taking the time to voice their support for him, and in some cases creating memes and editing videos of him, which sure seems like dedication to me.
This isn’t the first time people have, going on very little information, decided that a member of the Trump family might be secretly against the president or, if not against him, subject to his cruelty or worthy of the public’s sympathy. It happens kind of a lot: It was said of Ivanka (and has since been heartily disproven), of Tiffany, and perhaps most vociferously of Melania, Trump’s wife and Barron’s mother. Much of the compassion for Melania in retrospect was pointless (“I really don’t care, do u?”) and misdirected (“Be Best”), but Barron’s case seems stronger. He really is just a kid, and one of the few, maybe only, innocent parties who is part of his father’s orbit. The people who want to “rescue” Barron probably mean well. Perhaps they’re hoping the boy might become aware of their support for him and find solace in it, and who knows—maybe he has and does. But I think the kindest thing, for now, might be to lay off speculating about Barron’s loyalties and meme-ifying his existence. Even if it seems like making him a trending topic to argue for his innocence is a positive thing or a harmless bit of fun, he’s 14—and the last thing he needs is President Trump starting to suspect Barron is winking at the internet at his expense.
For more of Slate’s news coverage, subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts or listen below.
Correction, June 22, 2020: This article originally misstated that Roblox is a video game. It is a video game platform.