January 23, 2018; MarketWatch
As many readers know, Trump’s campaign and presidency ushered in a widespread rise in a phenomenon known as “rage donations.” These are donations made to a nonprofit in the name of someone who has an opposing set of beliefs. This would show up as, for instance, sending donations to Planned Parenthood in Vice President Mike Pence’s name to protest his anti-abortion stance. The practice transforms outrage into capital that can be used in pursuit of the nonprofit’s agenda. More broadly, the term has been used to refer to the millions that were suddenly donated to organizations that stand for civil and human rights and press freedom at a moment when they are under attack and critically important to our collective futures.
The practice has a longer history, of course, Some readers may remember that in 2011, in response to being picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church, comedienne Lisa Lampanelli vowed to send $1000 to Gay Men’s Health Crisis for each protestor that showed up at her performance in Topeka. In the end, the nonprofit was $50,000 richer. This more complete form—“every time you do this, I will donate to that”—has a poetic symmetry to it.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
But, there are many variations. Apparently, President Trump is scared to death of sharks and hopes they all die. Or so says Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Daniels says the issue came up over dinner as they watched the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” programming. She reports, “He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’”
Since that reveal, shark charities have said they’ve seen a definite surge in the flow of “rage” donations. “We have been receiving donations in Trump’s name since the story was published,” said Cynthia Wilgren, chief executive officer and co-founder of Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. She adds that many of those are first-time donors. Paul Watson, who has experienced a similar uptick at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, noted that while he is grateful for the support, Trump’s fear is misplaced because it’s “actually more dangerous to play golf than it is to go swimming in the ocean with sharks.”
According to The Verge, the WildAid program Shark Savers has also seen a recent donation surge, and the Shark Research Institute says that a 13-foot female white shark name of Lola, who is somewhere in the area of Mexico, was adopted under Trump’s name over the weekend. The institute’s director says that Lola is indeed very “pretty,” but he doubts the president was really the adoptive parent.—Ruth McCambridge