Over the weekend at a conference for supporters of President Trump, a video was shown of Trump shooting, stabbing, and murdering various of his political opponents (such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and others), journalists (such as Rachel Maddow), celebrity critics (such as Rosie O’Donnell), and people emblazoned with the names of various news organizations (such as Buzzfeed, CBS, Yahoo News, etc.).
Let’s talk about this. Because it’s important. Not “end of the world” important, but important nonetheless.
We’ll start with the fact that this is just an altered version of the best scene in the first Kingsmen movie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Not only is the scene an amazing piece of choreography and cinematography—I can’t imagine how many takes each piece of it required—but it’s fantastic because it turns Colin Firth into an action hero.
Mr. Darcy kills like 50 people in 90 seconds.
This context is important because there’s a cheeky aspect to the original. If you were inclined to be charitable, you could say that perhaps the creators of this video were trying to be cheeky, too.
If you wanted to be slightly less charitable, you’d say that the video is merely a shitpost. And that people are making a mistake when they take it too seriously, as a threat.
After the New Zealand Mosque shooting there was a push to keep the media from giving this type of trolling too much attention for fear of not fully comprehending the layers of meta-text and heavy-handed irony. But this video isn’t as deep as the manifesto, even though the underlying motive behind it is more or less the same: it’s type of thing that helps the members of certain online communities get hard.
Also, you can’t lay the video at Trump’s feet. I mean, sure, it was made by Trump supporters and showed to Trump supporters at an event held at a Trump hotel and attended by one of Trump’s sons and his former communications director.
But it’s not like the president edited the video himself. And everyone on his side who was questioned about it—the conference organizers, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Trump campaign—disavowed it and said they were shocked by it—shocked!—and categorically denounced violence in politics.
So let’s be charitable about that part, too.
Here’s the important part:
Last week I wrote a column asking if this—the underwater poll numbers, loss of the House, impeachment, awful reelection prospects, abandonment of America’s allies—is what Trump supporters had signed up for.
If you watch all the way through the shooting and killing in the video, at the 2:50 mark the fake Trump turns to the camera and smiles and the creator of the video drops in different music—here he’s replacing the original Kingsmen score. The music is DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”
Which goes something like this:
“All I do is win, win, win no matter what.”
Then Trump freezes with his Pepe smile and a pair of 8-bit sunglasses floats down onto his face.
The video is the answer to my question: This—the video—is what Trump voters signed up for.
They don’t care about Syria, or tariffs, or the Russians, or the Wall, or anything else that we traditionally think of as policy goals. They don’t even care about judges or abortion or free trade.
They care about hurting their domestic enemies.
Not all of them, to be sure. Maybe not even a majority of them. But for a percentage of them that is greater than zero, a video about Trump killing politicians and celebrities and journalists they don’t like isn’t a regrettable side-effect of Trump’s presidency.
It’s the entire point of Trump’s presidency.
Take anyone you can think of as a mainstream Republican or conservative over the last two generations of American life—Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, Bob Dole, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Mitt Romney, Jesse Helms, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Richard Shelby, Barry Goldwater—and a video like this is unthinkable.
The closest you could get is “Ronbo.” But the point of Ronbo was that Reagan was butched up to fight America’s foreign enemies.
You will note that in the Trump video, he’s not killing Assad, or ISIS fighters, or Putin, or Kim, or Xi, or avatars of any of America’s foreign foes. That would be kind of ridiculous. But also, beside the point
Because for many of this president’s supporters, the glorious promise of Trump is the feeling they get imagining him hurting the Americans they despise.
This is not a coincidence. It’s a recurring theme.
Endnote: The most ironic part of the Trump video comes at the 1:50 mark where Trump shoots and kills a person with “The Hill” for a head. For those of you who don’t keep up with such things, the Hill is one of the more worshipful pro-Trump organs in Washington, only slightly less reliable than Breitbart.
That the creator of the video thought that the Hill falls into the same group of class of enemies as the New Yorker, CBS News, and Vox is both amazing and revealing.
One of the hallmarks of cults—and authoritarian movements, for that matter—is that you are either reliable, or you are not. There is no such thing as being “slightly less reliable.”