MAGA Extremists Can’t Decide Why They Hate the Trump Indictment
Donald Trump is calling for protests and warning of “death and destruction” as his arraignment in a Manhattan criminal case looms. But for all the ominous hints of mass violence, so far the former president’s most extreme supporters aren’t taking the bait.
One reason why: There’s no central narrative or specific rallying cry quite yet to guide the MAGA movement’s response. Instead, there’s more of a complex assortment of different narratives as online extremists try to process the indictment of their so-called “God Emperor Trump.”
“I think the lack of specificity in Trump’s call to actions is critical here,” Meghan Conroy, a U.S. research fellow at the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, tells Rolling Stone. Conroy, a former Jan. 6 Committee staffer who studied extremists’ use of social media, says the context of his impending arraignment is different than Trump’s “tweet heard around the world.” That post, a call for a “wild” demonstration at the Capitol on Jan. 6, helped mobilize his followers to Washington, D.C., for the subsequent insurrection.
“His December 19, 2020, tweet urging his supporters to rally in D.C. on Jan. 6 featured a time, a place, his endorsement of the event, and gave his followers the idea that by showing up, they could affect change.”
By contrast, Trump’s recent calls for general “protest” have been vague. More importantly, says Conroy, Trump’s arraignment lacks the climactic drama of the events preceding the insurrection.
“Jan. 6 was, to many, Trump’s last stand. We heard that time and time again on Fox News, on podcasts, on YouTube, and saw it relentlessly on social media. The indictment is not Trump’s last stand, nor is his reported Tuesday arraignment,” Conroy says. “Potential flashpoints for mass violence simply don’t seem to be present right now.”
Some bloodthirsty MAGA extremists have still called for violence. On Patriots.win, a web forum dedicated to the former president, some posters called for taking up arms and likened the moment to the Revolutionary War. Far right posters on Telegram have also used the impending arraignment of Trump as an opportunity to claim that “It’s time to lock and load and destroy these vermin!” and “Make Hanging Liberals Fun Finally.”
But that’s just one of half a dozen narratives Conroy has seen, and by no means the dominant one.
Other narratives promoted by the far right include warnings that the indictment is an attempt to entrap pro-Trump conservatives for prosecution similar to Jan. 6 rioters, and that Trump is a martyr who deserves the political support of extremists.
Many of those in the QAnon movement, the Trump-loving conspiracy theorists who believe the world is ruled by a cabal of pedophile cannibals, haven’t been nearly as animated at the threat to their leader with one prominent account calling believers “stalwarts of calm in the middle of this precipice storm.”
Still others appear annoyed at how the Trump indictment has taken attention off the recent massacre at a Nashville elementary school, the shooter’s alleged trans identity, and efforts to scapegoat the LGBTQ community for the attack.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Andrew Torba, the proprietor of the anti-semitic social media platform “Gab” wrote when news of Trump’s indictment broke. “Prepare.”
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