This QAnon-flavored soundtrack of Trump, the GOP’s fascist right turn should terrify you


If you are a political fanatic, you have surely heard the old saying that when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. This has proven true in this difficult year of 2022 as Christian nationalism rises on our far right, but no one predicted it:

This American authoritarianism would also come with a crazy bat guano musical soundtrack – music that sounds like an altar riff from the biblical belt, but is actually oddly related to popular QAnon conspiracy theory whose legion of followers believe there is an elite global cabal of liberal politicians and movie stars trafficking children, drinking baby blood.

This terrifying crossing of a kind of autocratic Rubicon happened – where else? — at a Donald Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Saturday night.

Trump’s rallies are a tricky thing to cover, some 20 months after the 45th president left the White House in apparent disgrace following a failed coup and two impeachments. There is an understandable desire not to give oxygen to these increasingly hateful gatherings, in the vain hope that the flame will be completely extinguished. And his diatribes of Fidel Castro increasingly offer little political insight but long narcissistic grievance flights about his defeat in the 2020 election and a growing list of enemies.

But even if it had been stripped of its chilling musical backing, Trump’s apocalyptic closing rant from an arena at the epicenter of Rust Belt’s industrial decadence demands our attention – as the current favorite for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination continues to steer its supporters toward a authoritarian cult of personalitymore committed to its warped leader and perceived slights than any justifiable cause.

Trump insisted, without evidence, that Russia’s bloody, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine “never would have happened with me as your Commander-in-Chief, and for four long years it did not happen”. The ex-POTUS went from China threatening Taiwan, to a litany of grievances against FBI agents and prosecutors focusing on his top-secret document cache and 2020 post-election tampering, to an old enemy in the media : “Fake news is all you get, and they are really the enemy of the people. This echo of Joseph Stalin was not his only reminder of a time when the rise of dictatorship inevitably led to large-scale death. “We have a president who is cognitively impaired,” Trump said, erroneously, “and who is in no condition to lead our country, who could end up in World War III.”

The ax grinding gets worse, but the music is new.

The puffy, quasi-religious melody (or perhaps an inspirational late-night infomercial) that accompanied Trump’s whining in Ohio wasn’t random, according to Trump-tracking experts. Last month, the left-wing watchdog group Media Matters for America identified this rising melody – hinting at a storm to come – which reappeared in Youngstown on Saturday as a) “Wwg1wga”, with its title an abbreviation of QAnon’s main slogan “where we go one, we all go”, which was posted on Spotify in 2020 and often appears with conspiracy theory posts online, or b) an exact same number called “Mirrors”, as the Trump team claims.

Noted Media Questions Trump’s use of the melody in an August posting of an anti-Biden rant on his Truth Social website drew praise and great excitement in QAnon’s online community of true believers, one of between them saying ‘this might be the biggest nod they’ve ever given us [to be honest].” Another wrote: “It’s not an accident. The Trump team knows exactly what it’s doing.

Seems so. This week – as legal documents reveal the seriousness of the federal investigation into his bringing classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, while prosecutors turn up the heat on his close allies around the January 6 insurrection – a panicked Trump went full QAnon in a display frenzy on Truth Social, including a photo of the ex-president wearing a ‘Q’ pin to key conspiracy theory slogans ‘A storm is coming’ and ‘Wwg1wga’.

The most striking thing about Trump Wagnerian moment in Youngstown on Saturday was the reaction of the crowd in the not full arena, many of whom raised their right arms forward as the music swelled. Most also raised their index finger or a No. 1 symbol indicative of the QAnon slogan, a reminder to their beloved leader that they “got it.” Several even flashed the “Q” hand sign. Photos and videos of the mass, zombie-like obedience of the right-hand man to the budding American dictator have brought back chilling memories of Nuremberg Rallies or documentaries by Leni Riefenstahl, about the terrible places sectarian devotion can lead to.

Donald Trump is counting on this to save him. He told interviewer Hugh Hewitt there would be “problems in this country such as we have perhaps never seen before” if he is charged. Authoritarianism experts who have seen videos of the Youngstown rally have said they are alarmed by the movement’s increasingly fascist tone and blatant calls for violence.

Far-right oriented Willamette University historian Seth Cotlar called the rally a validation of his prediction that Trump was headed “for something more like a warlord.” At this point, his rallies mostly involve him pointing fingers at “enemies of the people” and waiting for his followers to do the rest.

READ MORE: At rally in Texas, Trump nearly promised a racist civil war if indicted | Will Bunch

Okay Ruth Ben-Ghiat, New York University historian who studies dictators: “Trump is a threat to national security. He radicalizes QAnon [people] further and expose others at these gatherings. He’s grooming them to be his next rogue army, ready to do whatever he wants when he needs to.

Some might argue that this is strictly a “Donald Trump problem”, a would-be criminal desperate to save his own skin. But the reality is that this fascist virus has infected most of the Republican Party, on the eve of a midterm election where the American experience itself is up for grabs. The FPOTUS was in Ohio, after all, to endorse and rally support for grateful GOP Senate hopeful JD Vance. This candidate – who made himself known with a Hillbilly Elegy the promising hope that he could steer others away from dysfunctional Appalachia like he did on his own Ivy League odyssey — instead kissed trump and his ugliest instincts.

As the fall campaign begins, signs of the rise of Republican fascism – rallying the masses by dehumanizing “out” groups like migrants or the LGBTQ community, or the idea that Christian law trumps democracy pluralist – are everywhere. You certainly saw it last week in the unlikely setting of Martha’s Vineyard – where Trump’s main rival to lead the GOP, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, took credit for what amounted to a kidnapping of 50 Venezuelan migrants, seen not like hungry human beings but like pawns in a political game.

And we see it here in my home state of Pennsylvania, where Republican gubernatorial candidate State Senator Doug Mastriano — a devotee of the big lie of voter fraud and a Jan. 6 participant — openly embraces Christian nationalism. Its latest rally on Friday brought together both Donald Trump Jr. and a well-known leader of this movement to dominate religion over politics, the Texas Pastor Lance Wallnauwho endorsed Mastriano and predicted “a new birth of freedom”.

Some 24 hours later, Trump senior ended his event in Ohio with the musical notes of what is called “an altar call.“Don’t call it a coincidence. Call it Christian Fascism. Will it lead to violence? He has already, as in the Michigan man’s recent case who killed his wife and injured his daughter after falling down the QAnon rabbit hole after the 2020 election. And it can only get worse.

As I woke up Sunday morning to the predictable shock and awe of Trump’s latest scandal, a song stuck in my head. Not “Wwa1wga” or “Mirrors” or whatever was behind Trump, but the one that Bruce Springsteen released in 1995, when rusty chimneys of the Mahoning Valley were beginning to collapse. In “Youngtown,“The Boss sang of the bitter disillusionment of veterans who fought for America in World War II and Vietnam only to lose the war for prosperity at home.

Springsteen didn’t say how those resentments, when allowed to fester, can and will be exploited by the worst people – peddlers and scammers who use you to save themselves and probably make money, as with the gold coin ads flashing now. on TV broadcasts of Trump rallies. What happened on Saturday was the culmination of an American nightmare. It can’t happen here? It’s just done. Here in Youngstown.

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