Republicans want to frame Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial as if it’s all about the speech he made at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. It’s not. The impeachment is over the incitement to violence and insurrection created by Trump over the whole span from the election to the assault on the Capitol. That includes Trump sending tweets such as “This Fake Election can no longer stand” and, of course, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
However, so long as Republicans are focusing on the events of that one morning, it’s worth taking a second look at that rally and the one that came before on the evening of Jan. 5. While the words of Trump’s closing speech—complete with repeated demands that his followers march to the Capitol—are the most obvious subject of the impeachment, he was far from alone. Speakers at those two rallies included Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. All of them did their share in both raising the temperature of the crowd and encouraging violent actions.
But there was one other event at that rally that both sums up what Trump’s movement is all about, and contributed to driving insurgents into the halls of Congress. It was a film. One in which every frame is a cast study in delivering violent, anti-Semitic propaganda.
There’s no doubt that every speaker on the agenda added to the dark energy that resulted in the deadly insurgency. In fact, as The Washington Post reports, one of the speakers at the Jan. 5 rally was actually among those who bashed their way into the Capitol the following day. Brandon Straka—a white guy who founded the “walk away” campaign that encouraged Black voters to leave the Democratic Party—described Jan. 6 as “the revolution” in his speech to the gathered Trump supporters, and encouraged them to “fight back” as “patriots.” Straka, who frequently appears on Fox News as “a former liberal,” assaulted a police officer, called on others to do the same, then broke into the Capitol. He’s now facing multiple felony charges.
That same evening Roger Stone spoke while being flanked by “guards” from the Oath Keepers. As Mother Jones noted, Stone has a long-standing relationship with terrorist group the Proud Boys. On Jan. 5, Stone was there to tell Trump supporters to “fight until the bitter end” to block Joe Biden’s victory. Stone described the following day as the central moment of an “epic struggle.”
Michael Flynn described Jan. 6 as “a crucible moment in United States history.” While his word choice was suspect, his message to the gathered mob was clear. “We should not accept this,” said Flynn. “Some of these states had more dead voters than the battlefields of Gettysburg or the battlefields of Vicksburg or the battlefields of Normandy. … We did not have a free, fair, and transparent vote on the third of November. And the entire world knows, everyone in this country knows, who won the election on the third.” And Flynn finished by explicitly telling the crowd what was expected of them. “The members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate … those of you who are feeling weak tonight; those of you who don’t have the moral fiber in your bodies, get some tonight. Because tomorrow we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.” On the heels of Flynn’s speech, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos stepped up to make it clear that Trump’s supporters would not forget the “traitors” who voted to count the electoral votes.
Before Trump spoke on Jan. 6, Rudy Giuliani took the stage and spun a completely fantastic tale in which halting the day’s count of electoral votes would somehow generate a 10-day period in which everything about the election could be reviewed. There’s nothing in the Constitution or later law that even hints at such an event, and Giuliani was speaking after 63 days and 62 lawsuits had failed to uncover any of the evidence of fraud he assured the crowd was present. Still, “Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked,” said Giuliani, “the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. Let’s have trial by combat.”
Donald Trump’s sons also appeared that morning, and their speeches—particularly that of Donald Trump Jr.—did have one especially notable quality. As Politico reported, Junior’s speech was so laced with expletives that Fox News, which had been covering the event live, was forced to cut away. But as Trump’s eldest son warned Republicans that they better vote the way his father wanted spoke, he did make one clear statement between all the four letter words. “This gathering should send a message to them,” said Trump Jr. “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore! This is Donald Trump's Republican Party!” Oh, and Eric also spoke. “We will never, ever, ever stop fighting,” said Eric.
But for all those speakers, it was a film that both set the mood of the day and serves as the best defining document of Trump and Trumpism. Just Security has done a breakdown of the imagery involved in this brief film, and the message of fascism shines through. Not just the kind of authoritarianism that everyone casually assigns to Trump as if that’s just peachy, but genuine shiny-boot and red armband fascism, complete with enough tropes of Übermensch and Untermensch to make Leni Riefenstahl jealous.
As Just Security’s analysis makes clear, the video follows a long tradition of fascist framing. That doesn’t just mean presenting Trump as a heroic figure whose powerful presence causes others to swoon, or contrasting a false paradise under Trump with an equally false wasteland without him. It also explicitly involves using images to remind supporters what Trump stands for: white nationalism.
Everything about the video is designed to help viewers see a through line that connects what’s happening in the Capitol to an elite group of Jews secretly, and not so secretly, guiding America toward a state where white Christians are under siege. The scope of the threat is expanded to include an international conspiracy that includes the U.N. and E.U. who, with Jewish-controlled Hollywood, are seeking to weaken powerful white America.
The video shifts to an image of Senator Charles Schumer, reminding the viewer of prominent Jewish leaders of the Democratic party. Schumer is wearing a Kente cloth, an image evocative of Ku Klux Klan ideology — that Jews support Black liberation movements as a way to undermine white rule and destroy the nation. The next frame shows the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, flanked by two Jewish Congressman, Representatives Nadler and Schiff. Pelosi, too, is controlled by Jews.
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy may have had a sudden memory lapse when it comes to understanding QAnon and the intrinsically anti-Semitic ideology at its core. Trump’s video team did not forget. They’ve created a video that is practically a look into Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s hate-filled mind.
This video was sequenced right after Rudy Giuliani told Trump’s supporters that he wanted “trial by combat” and right before Trump himself stepped up to call on his followers to march to the Capitol. What those people who murdered a police officer, trampled over a woman, injured hundreds, smashed open the doors of the Capitol, raised a gallows, and went hunting for congressional hostages received wasn’t just limited to Trump’s statements on the morning of Jan. 6. What drove them there was what Trump, his surrogates, the right-wing media, and Republicans in both the House and Senate did after—and before—the election.
They created a world where people don’t just believe the propaganda of the video above, they’re willing to act on it.