Outside the controlled pageantry of the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., where President Trump treated supporters to scornful denunciations of “the fake news media” and “radical socialism,” a rowdier analogue was playing out on the sidewalk and the streets surrounding the venue.
A Trump supporter, angered that the Orlando Sentinel’s Michael Williams was videotaping him getting ejected from the arena during the official launch of Trump’s re-election campaign on Tuesday evening, walked up and tried to knock the reporter’s phone out of his hand.
Earlier in the day, dozens of Proud Boys, some of whom could easily be described as over the hill, marched alongside the venue, chanting, “Roger Stone did nothing wrong,” and “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” Stone, of course is the political dirty trickster and former Trump consultant who is charged with witness tampering, obstructing a proceeding and making false statements to the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.
More ominously, Augusto Pinochet was the Chilean general who overthrew the democratically elected president in a US-backed coup in 1973, and instituted military rule, while jailing, torturing and executing tens of thousands of political opponents. One of the Pinochet government’s most heinous methods of disappearing opponents was dropping them out of helicopters to their deaths in the Pacific Ocean. The alt-right extremists who tried to hitch their movement to Trump’s star during the 2016 election produced the “free helicopter rides” meme as a direct homage to Pinochet.
“For the last two-and-a-half years, we have been under siege,” Trump thundered in Orlando. “And with the Mueller report, we won; and now they want a do-over…. No president should ever have to go through this again. It is so bad for our great country. A hoax. A great hoax. Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day.
“We went through the greatest witch-hunt in political history,” he continued. “The only collusion was done by the Democrats, the fake-news media and their operatives, and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC.”
Whether by instinct or forethought, Trump masterfully speaks a language well understood by his far-right supporters without requiring him to explicitly endorse them.
A “patriotic movement” that “has been under assault” is language that the militia movement and its white-power allies have used since the early 1990s.
“We came this close to a damn coup d’etat — the FBI working with the damn [Obama] White House,” Chris Hill — head of the Georgia Security Force III% — told his followers in a Facebook Live video three months ago. “FBI is always at the center of this shit, all the terrorist attack, false-flag attacks. Can’t you see the pattern, connect the damn dots? We need to be in perpetual debt, disarmed. ’Cause they’re ready to roll out the New World Order….
“It’s all about upholding and defending our Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic,” Hill continued. “Muslims, they’re here for one reason — that’s to take over…. Throw in 30 million illegals. We have to stand up, man. They’re gonna run right over us.”
In Orlando on Tuesday, President Trump said, “Just imagine what this angry, left-wing mob would do if they were in charge of this country. Imagine if we had a Democrat president and a Democrat Congress in 2020. They would shut down your free speech, use the power of the law to punish their opponents — which they’re trying to do now anyway…. They would strip Americans of their Constitutional rights while flooding the country with illegal immigrants in the hopes it will expand their political base.”
As his speech wound down, Trump made the Constitutionally-suspect proposal: “No one who supports sanctuary cities should be allowed to run for the president of the United States.” Rapturous applause poured from the crowd, and Trump continued, “Republicans believe welfare, schools, hospitals, public resources should be protected for all Americans.”
Pivoting from immigration to healthcare, Trump said, “More than 120 Democrats in Congress have also signed up to support ‘Crazy’ Bernie Sanders’ socialist government takeover of healthcare.
“He seems not to be doing too well lately,” the president added. Actually, Sanders was doing quite well, considering that a Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed Sanders leading Trump 48-42 among Florida voters.
Scare-talk by the president about “socialism” clearly resonates with Trump’s base and voters even further to the right.
In another Facebook Live video, a liquor-fueled group session back in March with militia members flashing handguns at the camera, Chris Hill fretted: “Socialist are running for Congress. Socialists are running for president. Socialists are, like, inside our politic body. And these mother***ers, they shouldn’t get tarred and feathered. They should be, like, strangled within an inch of their life, dude.”
In another section of the video, discussing Muslims supposedly attempting to impose sharia law, Florida Strike Force III% member Greg Scott opined, “So, you have 200 rounds, you want to at least make sure that 175 of them rounds are kill shots.”
Nodding in agreement, Hill said, “They are live targets. The enemy is here, and wants to f***ing destroy us and our way of life. And when they get froggy and jump, we’re gonna put ’em on their ass.”
Hill brought up the Christchurch mosque shooting, prompting Scott to interject: “That’s because he was provoked!”
But Hill wanted to make another point.
“One false-flag operation, one psy-op,” he said. “Guns are gone, and it’s an Islamic country.”