Martyrs to the MAGA cause: Trump follows Hitler’s steps with glorification of Jan. 6

You get the feeling that among the jaded Beltway establishment there is a belief that the horrified reaction against Trump’s Hitler analogies is just a bit overwrought. Sure it’s discussed and analyzed but there’s a perfunctory vibe about it that makes it seem as if it’s just another of those “Trump says the darnedest stuff” things. And sure, the idea that he’s been studying Hitler’s speeches because he once had a book of them is a stretch (even though he has said that Hitler “did some good things”) because Trump doesn’t study anything. He is an instinctive autocrat and he’s got a few people around him who do understand the power of fascist imagery. Contrary to popular belief, much of the most outrageous rhetoric Trump spews at his rallies isn’t off the cuff, it’s scripted. 

So now we’ve all absorbed the comments about immigrants “poisoning our country” and calling his political opponents “vermin.” He said that if he doesn’t win there will be a bloodbath and everyone responded that it was taken out of context, as if he doesn’t promise political violence if he loses (or is convicted of one of his many crimes) all the time.

But if there’s one thing that absolutely validates the concerns of many of us and demonstrates that this isn’t just about Trump’s usual verbal incontinence: his glorification of the Jan. 6 rioters as patriots.

Trump now opens every rally with a recording of the so-called “January 6 choir” — a group of inmates held in the DC jail on felony charges related to the insurrection — singing the National Anthem with a voiceover by Trump himself droning the Pledge of Allegiance. (They actually released it as a recording and a bunch of deluded cultists bought it.)

He used this version of the anthem at his very first rally this cycle, which he held in Waco Texas, the site of one of the right’s most infamous clashes with the government, the Branch Davidian standoff back in 1993 (which I wrote about last year.) They weren’t subtle about the message. They even played footage of the insurrection on the big screens behind Trump with the discordant strains of the inmate choir over it while everyone held their hands over their hearts. This was not a coincidence. They understood the symbolism of choosing that location to proclaim the Jan. 6 criminals to be martyrs to the MAGA cause. 

Simply put, this is how it’s done. Fascism, that is. 

Lately, Trump’s taken to saluting when they play the J6 version of the song rather than putting his hand over his heart in the usual manner. And at a recent rally in Ohio, this absurd ritual was introduced by what sounded like a WWE announcer bellowing “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the horribly and unfairly treated Jan. 6 hostages.” I’m only surprised the man didn’t yell, “Let’s get ready to ruuumble!” as Trump strutted around the stage. ‘

This rank political bastardization of the Star Spangled Banner by exalting criminals who beat police officers and sacked the U.S. Capitol, from the man who ranted endlessly about NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthemmay be the most audacious troll ever attempted. 

Trump has called for their release on numerous occasions, and if he wins the election, he said he’s committed to pardoning convicted Jan. 6 rioters on his first day in office. This rank political bastardization of the Star Spangled Banner by exalting criminals who beat police officers and sacked the U.S. Capitol, from the man who ranted endlessly about NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem, may be the most audacious troll ever attempted. 

But it’s more than just another Trump troll. By creating martyrs out of insurrectionists, Trump is deploying a very potent propaganda tool, one that was perfected by, yes, Adolph Hitler during his rise to power exactly a hundred years ago.


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In 1923, Hitler led a violent uprising that we all know as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Four cops were killed along with 16 of Hitler’s followers, known as “brownshirts’ (not to be confused with Mussolini’s “blackshirts” — or Trump’s “red hats.”) For years they were held up as martyrs to the Nazi cause just as Trump is now selling the January 6 criminals as “hostages” (which he only started to do after October 7th in the most grotesque inversion of Nazi propaganda ever.) 

But the most famous Nazi martyr, the Ashli Babbit of his day if you will, was a young anti-communist brownshirt by the name of Horst Wessel who was a known violent brawler in the pitched street battles between left and right during those days. He was killed by a couple of his Communist enemies after which Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Stephen Miller/Steve Bannon, made him famous by filming his PR stunt funeral march and distributing it all over the country. He was a household name through the “The Horst Wessel” song, which became an alternate German National Anthem. Goebbels even got the churches to play it because young Horst was such a good Christian and a downright great Nazi.

Those of you who’ve seen Leni Riefenstahl’s movie about Hitler’s biggest rallies at Nuremberg, “Triumph of the Will,” will recognize it as the song everyone sings during the ecstatic climax. Trump’s rallies aren’t as elegantly staged nor do they draw the same size crowds but the intention is the same. He may not have actually read that book of Hitler speeches but he didn’t need to. Trump’s a natural.

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