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Trump’s new Jan 6 song is as bad as you’d expect. It’s also dangerous

Republicans want to convince Americans that the extremism they’ve embraced isn’t extremism at all

Ahmed Baba
Monday 06 March 2023 14:04 GMT
Trump supporters storming the Capitol
Trump supporters storming the Capitol (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Friday at midnight, Donald Trump dropped a new song with the J6 Prison Choir. No, that’s not an Onion headline. That just happened. Who needs SNL when we have reality?

According to Forbes staff writer Zach Everson, Trump, in partnership with former Trump Admin official Kash Patel and former Fox News Host Ed Henry, collaborated with January 6 insurrectionists awaiting trial in a DC jail.

I’ll save you time. The song is as bad as you’d expect. The indicted rioters’ voices can be heard echoing off the jail walls eerily singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." The song then inserts clips of Donald Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Forbes reports that these aren’t random clips taken from other times Trump has recited the pledge – Trump recorded it specifically for this project.

The reaction to this has been quick and riddled with mockery. The Lincoln Project sent a tweet asking people to name the band, garnering hilarious replies like "New Sedition" and the "Bleach Boys." I personally think the Coup Fighters for a band name or "Get Elected Or Coup Trying" for an album work too.

As cringey and ridiculous as this song is, it’s also dangerous. As University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade tweeted in reaction to the song, wrapping anti-democracy sentiments in patriotism is a key disinformation tactic among authoritarians. This song wasn’t released in a vacuum. It was released amid a widespread GOP effort to rewrite the history of January 6.

Last year, the January 6 Committee led a series of hearings that methodically debunked the Big Lie that incited the insurrection. They clearly showcased the violence of that day and outlined a criminal case against Donald Trump, who they persuasively accused of being responsible for the multi-pronged effort to overturn the election. Polls indicated they successfully moved public opinion and the 2022 midterms echoed that data with real-world outcomes.

In 13 races in six key battleground states where an election denier ran for governor, secretary of state, or attorney general, all 13 lost. The American public largely rejected the Big Lie and Republicans broadly underperformed, but they still managed to squeak out a narrow majority in the House. They then immediately used that majority to shut down the January 6 Committee and now, in its absence, they’re filling the information void with a pro-insurrection counter-narrative.

The most recent example of this push to rewrite January 6 history is Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) handing Fox "News" host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of Capitol footage on January 6. Tucker Carlson has spent the past two years painting a falsely sympathetic picture of the January 6 insurrection and those who participated in it. It’s also important to note that Carlson was just exposed by the Dominion lawsuit as one of the Fox hosts who privately called Trump’s 2020 election fraud claims lies while spreading them to his audience anyway. McCarthy knew what narrative he would be feeding when he handed these tapes over.

Speaker McCarthy has also moved to grant the January 6 defendants, some of which might have been heard singing in Trump’s new song, access to Capitol security footage. Meanwhile, at CPAC, where Trump is set to speak on Saturday, they held a panel called “True Stories of January 6: The Prosecuted Speak" that included January 6 rioters.

Why is it so important to the Republican Party to tell untrue stories of January 6? For them, it’s a matter of reframing the most damning day for the MAGA movement. This is also about laying the disinformation groundwork ahead of potential criminal indictments for Donald Trump and his allies from the DOJ’s Special Counsel probe or Georgia’s grand jury probe.

Rather than learn their lesson from their midterm losses and move on, the Republican Party has decided to double down and go on the offensive. They’ve decided that they’d rather not pivot away from the extremism that has stifled them in the last three election cycles. Instead, they’re seeking to convince Americans that the extremism they’ve embraced isn’t extremism at all. They want to continue to use this extremism as a tool to maintain and expand their power. It’s a cynical, gaslighting move that will have long-lasting repercussions for years to come.

The Republican Party’s continued embrace and exploitation of authoritarianism is a threat to American democracy. But with Trump as the current frontrunner of the Republican 2024 primary and his base still very much the core of the Republican Party, they feel this is necessary. The GOP is once again playing with electoral fire. We’ll see if they get burned again. Or, if it will lead to another fire on the steps of the Capitol building.

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