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The Bad and Good News About Trump's Violent Supporters

| Aug. 09, 2022

The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago prompts sincere talk of violence. But some threats remain mere threats.

In some corners of MAGA-land, a new civil war is getting under way. The FBI's arrival at Mar-a-Lago yesterday evening to collect evidence in a criminal investigation related to former President Donald Trump is the trigger that some of his supporters needed to suggest that violence is imminent. Predictably, the unverified Twitter accounts of armchair revolutionaries circulated claims such as "I already bought my ammo" and dark talk of "kinetic civil war" and "Civil War 2.0."

Not to be outdone, the National Rifle Association posted an image of Justice Clarence Thomas above an indignant quotation from a majority opinion he wrote: "The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not 'a second class right.'" Verified right-wing influencers got in on the martial rhetoric, too. "Tomorrow is war. Sleep well," Steven Crowder promised.

The bad news is that much of this talk is sincere. It is intended to intimidate the people investigating Trump's many abuses of power, and to galvanize and organize his true believers—some of whom already proved on January 6, 2021, that they will commit violence in his name. The latest such propaganda is shocking to read, mostly because the talk of violence comes so casually to Trump's apologists. It is all out in the open now.

The good news is that some threats remain merely threats. A violent movement either grows or shrinks. Its ideology is not defeated; it simply stops motivating people to action.

Trump has a hold on a party that has been offered plenty of exit ramps from its relationship with him, but he is not Voldemort. He has been isolated and humiliated. Many of the individuals who used violence to support him on January 6 are now in jail. His audiences have dwindled. Even on the night of the FBI search, in the area of Florida that he now calls home, an impromptu roadside demonstration in support of him attracted "roughly two dozen" supporters, the Miami Herald reported. "Roughly two dozen" isn't a revolution. It isn't even a rally....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Bad and Good News About Trump's Violent Supporters.” The Atlantic, August 9, 2022.

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