“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong,” the ballad from 1969 triumphantly proclaims. A Right Side Broadcasting reporter compared Saturday’s Trump rally in Arizona to Woodstock, “but where everyone is not completely liberal jacked up on drugs.” No, the MAGAs don’t need drugs to do their best insanity, they are completely out of it on the natch. Granted. I think their song should start out, “By the time we got to Florence, we were beaten, crazed and wrong. And everywhere was more lies and desperation.”
And that was before their Golden God took the stage. After he left the stage there was debate about whether it was really him. Seriously. These people are that nuts. A rumor was afoot, in this crowd where conspiracy theorists ruled, and their various theories conflicted, that Trump didn’t speak, one of his “doubles” did. Ron Watkins, who is believed to be Q and is a main QAnoner in any event, quashed that at once.
After the rally, Ron Watkins held an audio chat where followers speculated that Trump himself had been a body double. “I saw Trump. It’s not a body double. It’s actually him,” Watkins said.
But would Watkins know if it was a body double? And what if this is a Watkins body double talking? Woo woo woo woo, woo woo woo woo.
And then conspiracy theory and its necessary corollary, paranoia, proceeded to dominate the evening. Rolling Stone:
On stage, a slew of lies, conspiracies and misinformation were delivered with the aim to sow paranoia and fear about enemies both domestic and abroad. If it isn’t the Democrats cheating Republicans in elections, it’s the Chinese or the Russians or the North Koreans threatening to end our way of life.
The paranoid element is not new for Trump, nor for the Republican party in general. Just last month, Trump played the conspiracy theory hits during O’Reilly’s history tour. But the speeches and commentary in Florence cranked the conspiratorial element up to 11. Arizona State Senator Sonny Borelli gravely warned of “psy-ops.” Trump claimed white people are being discriminated against in healthcare. And some of the more out-there observers thought Trump was a body double or worried about famous people being replaced by human clones.
“The Democrats are all liars and cheaters” was the general message sent to a crowd who felt perfectly at home standing next to pro-militia flags flapping in the wind. As a deranged propaganda video reel played in which Biden is described as a “human pandemic,” it truly felt like I was witnessing people be radicalized in real time.
Notably, Trump didn’t advocate for the vaccine in his speech after receiving heat from fellow Republicans and right wing media for promoting the vaccine during the O’Reilly event in Dallas.
The sheer amount of misinformation compacted into the speeches was jarring. I couldn’t fact check them on the fly fast enough amid Trump’s stream-of-consciousness style. “The Democrats are left wing fascists,” Trump said breathlessly. “They’re beyond socialism.” Never mind that fascism evolved explicitly as a right-wing response to left-wing socialism in Europe.
Trump knows nothing of history or the development of governmental systems. He was famously asked at the G20 summit in 2019 to hold forth on Vladimir Putin’s comment that western-style liberalism was obsolete. Here’s his classic, jaw dropping answer.
“Well, he may feel that way. He says what’s going on. I guess you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco, and a couple other cities which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people, I don’t know what they’re thinking but he does see things that are happening in the United States that would probably preclude him from saying how wonderful it is. At the same time, he congratulated me as every other leader of every other country did for what we’ve done economically.”
Putin was talking about western liberalism meaning democracy as practiced in Western Europe and the United States. You know, those places where they have elections, a free press, that sort of thing? Trump didn’t know that. Trump thinks western means the west coast and liberalism must have something to do with Democrats eating avocado toast and sipping Chardonnay, while they devise a way to screw over himself and his MAGA Nation.
I’m glad the reporter didn’t ask him to discuss the international ideological struggles of the Cold War and post-Cold War era because they probably would have gotten a lecture on light bulbs and toilets, remember that?
That was the mind at work on stage Saturday night. It’s said that both the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election will seal for good the fate of where the GOP has fallen to. The Republicans have no platform and because nature abhors a vacuum, conspiracy theories have whooshed in and now dominate the political discourse. Now it’s devolved into an argument of which conspiracy theories are actually on brand GOP and which are too far out there.
You saw that Trump did not endorse taking the vaccine. He didn’t want to get booed again. So evidently he’s decided to forego being the hero who created “life saving vaccines” and medical miracles and not incense the base.
What about the “gematrians” who predict the return of JFK, JFK, Jr. and other celebrities from the dead? Is this acceptable in the GOP now? Michael Protzman was prominently figured at the Florence rally and he’s the one in charge of the QAnoners who worried Dallas residents by hanging out at Dealy Plaza for months.
Initially, Protzman and his followers’ activities in Dallas seemed relatively harmless and absurd — for example, singing songs in Dealey Plaza and unraveling dozens of toilet paper rolls in a hotel room. But as their presence in Dallas has persisted, their beliefs and behavior become increasingly unusual, leading outside observers to describe the group as a cult. […]
A recent Mother Jones report, based on documents obtained by the far-right researcher Amanda Moore, described that Protzman faced formal allegations of violence from his wife. These allegations are documented in a 2019 arrest report for an “unlawful imprisonment – domestic violence” charge. In the report, Protzman’s wife says he had been “acting differently, not showering…and believing in government conspiracies,” and that he had physically assaulted her in the past. The case was dismissed without prejudice; it could be reopened, but it’s unclear if it ever will. In a message to Rolling Stone via WhatsApp, Protzman denied the charges. “No truth was found,” he wrote, in all caps. “Because it didn’t happen. Go ask her if you have the balls.” Protzman’s wife did not respond to requests for comment.
There have been no recent reports of violence from Protzman or the group currently gathered around him. But Protzman’s apparent psychological hold on his followers is so strong that some of them abandoned their spouses and children to spend time with him in Dallas. A woman named Katy Garner tells Rolling Stone that her sister has been in Dallas for over a month. “At this point it must be done, because I don’t think she’s coming home. She left her kids and husband,” Garner says. (Protzman did not respond to questions about whether the group could be classified as a cult.)
The Protsmanians were in force in Florence. They were given VIP seats. So one can only assume that that means that they and the gematrian philosophy are welcome in Trump world. Gematria is a form of religious numerology. These people chant numbers at each other in order to identify other members of the cult (except that they don’t like to call themselves a cult.)
So now you’re seeing the elements come together: You’ve got the most batshit crazy component of QAnon, the Protsmanians, competing for attention with the anti-vaxxers, which seem to be in the ascendant at the moment; but at least they are all unified by the Big Lie. Trump calls the “fake news” characterization of the Big Lie “bullshit” and that means that his entire platform is bullshit, which comes as zero surprise. He has no platform for 2024 other than elect me again. That’s the platform.
15,000 people met on a ranch in Arizona to endorse the Big Lie, go anti-science, vilify Dr. Fauci and Democrats, honor cultists who believe that the Kennedys are the direct descendants of Jesus Christ (Joseph P Kennedy would have loved that one. It’s a lot more glamorous than the family’s bog trotting, bootlegging actual roots) and then it got so nuts that people weren’t even convinced that they were listening to the real Trump speak.
This is dangerous as hell. These people are like a powder keg waiting for a thrown match. You can’t have all this crazy, and especially when the crazy has a life or death component like COVID co-existing like this and not have something go wrong.
The inmates have taken over the asylum and right now the patients on the various wings are all running around proselytizing their own brand of madness and not even bothering to try to codify any of it into a unified message. This is what one of the major political parties in America looks like these days.
Add this to the right-wing maneuvers to undermine free and fair elections and it’s all going to come to a head. It can’t not do so.