United States President Donald Trump’s administration and other right-wing figures attempted to distance themselves on October 14 2019 from a violent propaganda video, as coverage spread of a scene altered to depict Trump gunning down his “enemies” in both politics and journalism:
About 18 months before a violent video of a fake President Donald Trump superimposed on a violent action movie became national news on Monday, a video creator who goes by TheGeekzTeam uploaded a similar video to a rabid pro-Trump community on Reddit, the discussion website.
The video was an edited clip in which Trump’s face is superimposed onto the face of the lead in the 2015 Swedish martial arts action comedy short, “Kung Fury,” with Trump shooting at and fighting off Democratic politicians. The video description sums up Trump’s battle: “With the help of Alex Jones and friends, they destroy the evil Hitlery Clinton and her army of fake news!”
The video was shown during a so-called “meme event” as part of a conference held at a Trump-owned resort in Miami; the organizers, American Priority, told the New York Times that the footage was not “approved, seen or sanctioned” by them, although reports from the scene showed it projected onto the hotel’s walls.
The footage was taken from a scene in the 2014 action-comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service in which British secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth, fends off a church full of mind-controlled attackers as the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Freebird” plays.
The version shown at the conference — created by an associate of far-right disinformation purveyor Logan Cook, also known as “Carpe Donktum” — superimposes Trump’s face over that of Hart. Likewise, news outlets and lawmakers who have criticized the president are superimposed over the brainwashed attackers.
“The @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video,” White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said on her Twitter account.
A spokesperson for the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., who attended the conference but did not say anything about the video until others expressed outrage, offered:
Regardless of political party, we should all reject any and all violence in our politics, whether it’s directed towards members of the media, politicians, the family members of politicians or political activists.
The video, “The Trumpsman (The Kingsman Parody),” is still accessible on YouTube, with a message asking users to sign in and confirm their age as “the video may be inappropriate for some users.” Several other clips based on the scene from the movie are also still accessible on the video sharing site.
A synopsis of the “Trumpsman” video published in the Washington Post reads:
More than a dozen of the parishioners’ faces are covered by the logos of major media organizations, ranging from PBS to The Washington Post. Rising out of the pews when Trump passes them, some of the churchgoers appear to be yelling at the president, whose face contorts into a scowl.
As the shouting intensifies, Trump abruptly stops walking and turns to face the angry mob. He pulls out a black gun from his jacket’s inside pocket and shoots a person edited to represent late actor Peter Fonda, who was a vocal critic of the president, in the head from point-blank range.
Then, chaos ensues.
Trump takes down Bloomberg, Vox and “Fake News” in quick succession before shooting Politico. At one point, he grabs someone who represents the Black Lives Matter movement in a chokehold and shoots that person in the head.
After shooting MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Vice News, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Slate, Trump tries to shoot late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), but he is out of bullets. Instead, he uses his gun to deliver a vicious blow to the back of McCain’s neck.
The video was first posted to YouTube in 2018 by an unidentified person listed as a contributor to a separate blog operated by “Donktum,” who has been identified in news reports as Logan Cook. Cook himself was suspended — then unsuspended — from Twitter on the day coverage of the video increased, though the social media platform has not said whether the altered clip was related to the move.
“The Kingsman video is CLEARLY satirical and the violence depicted is metaphoric,” Cook said in a statement. “No reasonable person would believe that this video was a call to action, or an endorsement of violence towards the media. The only person that could potentially be ‘incited’ by this video is Donald Trump himself, as the main character of the video is him.”
However, Cook declined to note that this video received much more visibility through this conference around the same time that conspiracy theorists and paranoid propagandists have been agitating for mass violence, as we reported last week:
A gaggle of specious blogs and social media accounts set about inflaming tensions for their followers in a set of posts reminiscent of other fake controversies.
The posts center on vaguely-worded “threats” and wide-ranging military deployments leading up to October 16th 2019 or October 19th, depending on the “source.”
Twitter threads typically began with ominous, yet vague (of course) pronouncements:
I received a warning confirming military on the move. An update from someone very highly-ranked & very close to the president. It’s supposed to start around the 19th as a prelude to certain States bringing in UN troops. From what I’ve heard certain States like California are going to pump up gang activity, violence in the streets. People will be stuck in their homes on purpose. They will then claim the President refuses to help because they are Democratic states & they will ask the UN to come in as peacekeepers. Then once they’re in the real takeover begins. That’s their plan. From what I’m hearing if only a portion of it happens for real it’s going to be bad.
The thread goes on to claim — baselessly, as usual — that the scheduled power outages in northern California by Pacific Gas and Electric were related to “Military coming down from Portland into CA.”
Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the president have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining — but it is by far and away the worst. The president and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone.
While his administration said he would condemn the “Trumpsman” video, the president has a history of stoking animosity against journalists by his followers; he has long called news outlets not parroting his talking points “the enemy of the people”; reporters have also given accounts of being harassed at Trump campaign rallies; right-wing operatives have openly declared their intent to “expose” reporters in support of the president; in June 2019 an Orlando Sentinel reporter was attacked by a Trump supporter outside of a rally in that city and later charged with assault; and two months later another fan of the president, Cesar Sayoc, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of sending non-functioning pipe bombs to both journalists and politicians who have criticized Trump.