Donald Trump has spent the weeks since his humiliating loss in the Nov. 3 presidential elections to Democrat Joe Biden lying about the outcome and urging various Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures to burn democracy to the ground and cast their electoral votes for him instead. Since he’s had zero success in his quest to have lesser officials immolate themselves in his honor, a loyalty test for remaining true believers has been to proclaim their willingness to die in some unspecified fight for freedom on social media. This is A-OK with Twitter so long as they remain slightly vague about it, apparently.
On Monday, Ali Alexander, the self-proclaimed leader of a “Stop the Steal” group that appears to be mostly about bilking donors, tweeted “I am willing to give my life for this fight.” Hours later, the Arizona Republican Party soon quote-tweeted the remark with “He is. Are you?”
That tweet was followed up by another from the state party with a video of John Rambo threatening to arrow someone in the face and the caption, “This is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something.” (The clip and quote are from Rambo IV, one of the... lesser Rambos.) It has since been deleted.
It seems relatively noncontroversial at this point to refer to the Republican Party as a death cult: Its leader thinks it’s fantastic that millions of Americans have caught the novel coronavirus, and he’d frankly probably just take issue with the mouthfeel of the phrase “death cult” rather than any of its implications. In that context, the Arizona GOP tweet is an obvious hint for some yahoo to grab a rifle and do whatever he feels necessary to secure Trump’s second term in office.
Biden won the Arizona elections by 10,457 votes, with the results certified by state officials on Nov. 30. Kelli Ward, the chair of the state party, backed a lawsuit trying to secure a judicial coup against Biden’s win, and an armed rebellion of self-declared math experts in mismatched camo with no fire support is basically the next best thing. The Arizona Supreme Court crushed Ward’s lawsuit on Tuesday, ruling the plaintiffs had failed “present any evidence of ‘misconduct,’ ‘Illegal votes’ or that the Biden Electors ‘did not in fact receive the highest number of votes for office,’ let alone establish any evidence of fraud or a sufficient error rate that would undermine the certainty of the election results.”
Twitter told CNN the tweets didn’t violate Twitter’s rules against glorification of violence, specific threats of violence, wishing death on an individual or group of people, or promoting violent extremism and suicide. That’s quite a list of things this didn’t somehow violate! Twitter did not elaborate on its reasoning to CNN:
Asked about @AZGOP’s specific tweets, however, Twitter confirmed to CNN that the tweets are not in violation of the rules. The company spokesperson did not elaborate on the company’s reasoning.
Ward, it should be noted, has previously urged coronavirus pandemic deniers rallying against stay-at-home orders to dress up like medical personnel as a clever little ruse to evade enforcement.
Some Arizona Republicans tried to distance the party from this rhetoric, which they were at least more willing than Twitter to acknowledge is explicitly violent.
“In Arizona, the GOP has embraced a lot of fringe players and their fringe theories. That’s one thing that just leads them to ultimately becoming a fringe party,” former Republican Attorney General of Arizona Grant Woods told the Phoenix New Times. “This sort of behavior, encouraging violence, is unacceptable. We need all elected and formerly elected republicans to denounce it now.”
Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey tweeted, “The Republican Party is the party of the Constitution and the rule of law. We prioritize public safety, law & order, and we respect the law enforcement officers who keep us safe. We don’t burn stuff down. We build things up.”
For its part, the Arizona GOP is standing by the tweet and claims it deleted the Rambo clip for copyright reasons.
“The Republican Party of Arizona condemns all forms of violence in the strongest terms,” a spokesperson for the party, Zachery Henry, told CNN. “Fictional movie scenes should be weighed in their proper context. However, due to concerns about copyright and fair use law, this clip has been removed.”