Yesterday, Donald Trump became the third president in the history of the United States to get impeached, and Trump is obviously not happy. But as things get worse for the president, his message becomes more and more extreme, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. The Trump campaign buys new Facebook ads every day, and the ones from yesterday were particularly weird, to say the least.
“This is an attack on Democracy. An attack on freedom. An attack on everything we hold dear in this country,” President Trump’s latest Facebook ad reads. “It’s US against THEM in this impeachment war. And we need to strike first.”
An attack on democracy? Strike first? It might seem rather ordinary, given how drastically Trump has changed the national discourse. But if you take a step back and try to imagine that kind of language being used by the leader of a different country, you might get a sense of just how bonkers it all really is. Beyond bonkers, the language is downright fascist.
President Trump has spent an estimated $648,000 on Facebook in the three-week period following November 23, according to the Washington Post, and Democrats are spending a fraction of that. Elizabeth Warren, for example, spent just over $62,000 in the same period. And the rhetoric couldn’t be more different.
The president’s video in the new Facebook ad is no less authoritarian in its insinuations than the main text.
“This isn’t impeachment, this is a coup intended to take away the power of the people,” President Trump says to the camera.
“They want to take away your vote, your freedoms, your Second Amendment, your religion, your military, your border wall, and your God-given right as a citizen of the United States of America,” Trump continues.
“They’re going after me because I’m fighting for you. This is a total scam, it’s a witch hunt, and it needs to come to an end, right now.”
Trump ends the ad by imploring followers to contribute money to his “Defense Impeachment Fund,” something that was announced the day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said back in September that she intended to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. But the “fund” isn’t some special pot of money. It’s just going directly to his 2020 reelection campaign.
Despite being extreme, the new ad presumably doesn’t run afoul of Facebook’s ad policies, since the tech giant has repeatedly argued that it should continue to allow politicians to pay money for the pleasure of radicalizing entire populations of people.
President Trump seems to be employing more and more fascist rhetoric as the days go by, something that countless experts on authoritarianism warned us about over the past few years. But it’s a bit surreal to see it happening in real time with the aid of gigantic tech companies. Trump has suggested repeatedly that his political enemies should be executed for treason and it doesn’t even make the nightly TV news.
This is just our new normal, thanks largely to companies like Facebook where the internet platform rewards the loudest and most extreme voices. Engagement is all that matters, and nothing causes engagement quite like fascist bullshit. As comedian Sacha Baron Cohen argued last month, Facebook has become the “greatest propaganda machine in history.” And as President Trump continues to pour money into new Facebook ad every single day, the country is only going to suffer more.
Trump constantly argues that the big social media companies, like Twitter and Facebook, are all conspiring against him. But it’s hard to believe that Trump would have been elected without social media. And if the status quo in ad purchasing is allowed to continue, Trump will almost certainly be reelected. Because the Senate has decided that it’s not going to stop Trump no matter what he says or does. Even if he suggests that one of his political rivals is literally in hell.