President Trump held a rally on Tuesday night in Phoenix, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and denouncing the media between chants of “lock her up.” Trump even said the word “Antifa” for the first time in public, a reference to the anti-fascist groups that have formed to fight against neo-Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. And there was one group that got his message loud and clear: White supremacists.
Many prominent white supremacists in the US saw the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as a major turning point, at least from a media relations point of view. A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, died after a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors. And white supremacists took a more measured tone in the aftermath, making sure to denounce violence, knowing that aligning yourself with death isn’t great for the cause of creating a white ethno-state. But President Trump’s speech last night seems to have changed all that.
White supremacists like Richard Spencer appeared energized by the speech and live-tweeted their excitement as the president signaled his support in the fight against Antifa. Even before Trump said the word “Antifa,” white supremacists heard Trump’s equivocating loud and clear.
At 10:19pm Eastern time, Trump started talking about the rally in Charlottesville and said that it “strikes at the core of America” and that “this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrate hatred and violence.” Trump then went on to talk about “the very dishonest media,” pointing at the press pen.
Whatever Trump actually meant by his condemnation of “thugs,” white supremacists on Twitter heard an ally denouncing anti-fascists. Richard Spencer tweeted less than two minutes later that Trump had, “just forcefully denounced Antifa. Strong.”
Trump then went into a bizarre tangent where he re-litigated his earliest equivocating denunciation of neo-Nazis and continued to denounce the media and “the anarchists” that disrupt his rallies.
Internet personality and white supremacist Baked Alaska, whose real name is Tim Gionet, celebrated the chants of “CNN sucks.”
But Gionet doesn’t just hate CNN. He’s a Holocaust denier who has made videos saying that the, “mainstream media has been lying for over a hundred years.” Gionet and his friend Millennial Matt, real name Matthew Colligan, have said that Hitler wanted to get rid of the fake news in Nazi Germany and because “they didn’t have the internet, they didn’t have 4Chan,” people got fake news about World War II. In the video Colligan laments the fact that absent the internet, “our friends in Europe back in 1933 and 1945 didn’t have that opportunity” to hear how great Hitler was.
Other anti-semitic Trump supporters believed that by calling out the media, Trump was calling out Jews, using the word “Lugenpresse,” German for “lying press.”
By the time Trump said the word “Antifa,” the Pepe-lovers on Twitter went nuts praising the president. They were seemingly unable to believe their own ears.
Saying that “they show up in the black helmets and the clubs and everything” the president tossed out the word Antifa. His supporters knew exactly what he meant, even without a coherent statement about the group.
Later, Trump kicked his dog whistles into high gear, making the case that Confederate statues were part of “our culture” and that “they” were trying to take away “our history.”
“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump said. “And our weak leaders, they do it overnight. These things have been there for 150 years, for a hundred years. You go back to a university and it’s gone. Weak, weak people.”
President Trump called the media “sick people” and said that they don’t want to make “our country” great again. He praised his own use of social media and said that it was a tool for him to cut through the lies. Trump also insisted that he doesn’t do “tweetstorms,” multi-tweet threads about a given topic.
Jason Kessler, who deleted his Twitter account for a couple of days after tweeting that Heather Heyer’s death was “payback time” in Charlottesville, seemed to concur that the media was distorting the things he was saying on social media. Kessler, the organizer of the neo-Nazi rally, reactivated his Twitter account yesterday and seemed as hate-filled as ever.
“I’m back from the nether-realm of self-exile. To all the Commies, conspiracy wackos & nazi optics cucks: pucker up. Payback is a bitch,” Kessler said, echoing his words about Heather Heyer, which he later apologized for.
White supremacist James Allsup, who marched at the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and recently resigned as the head of the College Republicans at Washington State University, tweeted the quotes from Trump that were clearly heard as dog whistles.
Later, James Allsup tweeted another rough quote from Trump, “Recapture our destiny. Rebuild our future. Our values will endure.” A follower tweeted back, “Was this the first official ‘alt-Right’ presidential rally?? Feels good man!”
Trump’s neo-fascist and white supremacist supporters heard exactly what they wanted to hear last night. Aside from perhaps one quibble that some of them had. Richard Spencer took issue when Trump called James Alex Fields, Jr. a murderer. Trump called Fields a “terrible person” and a murderer of Heather Heyer, but that was too much for Spencer.
“Trump shouldn’t have called Fields a murderer. He should have demanded a fair trial. We simply don’t know what happened yet,” Spencer tweeted.
Whatever you thought of President Trump’s unhinged rally last night in Phoenix, it’s clear what the white supremacists think. They heard a president who they believe is on their side. And that should terrify decent Americans as the country continues its slide into fascism. Because while the media like to call Trump’s rallies “campaign-style” we have a term that seems much more apt after you watch him rant about “destiny” for over an hour: it’s called fascist-style.