At midnight on Friday, Donald Trump released a new song with prison choir J6. No, that’s not it Onion heading. This just happened. Who needs SNL when we have reality?
According to Forbes staff writer Zach Everson, Trump, along with former Trump Administration official Cash Patel and former Fox News host Ed Henry, worked with January 6 rioters who were awaiting trial in prison of DC.
I’ll save you time. The song is as bad as you’d expect. The voices of accused rioters can be heard echoing off the prison walls eerily singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The song then introduces clips of Donald Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Forbes reports that these aren’t random clips from other times Trump has delivered the pledge — Trump recorded it specifically for this project.
The reaction to this was swift and full of derision. The Lincoln Project sent a tweet asking people to name the band, eliciting hilarious responses like “New Sedition” and “Bleach Boys”. Personally I think Coup Fighters for a band name or “Get Elected Or Coup Trying” for album work too.
As funny and ridiculous as this song is, it’s also dangerous. As University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade he tweeted in response to the song, wrapping anti-democratic sentiments in patriotism is a key disinformation tactic among authoritarians. This song was not released in a vacuum. It came amid a sweeping GOP effort to rewrite history on Jan. 6.
Last year, the January 6 Commission led a series of hearings that methodically debunked the Big Lie that fueled the rebellion. They clearly showed the violence of that day and outlined a criminal case against Donald Trump, who they convincingly accused of being responsible for the multifaceted attempt to overturn the election. Polls have shown that they have successfully swayed public opinion, and the 2022 midterm elections echoed that data with real results.
In 13 races in six key battleground states where a recusal ran for governor, secretary or attorney general, all 13 lost. The American public largely rejected the Big Lie, and Republicans generally underperformed, but still managed to capture a narrow majority in the House. They then promptly used that majority to shut down the January 6th Commission and now, in its absence, are filling the information vacuum with a pro-insurgency counter-narrative.
The most recent example of this push to rewrite history on Jan. 6 is that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) granted Fox “News” anchor Tucker Carlson exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of footage from Capitol Hill on January 6. Tucker Carlson has spent the past two years painting a falsely sympathetic picture of the January 6th uprising and those who participated in it. It’s also important to note that Carlson was just outed by the Dominion lawsuit as one of the Fox hosts who privately called Trump’s claims of election fraud in 2020 lies while spreading them to his audience anyway. McCarthy knew what narrative he would be giving when he handed over these tapes.
Speaker McCarthy has also moved to grant the Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom may have been heard singing along to Trump’s new song, access to Capitol security footage. Meanwhile, at CPAC, where Trump is scheduled to speak Saturday, they held a panel titled “True Stories of January 6th: The Attorney General Has Spoken” featuring January 6th rioters.
Why is it so important for the Republican Party to tell false January 6th stories? For them, it is a matter of recasting the most damning day for the MAGA movement. It’s also about laying the groundwork for disinformation ahead of possible criminal charges against Donald Trump and his allies from the Justice Department’s Special Counsel investigation or the Georgia Grand Jury investigation.
Instead of learning from their midterm losses and moving on, the Republican Party decided to double down and go on the offensive. They have decided that they prefer not to stray from the extremism that has suffocated them in the last three election cycles. Instead, they seek to convince Americans that the extremism they have embraced is not extremism at all. They want to continue to use this extremism as a tool to maintain and expand their power. It’s a cynical move that will have long-lasting repercussions for years to come.
The Republican Party’s continued embrace and exploitation of authoritarianism is a threat to American democracy. But with Trump the current front-runner in the 2024 Republican primary and his base still the core of the GOP, they believe this is necessary. The GOP is once again playing with the electoral fire. We’ll see if they burn again. Or if it will lead to another fire on the steps of the Capitol building.