Overview:

When Donald Trump feels victimized, his base supporters like clockwork ignite online to defend him. It seems curiously well-orchestrated.

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The seemingly instantaneous, coordinated blow-back by Donald Trump supporters on social media whenever they believe the former president has been attacked begs the question: Are they being coached?

The matches that ignite these online conflagrations are strident public alarms set off by either Trump’s own protestations or by elected sycophants in MAGA world rushing to their dear leader’s defense. And then right-wing media, led by Fox News entertainment hosts amplifies and spreads the outrage to millions of Americans.

This alarming passage below from an essay on online news site The Dispatch illustrates the dynamic:

“When news broke that the FBI was searching Trump’s home, right-wing commentators, candidates, and elected officials argued that the United States government was illegitimate or that the FBI was essentially a tyrannical and unjust secret police. [Republican Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor] Greene called it ‘rogue behavior’ and ‘political persecution’ typical of countries ‘during civil war.’ [Republican Arizona Rep. Paul] Gosar called the FBI ‘brownshirts,’ a reference to the Nazi Party’s private militia (he apparently deleted the Tweet). [Kari] Lake, the candidate for Arizona governor, said the FBI’s raid marked the day the government ‘turned against us.’ She said it was an ‘illegitimate, corrupt regime’ led by ‘tyrants.’ If taken literally, such statements could easily encourage political violence.”

Focus on the phrase “political violence.”

What followed after the Mar-a-Lago search was an avalanche of online approbation, routinely death-threatening, often profane, even sickeningly depraved. But it is gut, not fact, based.

In fact, the FBI’s and other integrated agency officials were methodically doing their jobs by the book at Trump’s beloved resort, and relatively discreetly at that. They didn’t even wear the distinctive FBI-emblazoned jackets and shirts, opting for the understated, plainclothes look. Nobody was manhandled. No guns were drawn.

What the naysayers tellingly neglected to say is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) for months had been effectively stonewalled by former President Trump in returning all highly classified materials that he had inexplicably and likely illegally taken with him when he left the White House and then stored at his Mar-a-Lago resort residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

The FBI’s court-authorized search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago on August 8 was a last resort to retrieve any remaining classified material at the resort after a series of less intrusive methods over many months had failed, including a records subpoena.

Immediately thereafter the partisan pro-Trump onslaught began with public pronouncements by MAGA public officials along with online vitriol and threats.

The very next day, a man who had reportedly been present at the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, tried, unsuccessfully, to enter an FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, while wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying an AR-15-style rifle and nail gun. He fled the scene when confronted by agents and was later shot dead after a standoff with law enforcement officers.

READ: After Mar-a-Lago raid, GOP is suddenly all about defunding law enforcement

Also after the resort search—called a “raid” by Trump and his supporters because it sounds illegal—the MAGA social media mob, seemingly on cue with elected GOP bomb throwers, went ballistic, viciously condemning and threatening violence against any individual associated with the search. Targets of this intimidating rage included the judge who authorized it, Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Ray, and other DOJ officials. And their families.

This nasty, threatening, dangerous social-media blowback by Trump partisans that inevitably and savagely follows every news report unwelcome by the former president begs the question: Is everything orchestrated from the top, from the bogus talking points that GOP elected officials (federal, state, and local) slavishly spew in public to the poisonous verbal assaults from anonymous villains online who personally threaten death to government officials and their families, as they did after the 2020 presidential vote?

The ugly MAGA assault after each imagined political insult hardly seems completely organic and coincidental. How does everyone know exactly what to do at exactly the most opportune time and for the most politically suppressive, advantageous effect?

Is it possible that GOP elected officials—who all inevitably parrot the same pro-Trump talking points in unison—aren’t the only Trumpies being methodically coached?

If they are, Trump is complicit in death threats.

The fundamental problem for truth in the public sphere is that virtually everything the MAGA crowd has been fuming about since the Mar-a-Lago search (and before) has been pure speculation or invention. They’re just guessing, riffing, and throwing stuff against the wall.

For the MAGA minions, whom research describes as under-educated, under-informed, and over-enthralled with tribal authority, the route to safety and nirvana is accepting at face value whatever Trump opines and, with a knee-jerk, dismissing whatever criticism is leveled at him.

Wrote David French in an essay—“There is No MAGA Movement Without Threats”—in The Atlantic’s “The Third Rail” newsletter:

“Keep in mind that the attack [after the Mar-a-Lago search], the threats, and the violent rhetoric all happened without the perpetrators possessing any concrete knowledge of the underlying legal or evidentiary reasons for the FBI’s search. The mere existence of the search was deemed sufficient reason for an instant, unified, volcanic right-wing response. And in the Trump era, pro-Trump threats and violence follow pro-Trump rage like night follows day.

Like night follows day.

Note that the authorizing judge in the Mar-a-Lago search, Judge Bruce Reinhart, has gone dark, taking his information off an official judiciary website because of threats to him and his family. Meanwhile, hordes of longtime election officials blamed for malfeasance in the “stolen” 2020 election continue to resign their positions for the exact same reason ahead of the coming midterms. They’re terrified for themselves and their loved ones. Then and now.

Terror and intimidation can be terribly effective, unfortunately, especially when promoted by a political leader who has been effectively deified by his supporters.

Not to sound too conspiratorial, but It’s almost impossible for me to believe all this raging hate, ignited seemingly on cue, is just happy serendipity for the ever-more-combative GOP. It feels unnervingly more like deep planning and targeted intention.

Welcome to Donald Trump’s version of democracy, where bite makes right.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...