Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
In the past week on Twitter, Donald Trump has taken a potshot at “Chuck and Nancy,” endorsed an alleged child sex abuser for Senate, called for a boycott of CNN, and joked about awarding a “Fake News Trophy” to the most dishonest news network. But a series of retweets Wednesday from a British ultranationalist feed, each containing unverified video of “Muslims” and “Islamists” committing acts of violence and vandalism, may have been his most nakedly authoritarian yet.
If the president’s continued attacks on “fake news” pose an urgent threat to American democracy, then the outlets he deems legitimate offer compelling evidence he’s “losing his grip on reality,” as “The Art of the Deal” ghostwriter Tony Schwartz observed Wednesday night.
Before Trump’s tweets, Jayda Fransen enjoyed minor notoriety as the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right political movement whose mission is to purge Great Britain of Islamic influence. The hate group has waged numerous campaigns against multiculturalism, and the British press often refers to its members as fascists, according to CBS. When white nationalist Gardener Thomas Mair shot and stabbed Labour MP Jo Cox last year, he repeatedly shouted the words “Britain First.”
Fransen herself was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after verbally abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab during a “Christian patrol” in Luton earlier this year. After the president of the United States exposed her to his 43.6 million followers, bots and all, the convicted felon tweeted the following:
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN'S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS @JaydaBF@realDonaldTrumppic.twitter.com/BiQfQkTra9
— Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) November 29, 2017
The rest of Britain appeared noticeably less enthused. Theresa May condemned Trump’s tweets, although the Tory prime minister has resisted the Labour Party’s call to cancel Trump’s upcoming state visit, while Jo Cox’s husband has accused Trump of attempting to legitimize the far right in Britain. Even a proven Islamophobe like InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson seemed alarmed.
Yeah, someone might want to tell whoever is running Trump's Twitter account this morning that retweeting Britain First is not great optics. ????
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 29, 2017
Trump’s nod to Britain First comes just four days after he linked to an article cataloguing his many “accomplishments” in office from a website called Magappill, which takes its name from the president’s own nationalist campaign slogan and a reddit forum for men’s rights activists. (An allusion to “The Matrix,” “red-pilling” is the internalization of extremist views regarding race and gender.)
Like Britain First, Magapill peddles dark fantasies about impending sharia law, but its paranoia is not confined to a particular ethnic or religious group. As ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum reveals, the site has speculated that Lady Gaga is a spirit cooker in a globalist cabal, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta ran a child sex ring out of a Washington pizzeria, and the Vatican is a practitioner of occult magic, among other conspiracy theories. (In at least one of its tweets, Magapill employed triple parentheses to denote a subject was Jewish, a popular tactic of neo-Nazis and white nationalists during the 2016 elections.)
If these developments aren’t harrowing enough, Alex Jones revealed this week that he’s in regular communication with Trump, and that the president repeats what he tells him “word-for-word.” Jones is a relentless self-promoter, and there’s every reason to suspect he’s inflating his influence in the White House. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more than a kernel of truth to his boasts. When Trump made his notorious claim that Muslims were celebrating on the rooftops of New Jersey during 9/11, it was an InfoWars article he cited. That the president of the United States trusts the word of a Sandy Hook truther should be cause enough to exercise the 25th Amendment.
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of $100 bills with a star of David declaring her the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” (At the time, he called it a sheriff’s star.) He has since retweeted a meme from an anti-Semitic Twitter user and a separate tweet from a prominent Pizzagate truther with ties to the alt right, so it’s easy to dismiss his latest activity on social media as yet another diversion, this time from a wildly unpopular tax bill wending its way through Congress.
We shouldn’t. Trump may or may not be a madman, as the New York Daily News argued Wednesday, but his efforts to will his own delusions into reality threaten the sanity of the entire country, not to mention countless lives.
Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.
Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters