At Today’s Riot, Trump’s Trolls Turned Their Violent Fantasies Into Reality

Years of online cosplay laid the ground for a far-right siege.

Spencer Platt/Getty

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On Wednesday, the United States arrived at peak disinformation singularity. The lines between right-wing conspiracy internet forums and physical reality disappeared. Pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol as online trolls who had spent years threatening violence fully realized themselves, making it clear that they had never really been just trolling. 

The mob that stormed the Capitol manifested years’ worth of posts lodged into unhinged, far-right, conspiracy-laden corners of the internet. Such rhetoric crept toward the mainstream, crossing over into right-wing media, eventually coming out of Trump’s own mouth. It won new converts and spread more widely. It finally broke loose on Wednesday, as they did what they’d always said they would.

Through their farcical but all-too-real siege, Trump extremists turned the Capitol into something indistinguishable from the wild plots envisioned on their forums and groups. In the days leading up to the riot, people claiming that they were coming to Washington on Wednesday posted on the thedonald.win like it was 1944 and they were about to get on landing craft headed for the shores of Normandy. “Today I had the very difficult conversations with my children, that daddy might not come home from D.C.” one wrote. “My husband’s not happy, and he’s going to with me, but I told him that if I say go and leave me behind, that he must do it. No questions asked. I look forward to standing with you on the front lines,” another wrote in response.  

On similar forums, extremist Trump supporters have been publicly outlining such plans for years: that they will take justice into their own hands by trying to start a second civil war or carrying out citizens’ arrests. 

Ahead of today, experts thought the convening of a broad range of Trump supporters, including extremist groups, would radicalize attendees even further toward the hard right. Their storming of the Capitol all but ensures that will come true, while illustrating the power they have already amassed.

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