Donald Trump’s belated “concession” to a peaceful and orderly transition of power after the storming of the US Capitol has provoked anger and conspiracy theories among some of his most ardent followers.
On social media channels and chatrooms like Parler and 4chan, where far-right Trumpists have gravitated as other social media sites have increasingly shut out the president, there were complaints of betrayal.
Trump claimed on Thursday that he was “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem” of the Capitol siege that he had incited, and said those who “broke the law will pay” – comments that perhaps reflected concern over mounting legal and political hazard rather than a newfound sense of contrition and integrity.
Nevertheless they prompted an outpouring of anger, grief and denial from his hardline acolytes. “A punch in the gut,” said one. “A stab in the back,” another railed. From a third: “I feel like puking.”
A widely shared screengrab summed up the sentiment: “He says it’s going to be wild and when it gets wild he calls it a heinous attack and middle-fingers to his supporters he told to be there.”
Others turned to conspiracy theories, not least in the dark corners of 4chan and Parler, where the cult of QAnon holds sway. Many here saw not a Trump concession but either a “deep fake” video concocted by Trump’s enemies, or secret messages that indicated Trump was still on track to deliver on QAnon’s deranged promises.
“FAK fake fake He’s been locked out of his Twitter he can’t get into it he couldn’t get into it he couldn’t get into today it’s been closed out for ever,” opined someone called Magafree. “He has a plan here President Trump would not back down that easily,” wrote Brenda. “We need to stand strong, keep watch and pray. Something big is coming and Gid [God] is going to see it through.”
The reactions of the more mainstream elements of the Trump-era echo chamber have been more instructive. Sites such as Breitbart and the Daily Caller appear to have swung behind an emerging Republican consensus that has become increasingly hostile to Trump, blaming him not only for the storming of the Capitol, but also for delivering the presidency, the House of Representatives, and, earlier this week, the Senate to the Democrats.
Breitbart’s main story on Trump’s concession video was delivered in a relatively straight way, although the site tried to spin it as a Trump “change of tone”, suggesting all he had done was “return to his campaign theme of law and order”.
The comments below were, however, rather less mannered and careful. “There will NEVER be ‘reconciliation’,” wrote Freedomring17. “We have irreconcilable differences, and the fight has just begun. We need to disown the RNC until they support the Patriot party.”
For “NMP” the consequence was obvious and Trump part of the problem. “He could have declared martial law, like [Michael] Flynn said, instead he got patroits [sic] to show their face and they did and now they know who they are looking for.”
For the bitter-enders, like TrumpSupporterLTD, the sentiments were of a piece with the QAnon crowd over on 4chan – an almost metaphysical belief that Trump, despite the wealth of evidence, continues to move in mysterious ways
“Trump did not concede. He used language to buy a little extra time because the senators and congressmen who support him are being threatened with dirty bombs and their families’ lives by the Deep State and/or communist Chinese … I have it on good grounds that Trump will be moving with the military And regarding the transition to a new administration, means Trump with a new VP Pence is obviously a traitor and is ‘fired’.”