The pardons went to Democrats, lobbyists and rappers, with nary a “patriot” among them. The mass arrests of Antifa campaigners never came. The inauguration stage at the Capitol, full of America’s most powerful politicians, was not purged of Satan-worshipping pedophiles under a shower of gunfire. Even the electricity stayed on.
The moment the clock struck noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20, it was over — and the extreme factions of Trump’s diehard base were left reeling.
Inauguration Day 2021 was supposed to be a culminating moment for the legion of online conspiracy theorists and extremists who have rallied around the now former president. But the lengthy list of prophecies they’d been told would eventually happen under Trump’s watch never came.
In the days leading up to Trump’s departure from office, his online followers watched with horror as his pardons that were supposed to go to allies and supporters instead went to people who were inherently swampy: white-collar criminals convicted of tax fraud, family friends, Steve Bannon, even Democrat Kwame Kirkpatrick.
“So just to recap: Trump will pardon Lil Wayne, Kodak Black, high profile Jewish fraudsters … No pardons for middle class whites who risked their livelihoods by going to ‘war’ for Trump,” fumed a user in a white supremacist channel on Telegram, the encrypted messaging service that has gained thousands of new subscribers since the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Conspiracies flew — out of the mouth of Fox News host Tucker Carlson — that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had blackmailed Trump out of pardoning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, further infuriating MAGA hardliners. Trump’s anti-immigrant base, who’d been with him since his initial run for the presidency in 2015, flipped out when he granted amnesty to tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants.
“Please vote to convict,” Ann Coulter tweeted to GOP senators.
And the QAnon community, a group that had desperately hoped Trump had one final ploy to stay in power and fight against the nebulous forces of darkness in Washington, erupted in despair as Joe Biden became president of the United States. It got so bad that one prominent QAnon online forum threatened to ban any users who posted negative content.
“There’s a lot of grief and confusion in Q world over the plan seeming to fizzle out, and feeling as if Q abandoned them,” Mike Rothschild, a disinformation researcher working on a book about QAnon, told POLITICO. “But I think that will very quickly turn into determination to continue down the path they’ve committed to.”
Taken together, the reactions across MAGA internet reveal a mosaic of anger, denial and disappointment that the former president let them down in his final days.
Without their leader to direct next steps, the MAGA coalition — the extremist militants, the hate groups, the conspiracy theorists, and the stans — is starting to turn on itself.