Former President Donald Trump.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Dark MAGA is a fringe online movement demanding Donald Trump take revenge on his enemies.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has posted images with the ‘Dark MAGA’ aesthetic.
Experts warn about the online far-right laundering extremism into the mainstream using meme warfare.
A burgeoning online movement known as Dark MAGA is calling for former President Donald Trump to return to power and take revenge against his enemies.
What began as a fringe campaign posting threatening Terminator-style memes on social media is gaining traction among prominent Trump supporters such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Experts warn that the movement, which often features white nationalist and neo-Nazi imagery, could be the latest example of the far-right online laundering extremism into the mainstream using meme warfare.
What is Dark MAGA?
Dark MAGA is a “post-alt-right online aesthetic movement” rooted in the radical pro-Trump online space, according to the Global Network on Extremism & Technology (GNET).
Memes with the Dark MAGA aesthetic frequently depict Trump in dramatic black and red-tinted images, often with laser beams shooting out of his eyes.
“A big part of the aesthetic involves memes of a God-like, authoritarian Trump getting revenge on perceived opponents,” Dr. Caroline Orr Bueno, a behavioral scientist researching far-right extremism, told Insider.
“It’s an aggrieved movement centered around the idea of a vengeful return to power. They’re embracing the role of the villain and stripping away any facade of decency or political correctness.”
Although not explicitly endorsed by Donald Trump, the movement appears to be gaining more mainstream support – including from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who on May 7 posted an image with the Dark MAGA aesthetic.
—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) May 7, 2022
Prominent far-right activists, including Jack Posobiec and Amanda Milius, have also shared similar images of themselves, helping to bring a previously fringe movement into the mainstream.
The first documented use of the #DarkMAGA hashtag on Twitter was on January 21, according to GNET, but it started to spread across social media platforms in March.
Some of the content attached to the hashtag on Twitter depicts Trump carrying weapons, calling for the death penalty, or picturing the Trump Tower in a dramatic dystopian scene.
—Wendell Willkie (@enjoyer_liberty) May 12, 2022—The Patriot Hammer (@patriot_hammer) May 12, 2022
Meme warfare as propaganda
The movement is deeply entrenched in “meme warfare” and internet trolling techniques common among online far-right communities, according to Tim Squirrell, head of communications and editorial at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
“You have to imagine meme warfare as a propaganda war that many people believe they are waging on a day-to-day basis,” Squirrell told Insider.
One of the movement’s goals appears to be to “unite disparate factions of right-wing extremism,” which largely fractured following the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017, where white supremacists were observed chanting “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us, says Squirrell.
At the same rally, James Alex Fields Jr., an avowed white supremacist, drove his car into a group of anti-racism protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.
Steve Helber/Associated Press
Its other goal is to “expose more mainstream Trump-supporting conservatives to the most extreme narratives, icons, imagery, and people,” Squirrell said.
The Global Network on Extremism & Technology said many images feature far-right symbols, including Nazi sun wheels, swastikas, and wolfsangels, which threaten violence or revenge.
GNET analyzed about 4,000 memes associated with Dark MAGA, and within a subset of 100 memes found, 38 portrayals of Donald Trump, 12 overt Nazi symbols, 9 US flags, and four references to QAnon.
According to Orr, the Dark MAGA aesthetic is inspired by accelerationist/neo-Nazi movements and iconography, including fashwave, terrorwave, and the so-called “skull mask network.“
With Marjorie Taylor Greene, an elected congresswoman, and other prominent Trump supporters engaging with and amplifying Dark MAGA, it is bringing a previously fringe movement into the mainstream.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene has a history of – I guess the technical term for it is shitposting – saying really provocative stuff as a mechanism for gaining attention for riling up the ‘libs,’ for dividing opinion amongst the MAGA caucus,” Squirrell said.
When asked by Insider why Greene shared the image and whether she endorsed the Dark MAGA movement, her spokesperson Nick Dyer responded: “You are a Blue Anon conspiracy theorist.”
A Trump supporter sells merchandise during the ‘Save America’ rally at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds on January 29, 2022 in Conroe, Texas
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Squirrell noted that this type of movement is typically “cloaked in about five layers of irony.”
“So if you point it out, you always run the risk of people saying, “well, that’s not what I’m doing, you shouldn’t take this so seriously, what’s wrong with you?” he said. “But it’s a serious movement. It has serious people behind it. It has serious money behind it.”
Greene’s image has gained over 50,000 likes and nearly 20,000 replies and quote retweets– some of them supportive, some critical.
“Outrage generation” is a common tactic in the online far-right playbook, Squirrell explained, who often use over-the-top memes rhetoric designed to provoke a backlash, which generates high engagement and amplifies their content.
Some noted on social media that Anthony Scarramucci, Trump’s former White House director of communications, also had an image of himself with lasers coming out of his eyes as his Twitter profile picture.
In a phone call with Insider, Scaramucci said that he had uploaded the photo a year ago as part of an unrelated inside joke with people in the crypto-currency community.
He said he removed the image on May 7th after “lunatics from the right-wing fascist community” posted similar photos.
Dark MAGA could further radicalize an already radical movement
Whether or not Dark MAGA is a cause for concern will depend on how successful it is at gaining mainstream support, according to Squirrell.
“The worry is that it further radicalizes an already fairly radical movement,” he said.
“Anything which attempts to legitimize political violence, which attempts to say that Trump should take no prisoners and that he should be engaging in quite Machiavellian action is dangerous.”
Supporters of President Donald Trump take over balconies and inauguration scaffolding at the United States Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty
The movement capitalizes on Trump supporters’ “deep resentment” over various perceived injustices, ranging from the myth that the 2020 election was stolen to fears about the shifting demographics of the US population, according to Orr.
She said that the Dark MAGA revenge narrative underscores the dangers of the continued propagation of the stolen election myth by Trump and much of the Republican Party.
“I also think the movement indicates that they have no intentions to play by the rules, so we should expect more events like January 6,” Orr said.
Politics, Donald Trump, MAGA, far-right extremism, Meme, Marjorie Taylor Greene, UK Weekend, News UK
All Content from Business Insider