- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2019

Hardly anyone blinks when a Hollywood movie depicting right-wing worshippers being massacred in church grosses a half-billion dollars, but an obscure parody video showing President Trump slaughtering his opponents is stoking a firestorm of media outrage.

That was the message Monday from organizers and participants of a pro-Trump event where the parody meme was barely noticed, playing in a nearly empty room, until The New York Times came a-calling.

Alex Phillips, organizer of the American Priority event, said the “unauthorized” video was “not approved, seen or sanctioned” by his group, which held the conference at Mr. Trump’s Doral golf resort near Miami last weekend.

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“The organizers of AMPFest 19 were not even aware of the video until they were contacted” by The New York Times, Mr. Phillips said. “We find it shocking that the New York Times would not report on any of the sanctioned events in the article, including our panel conversation literally condemning political violence, while claiming to be upset over a meme that was not sanctioned, shown on stage, or approved.”

The meme is based on a scene from the 2014 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” The altered footage now depicts Mr. Trump in the “Church of Fake News” as he shoots, stabs and sets caricatures of his opponents on fire, including the late Sen. John McCain, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, former President Barack Obama, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, and faceless members of the media bearing the logos of CNN, NBC and others.

The original film starred Colin Firth, whose character happily carried out similar violence on a congregation of conservative worshippers whose minds were being controlled by a villain. That film are held by Fox Entertainment Group, owner of Fox News; it’s available for rent on Amazon Prime Video, owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post; and it’s streaming on Comcast, which owns NBC/Universal.

Also available on Netflix, the movie grossed more than $400 million in the U.S. alone.

The parody video of Mr. Trump drew condemnation from the White House Correspondents’ Association and a wide variety of media outlets, who demanded that the president disavow it. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said the video “will get people killed.”

Cindy McCain, widow of the late senator, said she was outraged and that the video violates “every norm our society expects from its leaders and the institutions that bear their names.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said early Monday that the president hadn’t seen the video but would do so.

“Based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video,” she tweeted.

Among the featured speakers at the conference were Donald Trump Jr. and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said they didn’t know about the video and hadn’t seen it.

As Mr. Phillips noted, the three-day conference featured a panel discussion Saturday about political violence. Among the participants was Andy Ngo, a journalist who has been attacked while covering antifa demonstrations.

“I’m deeply familiar w/politically-motivated violence against media,” Mr. Ngo tweeted. “I was beaten by an antifa mob & robbed in Portland [Oregon] for filming on my GoPro. I spoke about this on stage at the conference. The meme video is unethical, but so are journalists who use it to drum up fake rage.”

He agreed with critics that the video is “distasteful” but said critics in the mainstream media were being hypocritical.

“I don’t like jokes about political violence, but if MSM are truly concerned about this video, I wonder why they have brought MILLIONS of eyes to it when it was otherwise obscure,” he tweeted. “Patrician media et al. are raging over the stupid parody video at Trump Miami only because they can use it to attack him. It was part of a ‘meme exhibit’ in a room next to the back kitchen that was entirely empty. It had nothing to do w/his campaign.”

The room was so empty, in fact, that Mr. Ngo said he used it as a quite place to interview “angel mom” Sabine Durden, whose son was killed in a motorcycle crash four years ago by an immigrant who was in the U.S. illegally and was driving an unlicensed pickup truck.

“Neither one of us noticed [the video],” Mr. Ngo tweeted. “It’s a shame that there is no reporting on the families who went on stage at the conference ballroom to talk about how they’ve been permanently separated from their children due to lax border security. The preventable killings of Americans should be more offensive than a meme.”

Social media personality Mike Cernovich, who also took part in the panel discussion on political violence, said The New York Times didn’t cover the conference “until they heard a bad meme was shown in a side room that almost no one saw.”

“Let’s chat a bit about narratives and how they are formed,” Mr. Cernovich tweeted. “The video was an adaptation of the Church Massacre scene from a film that grossed half-a-billion dollars at the box office. No one in the media had an issue with a man going into a church to slaughter Christians, in a video that has over 7,500,000 views. But now the [parody] video will be seen by millions.”

It’s unclear who produced the video, or who was responsible for its showing at the conference. The video has been available in a similar form on YouTube for about a year.

The video has appeared on the YouTube account of TheGeekzTeam, a contributor to MemeWorld, a pro-Trump meme site created by a conservative Kansas man, Logan Cook, who calls himself Carpe Donktum on social media. He met the president at a White House social media summit last summer.

Carpe Donktum said in a statement that the video was “CLEARLY satirical” and that “no reasonable person would believe that this video was a call to action, or an endorsement of violence towards the media.”

“This attack is yet another example of the Mainstream Media’s hypocrisy,” he said. “The MSM could not find any controversy within the conference itself, so they have manufactured this outrage campaign to discredit its success.”

Some members of the media who’ve tangled with Mr. Trump have reported receiving death threats during his presidency, and the group representing White House correspondents said the parody of the president slaying journalists and political opponents should not be put on exhibit.

“All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the president’s political opponents,” said Jonathan Karl, WHCA president. “We have previously told the president his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.”

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