Militiamen showed up proudly bearing the emblems of their groups — American flags with the stars replaced by the Roman numeral III, patches that read “Oath Keepers.” Alt-right types wore Pepe the Frog masks, and QAnon adherents could be seen in T-shirts urging people to “Trust the Plan.” White supremacists brought their variant of the Crusader cross.
And then there were thousands of Trump supporters with MAGA gear — flags, hats, T-shirts, thermoses, socks. One flag portrayed President Trump as Rambo; another featured him riding a Tyrannosaurus rex and carrying the kind of rocket-propelled grenade launcher seen on the streets of Mogadishu or Kandahar.
The iconography of the American far right was on display during the violence at the Capitol last week. The dizzying array of symbols, slogans and images was, to many Americans, a striking aspect of the unrest, revealing an alternate political universe where violent extremists, racists and conspiracy theorists march side by side with evangelical Christians, suburban Trump supporters and young men who revel in making memes to “own the libs.”
Uniting them is a loyalty to Mr. Trump and a firm belief in his false and discredited insistence that the election was stolen. The absurdity of many images only masked a devotion that inspired a mob to mount a deadly attack on Congress.
“It’s often all a caricature — it looks like military fan fiction — until it’s not and it crosses a very dangerous line,” said Joan Donovan, the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.