One of the least charming features of Donald Trump’s rallies is the tradition—going all the way back to the campaign trail—of supporters surrounding the media pen and screaming at the reporters, who Trump occasionally called out by name. It should surprise no one that one of the people hurling abuse at the press was Cesar Sayoc, who is suspected of eventually graduating to sending mail bombs to everyone on Trump’s enemy list, including CNN. Documentarian Michael Moore, who shot a lot of footage at Trump rallies for Fahrenheit 11/9 (and who was pictured on Sayoc’s van with crosshairs) took a look back at the video from a rally in Melbourne, Florida on Feb. 18, 2017, about a month after the inauguration. Sure enough, there’s little Cesar, chanting “CNN sucks” with the rest of the crew. Here’s three minutes of the view from the press pen:
There are two notable things about this footage besides how unpleasant it is. The first is that Sayoc’s sign and t-shirt seem to have been made in the basement with a lot of love, if you see what I’m saying. One of his signs has a picture of a coffin labeled “CNN” and “Buzzfeed,” which seems like the kind of thing that might send up alarms in a normal political movement. The second is that you can literally see how Sayoc was radicalized. At about 0:47, Sayoc yells something that is not entirely audible, but ends with the word “bastards.” It’s a little bit of an escalation—“CNN sucks” is about as profane as the chants have gotten at that point—and the camera is on him immediately afterwards. Sayoc looks to his right, at the crowd, apparently to see if they approved, then laughs to himself. It’s a tiny transgression, a little boundary testing, from a man who seems to have eventually figured out that there weren’t any boundaries at all. He’s not the only person in the shot acting that way: the entire crowd is egging each other on in a cheerful fellowship of cruelty. And this is one shot, from one rally. There were other rallies, with other supporters. There will be more.