On Wednesday, in tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks 18 years ago, former New York City Mayor and current Trump legal surrogate Rudy Giuliani tweeted out a strange video with the simple caption “GOD BLESS AMERICA.”
In the video, a police officer in riot gear stands, rigid and expressionless, in the middle of a city street. Other officers flank him on either side, staring down a crowd of shouting protesters. The protesters, some of whom are waving upside-down American flags, hold signs that say “police = fascism” and “FTP” for “f— the police.” A mournful rendition of “America the Beautiful”—not the lyrics about brotherhood and majestic mountains but a lesser-known verse about “heroes … in liberating strife”—plays over the scene.
In flashbacks, viewers then see the officer—now in military garb—salute a flag-draped coffin, and then as a teenage football player place his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Finally, the officer as a little boy is seen watching a first responder on television lift an American flag in the air amid the rubble of the World Trade Center. The video flashes back to the adult officer, who, with a look of determination, lowers the visor on his helmet. Black- and bandana-clad protesters rush toward the line of officers. The officer whips out a baton. The singing pauses (“who more than self their country loved/ And mercy more than—”), there’s a metallic clash, and the words “THIS WE’LL DEFEND” appear on the screen. The final word of the verse, life, is cut off.
It’s a bizarrely aggressive tweet for a day of mourning. Giuliani—who, again, was the mayor of New York City on 9/11—seems to be trying to make the point that it is anti-American to disrespect American symbols or police officers.
Where did this strange video—called fascistic by several commenters—come from? It was lifted directly from a commercial for a clothing company called Grunt Style.
The only difference between the ad and the video Giuliani tweeted is that rather than cutting out after “THIS WE’LL DEFEND,” the brand’s logo flashes onto the screen at the end of the ad: two crossed muskets and the numbers “1776.”
If you’ve never heard of Grunt Style, Forbes has described the brand as catering to “America’s new warrior class.” It was started by an Army veteran who began selling military-style T-shirts out of his truck and who now heads a whole “lifestyle brand” with events that offers “beer, UFC and motorsport celebrities, and good old-fashioned American flag waving.” The company’s shirts and hoodies sport phrases like “this is my killing shirt,” ‘America, fuck yeah,” and “commie killer.” According to the video’s caption, Grunt Style had wanted to play the ad, which now has 3.6 million views on YouTube, during the 2018 Super Bowl: “In the end we just couldn’t take the big money risk.” The company’s website reassures you that you don’t need to be ex-military to wear their clothes, “but you do have to love Freedom, Bacon, Whiskey.”