The Former MAGA Soldier Who Skipped the War

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S1: Hello and welcome to Tramcars Time, Virginia Heffernan.

S2: Just when I thought I was out back in tramcars has been working hard to drop the bulk of its title since Joe Biden won the election in November. We promised to stay until this is over and we were going to stay through the inauguration of the next president just to be on the safe side. But as the nation’s capital is being fortified against the president of the United States and his foot soldiers, the definition of safe side has become somewhat complicated. So to answer your many questions about what will become of Trump cast. The answer is the same as it’s always been. We promise to stay until this is over. And while that won’t include the post presidency trials of our criminal president, may they be millions, it may indeed mean that some time into Biden’s presidency, as this second impeachment in the House goes forward and Trump gets a trial in the Senate, and God willing, though damned unlikely, a conviction to understand how we came to a second impeachment, to understand how we came to this stupefying past, which looks a lot like civil war. I’m going to talk to David Weisman today. David Weisman is an Army veteran and a former Trump troll who once considered the very insurgents that stormed the Capitol last week, including the proud boys. They were his brothers in arms. He supported their causes and eagerly revved up for civil war. But unlike the insurgents for Magga, Weissman had a change of heart in twenty eighteen and started a process of de radicalization that drew the attention of people like me seeking to understand how America got to its undoing, his rejection of far right views and practices, and his embrace of the Democratic Party. Sometimes I think he was a little too warm with us, made him among the many enemies of his former fellow travelers, including the ones currently trying to overthrow the U.S. government. David’s come a long way, even since I spoke to him when he was only recently disillusioned with Magga. He’s now in school feeling physically and emotionally healthy, as he never did in his power trolling days, I should say. I assumed with him at his college in Florida, where he’s outside out of covid concern. So it’s a bit breezy and loud where he is. You’ll hear it in the audio, but it’s very worth paying close attention to because I can’t think of anyone who speaks so intimately to the seditious worldview passing as patriotism that may yet destroy the United States of America. Welcome, David. Hi. Thank you for having me on. Words cannot describe what the last week has been, I think, for all of us. But what I’m hoping because you have a unique view of what it is to be one of these people kind of gunning for civil war in the name of Donald Trump, the ones that stormed and held siege the capital one week ago. So what I’m hoping is that you can clarify the mindset of some of the insurgents. Those mindsets are so hard to understand for the rest of us. Maybe you can help eliminate them.

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S3: Definitely. A lot of it has to do with the and plastination right wing media. The fear that Democrats turn on a tank and a right wing easily mean you can see it on social media, how they’re worrying about followers from their accounts being suspended and they call that free speech, even though other social media outlets have you know, an organization does not want free speech. The First Amendment is. Well, but that’s why I saying it’s indoctrination. They’re being fed his lies on what they think, what free speech is about and Stanson fear. No, no. And coming up, so many years during President Obama’s presidency, you know, months and years in and, you know, that fear and turns that he turns to anger because they don’t understand outside in their own bubble and they think they’re doing the patriarchy where in a country you’re sort of de radicalization has been something we’ve talked about you and I have talked about privately and we’ve talked about on this show before.

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S2: But I hadn’t realized until you forwarded me a tweet that you’ve bravely left up of yours from twenty seventeen, where you also were kind of throwing in with the idea of civil war that was alive among the far right at that stage. So Trump was president then. And incidentally, 2017, both houses of Congress were in the hands of Republicans and Trump fights. So it was hard to imagine what the civil war would be over. Or why anyone would be talking about a first strike from the right, but there it is, and maybe you can tell us about that particular period in your evolution. And also the figure you tag in that tweet is at Baked Alaska, someone who I had never heard of until this insurgency, who’s a leader in the right wing movement. And he isn’t the only person you know of who went to the Capitol. So maybe you can talk to us about your evolution, beginning with that tweet in twenty seventeen. What led up to you wanting civil war and also talk about some of these other figures around you, including baked Alaska?

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S3: Sure. Well, and again, a lot of campaigns and you know, especially when it comes to the Second Amendment and the Constitution, where you have the NRA and then you have conservative talking heads saying on the Second Amendment in the Senate can protect us from tyranny. And as we’ve seen, like all Democrats want to think, and rightfully so, where Democrats have come before and just regulations. But these talking heads, these propagandists are saying don’t want to take your guns away from your arms. And that’s why you see so many of these people saying no from my cold, dead hands, no comments like that and so hot. And, you know, we talk about the war coming to be a war in a war because we think we see, you know, at a time when our military propaganda, propaganda, pictures of Black Lives Matter protest for in the whole world has to be peaceful. And there’s like one band instrument people in general, it’s like the whole movement, you know, the photo. And that’s sort of like sort of the fear indoctrination they talk about. And so we think every morning around the country we’re going to arm yourselves.

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S2: When you were picturing who to arm yourself against in twenty seventeen, were you picturing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and people who looked like looked like them? Were you picturing lizard people? Were you picturing Black Lives Matter? Where you picturing immigrants. I mean what ID like to psych yourself up at night, you know, who did you think would be on the receiving end of your gun.

S3: Well me, me personally, I think we think Muslims are my manners, especially when you’re a Republican and a Jew. Defending Israel is always like a big talking point in the Republican Party and, you know, the conflict. And that’s when they say any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. So to my mind, that’s I like the major enemy, Nassiri conservative Republican, and not the time. I mean, why isn’t President Obama condemning is why isn’t Hillary Clinton condemning Islam? The whole religion is the only thing that’s radicalized. And so so we thought that, you know, that whole CONMEBOL, George Soros thinks they know we are all in together as enemies of Israel and allies of jihadis. Correct. Globalism, jihadis, lives matter. Black lives matter because we know planes in American and Israel alliance, those are the two strongest friends that as a conservative Jew, you know, that’s what we thought was very important, was your constellation of beliefs that include globalists, I mean, at that time, that include globalists and kind of the Davos George Soros crowd.

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S2: Well, the far right discourse and I saw you smile. I should tell listeners that you smiled at the mention of lizard people because lizard people are kind of after your time. So, you know, you weren’t last time we were talking. I mean, I don’t think QE even was in anyone’s consciousness. And I’ve never heard you talk about Tom Hanks as eating children or JFK Jr. coming back to life or 5G or, you know, those kind of latter born ideas that seem very or anti vax anti mask, the kind of things that kind of got kitchen sink in with some of the earlier earlier set of far right beliefs. I mean, what what’s that been like to see that evolve? And did someone like Baked Alaska who started with you, you know, did he start as as U.D. radicalized? Did they kind of put their radicalization on steroids?

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S3: Well, I mentioned before with friends, like there’s actually different factions of Magga that we have here, like your neocons, your Israel. As you know, those knives and have like an ultimate like knives, and then you have a gun on people in different factions, different disagreements and policies. And then you have then you have the really far out consequences, which most Trump’s base at the time, and see how Cannon has grown compared to when I was pregnant. So that’s kind of surprising to me. Like when I was in there, it wasn’t as big of a faction within the last. Oh, yeah. So baked Alaska. Who is that? He is a known white supremacist. And we first kind of occupation because I’m Jewish and supremacist and he and some anti-Semitic memes and I sort of know going after him and these sort of on each other. And then I guess we both realized that we all supported Trump. And so they’re just sort of like, you know what? And we’re on the same team here, liberals, Democrats. All those files were like the bigger are more of a threat than you and I are. So we kind of work things out, put our our differences aside some money to help support Trump and help America first agenda and things like that. So we both agree it’s important that we join forces. Where did that happen? Some of it happened on Twitter. This see some of my mentions and his mentions, you see know he’s been suspended for a long time, but before that, you can see how mentions interacting and then, you know, the meantime, each other, as I guess sort of made sense at the time, like, oh, I see how you guys are coming is now they want to get Jewish people as well as white people. I guess white people think the way in many ways then they were like, we both have a common goal. And most important, the same friends in this one together. And he actually got me a spot on Evan McGinniss’s show.

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S2: Yeah. This is the founder of The Proud Boys and also formerly of Vice. And then he moved farther and farther to the right to the proud boys and became kind of celebrity No. One in that group. But that now has backed away from the proud boys. But anyway. So go on. You got to be on his show, which was for someone on the far right, a big deal.

S3: Yes, definitely. Especially being a Jew. I mean, Huckerby, Hines, an independent from again, some people call them doing things like that and how I how how and women are playing different things like that. And how they were saying how homeboys were white supremacist and anti-Semitic. And I, I, I was supporting Trump White. Let them get criticized for defending America because that’s what that’s what the right things. You know, they believe that their ideals is like defending the one America went like.

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S2: Yeah. Did you begin to feel uneasy in that role as kind of the the House Jew that was supposed to speak and and kind of exonerate the movement for its anti-Semitism just by your mere presence?

S3: A little bit. And then it was like, no, I don’t care about your feelings. You know, that’s that’s the mentality of. Right. So I know something of Trayvon on a mission.

S2: Baked Alaska, of course, was the subject of a Ben Smith column in The New York Times over in the last few days because Ben had worked with him at BuzzFeed, where he was pretty good. I think Ben calls him a natural for BuzzFeed because he was able to create viral content. And then his real name is something like I am Team Gené. He moved on as baked Alaska to make increasingly far right content and then, you know, up to including becoming tour manager for Milo Yiannopoulos and then joining the the siege. So that was that’s kind of like an alternate could have been another path for you had you stayed side by side with him, because you’re also pretty good at sort of understanding the Internet and Internet memes. I mean, very good at it.

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S3: It’s just it took you in another direction and in his mind when I saw him there. And I don’t think you want it, you know? I mean. Science and instantly mind boggling, seeing that and seeing him there, people he actually knew that you weren’t with, and they’re doing something crazy like this. And I’m thinking to myself, like one of them and me possibly. I mean. I mean, personally, I don’t think I want to hurt anyone needed, but the fact that I will I will be there supporting 40 seconds. Mm hmm.

S2: I’m also thinking about you and I have talked about kind of we’ve talked about the indoctrination and possibly the vulnerabilities to indoctrination that some young men have. It seems like some people and baked Alaska might be among them become just super interested in the kind of trolling and performance art of disturbing the equilibrium of those in the media or people on Twitter. And, you know, I know you’re your de radicalization began when you were complaining about the uneven treatment of right wing voices on Twitter versus left wing ones and saying that you had a political following, too, and deserved a blue checkmark to have your account verified. And that’s how you got into conversation, I think, with some some blue check marks on the left. Right. So it’s like sort of part of this is trolling. You described yourself as a troll and trolling, you know, is fun. And some of these guys seem to be in it for fun. You know, even on parler are saying, I don’t believe any of this stuff. But, man, those liberal tears are sweet. So that seems to be part of exactly Letterman’s reaction to getting the reaction right. But then also you’ve described and Christian Pollini, who we’ve had on the show, former skinhead has described a kind of trauma that was a breeding ground for, you know, views grounded in resentment and fear. You know, are you prepared to talk a little bit more about that trauma? I know you’ve been wrestling with it.

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S3: Absolutely. As far as the fear of what we want to remind them, understanding what you mean or.

S2: Yeah, I mean, after you got back from Afghanistan, you know, you had a family, you had terrible experiences, as everyone did in the war, been exposed to lots of violence. And those things somehow came into play. When you started watching Hannity, as I understand it, is that correct?

S3: I mean, being in the military, deploying those know to into two wars, Afghanistan and a Muslim country. So, you know, I was in the military and 9/11 happened that, you know, so I had this sort of stigma on Islam. And, you know, when I watch Hannity watch, you know, and it’s one in those conservative media is very, very good at sharing their message out to people. It is very, very brave to say very similar in front of me is sort of helping to all the Tea Party. The Tea Party is like the first before mega one. And that’s one of the conspiracies really started happening. And I mean, any terror attack or any incidents like this Islamic terror or Marxist and in and in place a part of your PTSD. I think that’s why a lot of veterans are in there, because they think the Democrats don’t like the military. They simply haven’t given President Obama weakening the military and the military out into the public. And that’s a talking point. It’s a lot to bring my own wall down and then seeing seeing what other people think, pencil my own bubble in the ones that they think about their own family, anything about their own friends, their own lives. And they don’t realize that no person to one person can come into play as a white person.

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S2: I think that because experience, for instance, it’s extraordinarily valuable to have you to be able to tell these stories and give the inside interior experience of this kind of radicalization. Sometimes the ideology, the current far right ideology seems so confusing that it’s just not worth sorting out the lizard people from the JFK resurrection people. But at the same time, there are ideological positions that are coherent, including your own kind of anti-Islam, maybe clash of civilizations that, you know, you were Israel first and you could easily draw a line between even the Saudi attackers, terrorists on 9/11 to, you know, those whose. The Palestinians and it made a certain kind of sense, incoherence, the thing about from is that, you know, Trump has been indifferent to Islamic terrorism in spite of his campaign and quickly, which sort of merged together Muslims and Mexicans coming over the country. He tried the Muslim ban and he seemed to have dropped a lot of the Tea Party obsession with Islam and with Islamists. The fact that some people hung on after that, when all of a sudden, you know, up to and including attacking police officers at the Capitol, it’s hard to draw a straight line from extreme patriotism, jingoism, hatred of Islam, Israel first to why you should sack the U.S. Capitol with and kill police officers. It’s just the connections are so opaque and confusing to someone from the outside. I guess my question for you is. I know there are many reasons you made your change, but because you are have ideological, real ideological commitments, did this shift in focus of the far right of Magga affect your is that where you began to see this made no sense? Or is it where you said, you know, they’re not for what I’m for? Like, I’m now in bed with neo-Nazis or I’m not like I’m not doing anything for Israel by, you know, advocating Kyle Rittenhouse and beating up black people.

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S3: Yes, there is the combination was a combination, OK? And it was a combination. There was like my view of patriotism was completely different, even though I was like an Israel person. I’m still very patriotic when I on the stand for the anthem. Those are patriotic things which once knew the actual actual patriotism. You respect people’s right to protest and agree with it. So, you know, through the initial dialogue, I started talking with other people in other nations. What was the woman’s words and learn about systemic racism? Thank you for the fields in science. And I was kind of surprised that this was actually happening. So it was shocking to me. On in the media, you’re only seeing the destruction, the one insurance insurance salesman. And that’s why people think, oh, that’s something that you don’t see, why you don’t see why they’re protesting. And when I was saying that, I couldn’t believe it. And then I was like in the beginning of my journey, I them quite like sort of agreeing with them, kneeling when I was like, you know what, I’m an American veteran, nice born free speech. You know, you hear that they have the right to have the right to protest. You have the right to speak out. And sort of like change my world view of patriotism and patriotism compared to fake patriotism and I sort of began to learn the difference between the two. So, yes, a lot of it a lot of it was a different world view and different outlooks. Nine spoken the Muslims. I’ve spoken to people in Poland. I began to really branch out. And then and then I got to the point where, you know what? I’m coming. I’m coming. So this is an agency calling out, not saying it’s wrong. So, yeah, it was a shift in my world view. And I decided that I don’t want to be part of any group as well.

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S2: So this is a dicey question, I guess, that everyone’s trying to figure out, but do you think there have been members of the military or police forces who encouraged this, went along with this? Obviously, we’re getting all kinds of fragments of breaking news that police may have been in on it, veterans and even some people serving in the military right now or and and the Capitol Police. I mean, how far does the infiltration by white supremacists of the police force and even the military go so much that they also might want sedition?

S3: And it can go very deep. I mean, it’s just I mean, you’ve seen the systemic racism in the police force clearly. I mean, you know, I do.

S2: Yeah. But I mean, active white supremacists who might use their weapons against Black Lives Matter protesters or even against sitting Congress people intimately. How many or I mean, if you were thinking about veterans that you knew, I mean, did you see actual sedition flying the Confederate flag at the US Capitol as kind of on a continuum with the behavior that you saw in the military and among veterans?

S3: And as far as they saw in the videos and the pictures, I want to know specifically what it was. I can I can understand why you would actually think that coming from that world, this is really is a totally different world view.

S2: So the U.S. military, you really think U.S. military, the US military and I mean, let’s leave out police forces because that’s not your experience. But the U.S. military could be radicalizing people against the United States.

S3: Not and I think the military as a whole, but any individual basis I know I am in contact with Malcolm Nance and other people and learning about that sign. I think they’re called Bungalow’s Right Boogaloo. That’s it. And there is sort of an infiltration in the military. So it’s not like the military itself. It’s just individuals that are taking advantage. I mean, I had a conversation with my mom’s conservative, and I was wondering, just like you see how we all kind of colonel that was part of part of that is right. And she’s like, well, you know what? They’re so human. I mean, military members and accused them of crimes, murder, they’re people. And then I was like, you know what? Yeah. And it’s an issue of military members. And some people, even though we do send them a higher standard of morality, I mean, they’re still people. They’re still human. They can make mistakes just like anybody else. And that’s why there’s so many rules there that they get caught looking at court martial or different actions taken on them that they want to be killed.

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S2: Right. So since most of your right wing activism was conducted, most, if not all was conducted online, this translation that Boogaloo, for instance, is trying to make from online activism to outand out armed sedition and war, using, in some cases people with actual military or police training and sometimes even with the cooperation of police individual police officers. So that’s, I think, a bridge too far. I mean, you used war as a kind of metaphor, although correct me if I’m wrong, but or were you building like an arsenal so that you could join up, you know, attacking or in terrorist attacks or I mean, do you feel like you were moving in that direction?

S3: And it seemed like an incident like this woman in the right direction. I mean, people. You yourself. Well, yeah. I mean, they really started by watching think that sort of nationalism is patriotism. So you’re thinking you’re something, you know, in your country. So that’s why you’re with people. And in the months when people have NRA memberships and they stop weapons and things like that, I mean, people don’t really think that it’s possible that you can defend yourself.

S2: And so the bugel is the Cowboys baked Alaska, the Oath Keepers, and, of course, Donald Trump himself have been de platformed or kicked off the mainstream platforms parler. I don’t know the status of Gabb right now. So where have they gone? And if they are gearing up for another move, this so-called million militia march on the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, where are they gathering? Where are they recruiting? Do you have exposure at all to any of that online and real world action?

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S3: Not exactly. I mean, I spent a few people going to stay in contact with. But as far as like complaining and talking about what’s going on, know I’m sort of concerned as a trainer. Trainer, so.

S2: So you don’t hear that much. But do you did you even join parler or take a look at it? Oh, no, no. OK, and where were you organizing? I mean, I know you would meet up in DBMS when you were trolling for Trump in Magga with the MCG crowd and you had sort of decide how to use Twitter. Were you using other message boards?

S3: Twitter, Facebook, I was in a bunch of different Facebook groups morning, I was very, very active on social media.

S2: Are you starting to feel it’s funny? Because I can really almost tell in in the way you talk, having seen you through this journey, are you starting to feel like kind of a as a former, as they say in the cult world, who’s like really pretty far from where, you know, it’s really it seems to be more and more in the rearview mirror after. Yeah. After a few years out of it. And also, as you say, being treated as a traitor. I mean, I saw that, you know, one thing that’s missing sometimes from these stories is the the the death threats are, you know, in some cases even more intense for people who broke with this rather than people who kind of have been skeptical of it all along. And I know it’s been hell for you with your old crowd.

S3: Definitely. I mean, they’ve been trolling death threats, you know, personal attacks. My kids were exploited in some ways and it’s been pretty intense and and and really demoralising right now. And I just want to thank the amazing people that I and I connected myself with have given me really strength to continue. And I see people like Elsie or Chelsea Clinton and others helping holiness and staying the course and as man and woman. And that’s something I keep going at it. And I know what it is like. Just white noise, because I know people know. Yeah. And yeah, I sometimes I’ll bring in an old friend of mine to help people inside of what’s going on now and then. I’m not even that person anymore and it doesn’t even. Right, and sort of like a former, you know, I feel like a person, I care about so many different things, you know, and I was learning what real patriotism is about, love and country learning that I like to have a sense of privilege. And, you know, when people fight for other people, get on their opportunities, I always want me reliance on them. I mean, of course, you’re not perfect. I mean, you weren’t people in there not like the demonization that you many of Republicans make the most would be in the minds of others, Frenchmen on people who have rights and clearly see the world around. You see that they’re still I mean, yet I mean, you know, you learn about the history of our country and how he wasn’t always on the screen and that was one of the Constitution and was why you had to make amendments to make the document. It is now in a different world view, different outlook and changes and changes for the better. And you can see that.

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S2: I know that I was I was last time you were on the show. And other times I have there’s two ways that I feel like I always ask you a question. You always answer truthfully, even though, you know, you’re probably disappointing me. Last time I kept asking you, has there been an element of I don’t know if I said euphoria or just well-being that has followed your breaking with the right. And then it was two years ago or something. You said I wouldn’t go that far. You know, it wouldn’t go that far. Not quite to relief, but now you’re sounding a bit more. I don’t want to push you, but a bit more like you’re just you sound like you sound good. You know, you sound like this has been a period of growth for you. And I know you have a new relationship. And, you know, you did some work for Elizabeth Warren and then you’ve been right behind Biden. And maybe, I don’t know, you just seem like really settled in your life. Am I right about that or is it still is still anxious?

S3: You, for the most part, unhealthy physically, emotionally. And I have no career goals in life purposes. So, yeah, I’m in a better place mentally and emotionally, extensively. I know that I made the right decision in going this way and it’s been amazing, amazing journey. And I continue to learn. I continue dialogue and dialogue and companies that I have been civil in person. I mean, because I think in a way I don’t blame them. I don’t blame a lot of union officials. And so I know I kind of hold them accountable. Business owners know kind of like, you know, they’re the ones who actually commit the terrorism, that’s something a whole of things, those people and then at some point in. So, yeah, it’s been an amazing journey. And I’m happy you’re not angry. No, I don’t I don’t hate when there’s no difference, like holding people accountable and then just purohit. Yeah. And then I’m learning the difference and I feel more control of my emotions. And it’s from the amazing.

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S1: David Weissman is a student, a former Trump trial and a U.S. Army veteran. Thanks so much for being thank you for having me on. It is a pleasure talking to you. And that’s it for today’s show. We’re getting ready to unveil our plans for the future. Soon, we’ll announce them here. And you can come out to Twitter to keep your eyes peeled for more. I’m at page 88. The show is at Real Trump Cast. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan and engineered by Richard Stanislaw. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Stay safe this week and thanks for listening to Trump Ghast.