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Lock Them Up!
In a new song, Donald Trump and the January 6 Prison Choir commit crimes against music, and their country
When I was a wee lad in the 1970s, back when we enjoyed treasures now filed under “defunct” - 8-track tapes, candy cigarettes, Fotomats, consciences – I had an all-purpose policy after disgracing myself or otherwise bringing shame to the family name. Maybe I’d shattered a window in a dirt-clod fight, or pulled the tail off a lizard with my scumbag friends, or dropped a deuce in the sandbox instead of availing myself of the modern miracle of indoor plumbing. Whatever the infraction, I didn’t wish to wallow in it or re-litigate it after getting in trouble. I tried to forget it, and hoped others would, too. So that they might not mistake me for the sort of reprobate capable of committing such atrocities. That way, we could all move on, aspiring to improved character while harboring hope of a sunnier tomorrow. If I’d been an elementary-school politician, and my behavior had been my record, you might say I ran from the mess I had made, not on it.
But in today’s post-shame climate, that’s not really the way it works anymore.
If you read the papers at all, assuming your newspaper hasn’t gone the way of Fotomats, or if you have an internet or cable connection, you know that January 6th – that darkest of days that saw around 140 cops injured, that got five people killed (not including later police suicides), that incurred costs of around $30 million, and that did a convincing impression of attempting to end democracy as we’ve known it - has been on a reputation-rehab tour lately. History, they say, is written by the victors. But the 2020 electoral losers –sore-loserdom being what precipitated the sacking of our Capitol in the first place - have been banging out history’s revisionist drafts lately. (And small wonder, since as of last year, more Republicans believed January 6 was a “legitimate protest” than a “riot.” )
Perhaps this is because, despite the midterms trouncing of so many election-deniers, many still refuse to acknowledge that the election was lost. Such as Governor Kari Lake, who is still technically only the governor of her own delusions, not of Arizona. But she’s just following Donald Trump’s cue, pretending that she won. Because why the hell not? Complaining to room-temperature IQ rageaholics while humping the lucrative election denial racket beats working, or becoming just another anonymous, conspiracy-minded wine mom on MeWe.
Meanwhile, some of our cable friends are in the midst of an extended January 6 do-over, pretending the most disgraceful day in our modern political history was little more than a civics picnic gone awry, one in which maybe a few ants got into the potato salad, but otherwise, not much to see here. This, after Kevin McCarthy, the second most powerful person in the House as Marjorie Taylor Greene’s deputy, unleashed thousands of hours of additional security-cam footage in the interest of “transparency.” If, by transparency, you mean nobody else was allowed to see the footage besides McCarthy’s preferred outlet (Fox).
Likewise, McCarthy’s supervisor, MTG, has announced that she will be leading a congressional delegation to visit the J6 defendants still quartered at a Washington, D.C. jail. Presumably to check on their conditions, not to acclimate herself to future prison visits with her favorite cult leader (Cheeto Jesus, not Q). The former of whom is facing potential federal and state charges for everything from paying election hush money to a porn star to turning his home into a classified-documents self-storage facility to trying to steal an election.
And speaking of that rascally unrepentant seditionist, Trump himself has now cut a single with - and I’m not making this up – the J6 Prison Choir, a group of inmates being held in D.C. jail, largely because he brainwashed them into storming the Capitol on his behalf. It is arguably the most important MAGA single since Kid Rock’s 2021 anti-snowflake anthem, “Don’t Tell Me How To Live.” The latter of which contained the stanza:
You’ll never tell me shit
You’ll never flip my script
Because I’m more outrageous than the Vegas Strip
Lyrically, it ain’t exactly Cole Porter or Johnny Mercer. But MAGA works with the poets it has. It was either Kid Rock, or this chick:
But as Forbes’s Zach Everson informs us, Trump has collaborated with individuals who have been incarcerated for their riotings with a song called “Justice for All,” the profits slated to go to the families of the imprisoned. Assuming Trump doesn’t siphon those off himself. Which historically, he’s pretty good about doing. Helping spearhead the effort were Trump henchman Kash Patel and Ed Henry, the disgraced former news anchor who Fox axed over sexual misconduct allegations, back when it was still possible to get fired by Fox for something other than calling election results correctly.
While the J6 Choir, currently bunking at the Washington, D.C. jail, sings “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the song is interpolated throughout with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. While the “choir” sang their part through a prison phone (Forbes tells us the song was put together by “a major recording artist who was not identified,” and who could blame him or her for not wanting to be?), Trump recorded his part from the comfort of Mar-a-Lago, never one to inconvenience himself for the people he pretends to represent.
It should be noted that Trump briefly considered issuing blanket pardons to all detained January 6 rioters before leaving office. But maybe it was still too soon? Besides, Trump had other pardons to dole out, such as to his former chief White House strategist/current professional reptile, Steve Bannon. He’d been nicked for wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges, allegedly skimming cash for personal expenses after raising funds from MAGA marks in order to build the border wall that Trump never actually managed to construct. (Maybe, as Trump originally promised, Mexico can still pay for it, using their Fentanyl export proceeds.)
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the song itself – and this probably won’t come as a shock – is a piece of crap. But don’t take my word for it. I report, you decide:
While I like Francis Scott Key’s original lyrics as always, this rendition (aside from sounding like it’s being sung underwater), also rings ominous. Martial, even. With a bad church-synth lending an impending-doom vibe, the J6 Prison Choir doesn’t seem to be singing with pride about their country, or even with weariness (seeing as how they’re incarcerated). But rather, like guys trying to psyche themselves up to go trash Nancy Pelosi’s office, or to beat cops like birthday pinatas, or to threaten to hang Trump’s uncooperative vice president. All of which happened. All of which is on tape – tape you don’t have to wait for “My Kev” to hand over.
From their “USA” chants at the end, to when they punch out “The flag was STILL THERE ,” shouting the last two words, they sound as though they’re using the flag as a raised middle digit, rather than saluting it. Much like some of them, ironically, beat cops to a pulp with American flagpoles for the latter trying to maintain order and our system of government, which the former were trying to overturn, at the behest of their president whose “Stop the Steal” rally they’d just moseyed over from before the violence kicked off. And which is about as un-American as it gets. They might as well be conducting a flag-burning. Yet they sing all this as Kevin McCarthy and Trump’s myriad other enablers and history rewriters try to vainly pretend there’s more to the story. The same Kevin McCarthy who frantically phoned Trump on January 6, begging him to call off his dogs during the riot. To which Trump reportedly replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
In other words, tough nuts to Trump’s Starburst sorter, who was supposed to hunker down and take his lumps like Mike Pence and the rest of Trump’s yes-men, because the future J6 Prison Choir was mad as hell and on the loose.
But even more abominable is hearing Trump do his spoken-word bit over them. “One nation, under God, indivisible”? Trump’s saying that? Really? After he’s spent the last eight years sowing seeds of division every time he opens his mouth or his thumbs get clacking? After his star fluffer, MTG, just advocated a national divorce? I don’t purport to speak for God, but I wouldn’t blame him for saying, “Hey J6ers, leave my name out of this.” If I were the J6 Prison Choir and Trump, I’d submit this, pronto, for Grammy consideration for Best Unintended Comedy Album.
To be sure, DC Jail conditions are notoriously appalling. (Several J6’ers have requested being transferred to Gitmo). It isn’t a picnic, unlike what Trump revisionists seem to believe January 6 itself was. J6 inmates – who have complained about everything from lack of sustainably farmed produce to being served turkey bologna for Thanksgiving – maybe should’ve thought about that before trying to overthrow the government or hang Mike Pence. That’s why they call it “jail,” not a “class facility” like so many of Mr. Trump’s classy properties throughout the world, to which the J6’ers will likely never be invited, even after they work their way through our sluggish court system.
Which, according to the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, has seen 326 defendants charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including 106 individuals who’ve been charged with using deadly or dangerous weapons or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, with 11 individuals charged for assaulting the media or destroying their equipment, with 133 defendants having pleaded guilty to felonies, and 518 having pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges. Just a little picnic food to chew over.
As Solitary Watch, a prison-rights watchdog organization, has reported, this might be one of the few times the usually tough-on-crime right has concerned itself with prison conditions. But whatever the J6’er complaints, District of Columbia jail has always been a hellhole, with advocates having long documented everything from mold to vermin to a suicide rate three times the national prison average. It sucks, but J6ers will be shocked to learn they’re not special. Even if Orange Julius Caesar stipulated otherwise on January 6.
While Trump’s prison musical offering may not be the runaway triumph that say, Trump Steaks or Trump University were, he might get another bite at the apple. News is now breaking that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is signaling that Trump might be facing imminent indictment over whether he illegally paid hush money to Stormy Daniels. Maybe, if Trump goes down, and heads to Rikers, where his longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, is currently serving a tax fraud sentence, they can duet on “Stormy Weather” in honor of the porn star herself.
Which brings us to our Bonus Tracks (below)…….
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No matter how hard they bring it, it’ll be difficult for Trump/Weisselberg to top Billie Holiday’s version of the old Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler torch song:
Though if Trump does end up in the clink, my suggestion is to fall in with a more savory crowd than the J6 Prison Choir – i.e., black prisoners who can actually sing – and to go for more of an Alan Lomax vibe. Here’s a mesmerizing tune sung by a prison work gang at Parchman Farm in the 1940s, which as the venerable ethnomusicologist Lomax wrote, is music that’s “as American as the Mississippi River.” This is “Early in the Mornin’.”: