Earlier today, the White Stripes—who’ve been broken up since 2011—issued a public statement on Facebook denouncing the usage of “Seven Nation Army” in a Donald Trump campaign video. The statement read:
Regarding the use of “Seven Nation Army” in a Donald Trump campaign video, The White Stripes would like to unequivocally state that they have nothing whatsoever to do with this video. They are disgusted by this association, and by the illegal use of their song.
The White Stripes split up owing to Meg White’s disinterest in performing. In the years since, she’s been as reclusive as Jack White has been prolific. Though the band has released archival material through White’s Third Man Records, it seems like Meg has had nothing to do with it—Jack himself said, “I don’t think anyone talks to Meg” back in 2014. Ergo the statement, credited to the band and not solely to Jack, received coverage from several outlets, many of which pointed out the rarity of her public presence.
However, it isn’t completely clear what video the White Stripes are upset about. None of the stories reference an official video from the Trump campaign that uses “Seven Nation Army.” There is a video called “Trump Triumphant” that emerged over the summer, which didn’t come from the campaign itself. It’s a four-minute long, fan made video that stitches together footage of refugees, ISIS, the military, Hillary Clinton, and of course, Trump himself. It’s also set to a heavily remixed version of “Seven Nation Army,” which suddenly sounds very appropriate as a rallying cry for fascists.
Trump Triumphant @RealDonaldTrump
— Yung Chach (@PizzaPartyBen) August 15, 2016
That tweet credits the video to YouTube user “God-Emperor Trump,” an account with a scant 2,252 subscribers. The channel for that user doesn’t contain the video, but it lives on: It’s been uploaded to YouTube by several other accounts, one of which specifically credits God-Emperor Trump. A link provided for the original video is currently dead, but a quick Google reveals its spread across several pro-Trump websites.
One of those websites is 4chan, the notorious breeding ground for internet trolls and irony-driven alt-right Trump supporters. 4chan deletes its posts after a certain amount of time, so the threads concerning the videos have only been saved by Google. “This is the greatest video ive [sic] ever seen in my life,” a comment reads. “God bless whichever one of you made this.”
Suddenly, the video comes into focus. Indeed, the video is strange in that it could be a totally earnest championing of the Donald, or it could be a parody of a certain type of jingoistic Trump voter who really believes he’s going to save the republic. (Plus, God-Emperor Trump—how can that username not be a gag?) The other videos made by God-Emperor Trump strike the same tone, hence their appeal—whether you believe Trump all the way, or whether you’re just in it for the lulz, the video might affect you.
In this election, it’s nothing unique. It’s also well within the rights of the White Stripes to issue a takedown notice, because one imagines their visceral disgust at having their work used in conjunction with a pro-Trump message. Asked for comment, a manager for the band wrote to us, “If you can’t find the video, great. Then our lawyers have done their job.”
But the statement doesn’t clarify whether their issue is with the Trump campaign, or some random supporter who made the video. Given that the video might have been made sarcastically, owing to its popularity in alt-right circles, it sort of seems like they got trolled into giving too much of a shit. There’s a reason why most public denunciations of politicians using a song come after official usage by the campaign, because there isn’t enough time in the day to hunt down every partisan voter with iMovie and the time to sync their favorite track to their favorite politician.
Of course, it doesn’t matter whether the video was made earnestly or not—it still scans as pro-Trump. But Trump’s alt-right supporters get off on the offense of Hillary supporters who can’t tell when something is done as a gag. “It’s the culture of political correctness,” they cry. “They can’t take a joke, and they can’t tell the difference between serious and silly.” Actually getting through to the White Stripes, along with attracting uncritical attention from the entertainment media at large, sounds like a successful prank, if not a perfect demonstration of their point.
We’ve also reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.