Trump’s ‘unified Reich’ video appears to trace origins to a Turkish graphic designer

Trump’s ‘unified Reich’ video appears to trace origins to a Turkish graphic designer
  • PublishedMay 25, 2024

The phrase “unified Reich,” which appeared in a video posted by the Trump campaign and caused a firestorm of controversy, appears to have originated as placeholder text in a collection of video templates created in 2023 by a 30-year-old Turkish freelance graphic designer.

The video, posted and subsequently removed by the Trump campaign earlier this week, included imagined headlines that newspapers might run if former President Donald Trump is reelected. Among them: “What’s next for America,” under which the fictional article displays language that many associate with Nazi Germany, including the phrase, “creation of a unified Reich.”

The reference was condemned by President Joe Biden, and the Trump campaign said it didn’t create the video – it was reposted by a staffer who didn’t see that particular text.

Bizarrely, the fake article’s text appears to trace its origins to a graphic designer named Enes Şimşek who lives near Istanbul.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Şimşek said that the Trump ad appears to have been created from video graphics he built in May of last year, designed to give customers the option of building something that looked like an old-fashioned newsreel. Şimşek said he actually searched Google for text about World War I – not World War II – and copied language he found and pasted it into in the newspaper article: “German industrial strength and production had significantly increased after 1871, driven by the creation of a unified Reich.”

As first reported by the AP, the phrase appeared to have been lifted from a Wikipedia entry on World War I. According to Wikipedia’s logs, that phrase was created on November 15, 2022, and it has since been removed. The phrase does not reference Nazi Germany.

It was supposed to be dummy text – placeholder language that the customer could ultimately replace, he said. Şimşek built the template to allow the customer who purchased it to swap in their own language. But Şimşek believes the Trump video kept the text from his original template. Şimşek says he has sold just 16 copies of the template at $21 a pop.

It has appeared in at least two other online videos: a French-language video posted to Facebook that contains the dummy text and a music video posted to YouTube. They appear to have no political context.

CNN discovered the video template on Video Hive, a motion graphics template store. After Şimşek was contacted through the contact form on the video template page, he responded via email that he was the creator of the template.

“I didn’t know it is my power to change politics … I don’t know what could be crazier than that,” said Şimşek in a video call. “Imagine if your work shakes a country.”

web cache confirms the template dates back at least a year, long before the Trump ad was shared online.

What is a video template?

Enes Şimşek

Enes Şimşek Enes Şimşek

Rather than create every video from scratch, video editors often search online graphics stores for templates they can manipulate and insert in their work. They often pay a fee to the designer for access to the template.

Motion graphics templates are a useful tool in video production, noted Bill Byrne, a motion graphics designer and Lecturer of Arts and Entertainment Technologies at the University of Texas at Austin.

”Templates are designed to speed up the production process and to do it quickly and cheaply,” said Byrne.

According to Byrne, the inclusion of the placeholder text in the final video appears to be an oversight by the video’s creator. “And an unfortunate one,” he added.

A flummoxed designer

Outside Istanbul, Şimşek was at his desk in his office when he noticed that his work had somehow made news in American politics.

Surprised by the phrase being attributed to Trump, Şimşek attempted to correct the record. According to an email he shared with CNN, Şimşek sent a letter to Support@truthsocial.com with the email subject line: “From the ‘REICH’ video template Author.”

“Hi. I am the initial author of that ‘REICH’ video template. If you need an official statement just let me know,” wrote Şimşek. He did not receive a reply.

For Şimşek, seeing his work end up in the spotlight of American politics — a country he has never even visited — has been surreal.

“It’s really the most unthinkable thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Şimşek, who doesn’t follow either American or Turkish politics.

Şimşek was again floored when he saw the video of Biden responding to the Trump video.

When asked what his message to Biden about Trump’s video would be, he said: “This is not his fault.”

“And also, I am Enes,” he said. “I want to come to America.”

Şimşek says Envato, the marketplace that hosts the template, on Thursday contacted him and gave a directive to remove the “unified Reich” phrase from the template or face its deletion. Şimşek replaced the phrase, and wrote a blog post in an attempt to further clarify the story. The company did not return a request for comment.

“When I was doing this job, I never even thought that one day such an event would happen,” he wrote. “By the way, thank you to Trump for choosing my template.”

A history of Nazi language

Trump has made several allusions to Nazi imagery in the past, including using the phrase “poisoning the blood of our country” when referencing immigrants, which echoed Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Trump also allegedly praised Hitler, according to former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was quoted by CNN’s Jim Sciutto in his new book “The Return of Great Powers.” Kelly commented: “He said, ‘Well, but Hitler did some good things.’ I said, ‘Well, what?’ And he said, ‘Well, (Hitler) rebuilt the economy.’ Trump has denied the comments and that the conversation happened.

The recent video shared by Trump’s campaign led some critics to believe the phrase’s inclusion in the video was purposeful – meant to be an ideological dog whistle.

The Trump campaign did not respond directly to questions about the origins of the “unified Reich” language in the video but reiterated a previous statement issued earlier this week that said the ad had been reposted by a staffer.

“This was not a campaign video, it was created by a random account online and reposted by a staffer who clearly did not see the word, while the President was in court,” Karoline Leavitt, a campaign spokesperson, said in a statement.

The Biden campaign, however, said this was part of a pattern of of troubling rhetoric from Trump.

“This week’s video is part of a pattern and reflects Donald Trump’s values and embrace of white supremacists and antisemitism,” said James Singer, a Biden campaign spokesperson. “He does so repeatedly, explicitly, and with overwhelming clarity. Suggesting otherwise or excusing his behavior only aids and abets his hate.”

According to the Bulwark, the original source of the video was from an anonymous Pro-Trump meme account posting on X under the alias @ramble_rants. The Dilley Meme Team, a collective of pro-Trump meme makers whose ranks include @ramble_rants, did not return a request for comment.

Şimşek, aware of the controversy, urged people to chill out.

“I love all the American people,” Şimşek said. “And please calm down. This is just a template. And, also, I’m not a Nazi.”

SOURCE: CNNNEWS

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