Trump Promotes ‘Sound of Freedom,’ a Conservative Hit About Child Trafficking – The New York Times

Skip to contentSkip to site index Politics Today’s Paper Politics|Trump Promotes ‘Sound of Freedom,’ a Conservative Hit About Child Predators Share full article AdvertisementSKIP ADVERTISEMENT Supported bySKIP ADVERTISEMENT Trump Promotes ‘Sound of Freedom,’ a Conservative Hit About Child Predators Hosting a screening at his private club, the former president is the most prominent Republican to embrace a film lauded by both mainstream conservatives and far-right QAnon believers. Share full article Based on real-life events, “The Sound of Freedom” stars Jim Caviezel as Tim Ballard, a former federal agent who sought to rescue South American children from sex traffickers.Credit…Angel Studios By Anjali Huynh July 19, 2023 Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina called it an “amazing, gut-wrenching, emotional movie.” “Wow. Wow. Wow,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas wrote of the film, urging supporters to see it. And on Wednesday, former President Donald J. Trump hosted an event featuring a screening of the movie, “Sound of Freedom,” at his private club in New Jersey, the most striking sign yet of how the unlikely box-office hit has captured the imagination of American conservatives. The movie, released July 4, was the second most-watched film in North America last weekend, behind “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning,” and has made $90.7 million as of Monday, according to data from Comscore. Based on real-life events, the movie stars Jim Caviezel as Tim Ballard, a former federal agent who sought to rescue South American children from sex traffickers. Its themes have resonated with a wide range of conservatives, including mainstream Republicans who have focused heavily on education and other children’s issues, evangelicals who have responded to the movie’s religious overtones, and far-right QAnon believers who have for years spread alarmist fears of child endangerment. The plot never directly invokes QAnon, the wide-ranging, pro-Trump conspiracy theory that falsely accuses leading Democrats of orchestrating a pedophilia ring, but the movement’s supporters have embraced the film. And Mr. Caviezel himself has promoted baseless QAnon theories. Appearing on Stephen Bannon’s podcast before the movie’s release, he commented that “there is a big storm coming,” a QAnon slogan. In 2021, he spoke at a QAnon convention. Image Mr. Caviezel in the film, which has been embraced by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.Credit…Angel Studios The movie’s endorsement from presidential candidates echoes grass-roots energy around what Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist, called the “mainstreaming of the center of the QAnon movement, which is that this is about protecting children.” In focus groups, Ms. Longwell said, Republican voters have brought up QAnon less explicitly than in the past and more frequently express concerns about schools “indoctrinating children” and transgender athletes competing in sports. A spokesman for Angel Studios, the company that produced the film, did not respond to a request for comment. Efforts to reach Mr. Caviezel were unsuccessful, but on Wednesday, he responded to critical coverage of the movie. Appearing on a conservative podcast, he repeated a quotation from the movie that refers to a Bible verse: “Better a millstone be hung around their necks that they be cast into the sea that they should ever hurt one of these little ones,” he said. Both Mr. Caviezel and Mr. Ballard attended the screening on Wednesday at Mr. Trump’s club. Experts on misinformation expressed misgivings about the movie’s message. “I do think that human trafficking is real and child trafficking is real and these are real problems,” said Kathryn Olmsted, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, who has studied the role of conspiracy theories in American politics. “It’s just that this renewed, highly politicized focus on it is emblematic of increasing political polarization in our society.” The man at the center of “Sound of Freedom,” Mr. Ballard, is a former Department of Homeland Security agent who founded an anti-trafficking group and was appointed by Mr. Trump to a federal advisory panel on human trafficking. He has been accused of exaggerating his exploits. The movie depicts Mr. Ballard setting out to rescue two siblings who were sold by sex traffickers; he ultimately saves dozens of children. Daniela Peterka-Benton, the academic director for the Global Center of Human Trafficking at Montclair State University, said the movie’s focus on saviors rather than victims resulted in an incomplete, glamorized depiction of human trafficking. Most children, she said, are not “snatched away” but are trafficked by people they know. “It does a disservice to the victims; it does a disservice to people really fighting to end human trafficking and to provide services to survivors,” she said. “There’s so much more to it than just the rescue.” Nevertheless, politicians, commentators and Hollywood celebrities have praised the film. Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter, who has largely stayed out of politics since the 2020 election, promoted the film in June, writing on Twitter that it “sheds light on the harrowing reality” of human trafficking. Republicans — many of whom were far less worried about the Trump administration’s separation of migrant children from their parents — have also seized on the issue. Last week, Senate Republicans’ official Twitter account shared a video that pointed to New York Times reporting about migrant children forced to work dangerous jobs across the United States. The post misleadingly accused President Biden of having “created the largest child trafficking ring in U.S. history.” In liberal Manhattan, “Sound of Freedom” viewers at several theaters said they had come not for the politics, but because they wanted to see a good thriller. “I came because I believe that there’s child trafficking going on and there’s just not enough light being shed on it,” said Malaika Villamizar, 19. She was surprised to hear, however, that the movie had been promoted by Mr. Trump and other Republican politicians. She said she had heard about the film on TikTok. Anjali Huynh covers politics for The Times. More about Anjali Huynh A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 22 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Screens ‘Sound of Freedom,’ A Film Popular With Conservatives. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe Share full article AdvertisementSKIP ADVERTISEMENT Site Index Site Information Navigation © 2023 The New York Times Company NYTCo Contact Us Accessibility Work with us Advertise T Brand Studio Your Ad Choices Privacy Policy Terms of Service Terms of Sale Site Map Canada International Help Subscriptions Manage Privacy Preferences

The Republican Party continues its march into extremism as the front runner for the presidency, @[100044274887410:2048:Donald J. Trump], hosts a private screening of “Sound of Freedom”, a QAnon film being marketed directly to conservatives.

QAnon, an insane conspiracy theory that a random dude on 4chan troll board has a secret clearance nobody has heard of and has been posting for years that any day now a secret cabal of Democrats, Hollywood elites, and Jews will be exposed as belonging to a global child sex trafficking ring to harvest their blood to stay young with Donald Trump as the only person who can stop them, has been incorporated directly into the Trump campaign since 2019 and has been central to Republican political ideology for years.

The film has been a massive success among the target audience of the easily manipulated Trump supporters and has grossed about as much as the new Indiana Jones movie.