Kristi Noem doubled down on dog-killing to win over MAGA—and now her story is backfiring in her face

If you squint your eyes just enough, you might be able to understand why Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, believed it would be a clever political move to boast about killing a puppy. This tactic mirrors the trolling strategy employed by other MAGA Republicans such as Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, and Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas. The strategy involves saying something incredibly malicious, foolish, or both, with the intention of eliciting outrage or mockery from liberals. They then play the victim card, claiming that this is further evidence of the “elites” despising the hardworking, common-sense folks who support MAGA. Finally, they sit back and watch as the dollars and followers come pouring in.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s attempt to gain favor with Trump supporters by sharing a story about shooting her dog, Cricket, has backfired. While she may have expected outrage from Democrats, Noem has also managed to alienate the very group she was trying to impress. Conservative social media influencers, as highlighted by Fox News, expressed their disapproval with harsh language. Some even questioned if Noem had deliberately ended her political career. The backlash was not limited to Democrats, as prominent right-wingers labeled Noem an “Absolute Psycho” and called for her to face criminal charges for animal abuse. Even the notorious right-wing troll Catturd, known for his offensive behavior, drew a line at harming a beloved pet.

Noem, however, still believes she can win over Republican voters by persistently emphasizing her story of euthanizing a 14-month-old Wirehaired Pointer. She claims that the dog mistakenly killed some chickens instead of the pheasants she was training it to hunt. In an attempt to gain attention for her new book, she boasted about how the media reacted to her “politically incorrect” act of killing the dog. However, it seems that by Sunday, she realized that her actions had also repulsed Republicans. In a longer statement, she tried to reframe her decision as a difficult and painful one, asserting that she had never delegated her responsibilities to anyone else.

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Noem’s plan is unlikely to succeed for a simple reason: she forgot the first rule of fascist Fight Club – never revealing your true face to outsiders.

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Noem’s story effectively captures the cruel ideology of the MAGA movement. The act of killing a dog simply because it is inconvenient aligns with the same mindset that forces women to give birth against their will, shoots Black Lives Matter protesters, or establishes concentration camps for Central American refugees. These policy ideas have been proposed or implemented by Trump. The underlying belief of the MAGA movement remains consistent: demanding absolute submission from individuals considered “inferior” or subjecting them to severe punishment.

Noem, however, made a mistake by openly expressing the hidden truth. Most fascists, like Trump, understand that you don’t simply reveal your support for violence against defenseless individuals. Instead, the MAGA strategy involves manipulating the narrative to portray your intended victims as a threat, allowing you to justify your cruelty as self-defense. For instance, frightened migrants seeking refuge from political violence are unjustly labeled as “invaders” who aim to rape and murder Americans. A teenage rape victim is falsely portrayed as a murderous figure who takes pleasure in killing babies. LGBTQ individuals advocating for their rights are wrongly accused of being “groomers.” Protesters who endure police brutality are baselessly labeled as dangerous “thugs.” This tactic continues in various forms.

Trump, without a doubt, embraces victim-posturing to rationalize the use of violence. His rallies have transformed into almost religious gatherings that glorify political violence, even going as far as praising the insurrectionists from the January 6 incident as heroes. However, Trump cleverly presents this violence as a means of self-defense. As highlighted by Charles Homan in the New York Times Magazine, Trump’s speeches are brimming with warnings about the “radical left,” a category he assigns to President Joe Biden and all Democrats. According to Trump, they are a group that engages in deception, election fraud, and will stop at nothing, be it legal or illegal, to dismantle America.

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Noem is not completely oblivious to how this is supposed to function. She attempts to portray her dog, the victim, as “dangerous to anyone she came in contact with.” However, she falls short in vilifying the deceased dog. Firstly, she shares how her children inquired about the dog, indicating that they were not truly terrified of their pet. Furthermore, she confesses to viewing the dog as “less than worthless” and “untrainable,” implying that her true motive was annoyance rather than fear.

Putting a positive spin on dog murder is highly unlikely. While right-wing propagandists have successfully painted various groups as threats, such as migrants, LGBTQ individuals, college professors, or leftist protesters, dogs are an entirely different matter. Dogs are familiar to most people, regardless of their political affiliation. Many individuals have dogs as pets and view them as affectionate creatures who only seek to please their owners. It is widely understood that the murdered dog likely followed its killer to the gravel pit due to its inherent trust in its owner, as dogs are known to do.

Some MAGA men are certainly defending Noem. These individuals belong to a small faction within the MAGA community that is tired of playing the victim and instead embraces a more aggressive and unapologetic approach. While it may be more honest for them to openly express their desire to harm those who are weaker or more vulnerable purely for their own sadistic pleasure, most fascists understand the importance of maintaining a façade of normalcy and restraint.

It was highly unlikely that Trump would choose Noem as his running mate. He holds misogynistic views and would never allow a woman to be in the line of succession for the presidency. However, even though he may have found the idea interesting in private, Trump has an understanding of when someone is too peculiar to be accepted by the general public. Therefore, this situation most likely puts an end to Noem’s chances. It also serves as a reminder to the rest of the MAGA movement: always pretend that your malicious actions serve a greater purpose.

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