Back in January, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump began reciting lyrics of "The Snake" at campaign events. Al Wilson's 1968 song tells the story of a kind, naive woman who nurses an ailing snake back to health. Once strong, the snake bites the woman and kills her. The moral is, essentially, a snake is a snake, and those who care for snakes should be prepared to get bitten.
For Trump, the snake represents Syrian refugees. "I don’t think you wanna have, people coming in from the migration from Syria… they’re young and they’re strong, and you don’t see that many women," Trump said during an event in Iowa.
His message apparently resonated abroad. On Monday a group called Leave.EU, which is advocating for the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union (a vote on the British exit will take place next month), posted a video featuring audio of Trump's dramatic reading to Facebook.
We hear Trump's voice as footage shows refugees and migrants scaling walls to enter Europe, and brawls breaking out in France and Germany. The video was shared more than 1,100 times.
Text accompanying the video made the metaphor explicit:
Some commenters in favor of a British exit were appalled by the video's xenophobic message.
Others took the opportunity to talk about Trump himself.
The video was also condemned by British politicians. The Guardian reports that a number of officials campaigning against an exit from the EU asked Vote Leave, the official exit movement, to denounce the video. "I am writing to urge you to publicly condemn the latest Leave.EU video and join me in calling for it to be withdrawn… If you do not, people will conclude that Vote Leave is complicit in a campaign that is increasingly inflammatory in tone," the letter reads. The signatories had harsh words for Trump, as well:
Donald Trump has failed to disavow the Klu Klux Klan, has called Mexican immigrants ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’ and has questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy as President of the United States on the grounds of nationality. His politics have no place in this debate, and yet they seem to be guiding the leave campaign's strategy.
In a statement to The Independent, Leave.EU said, "The first rule of Twitter is that 'retweets are not endorsements.' We're very clear that this is Donald Trump's take on immigration and no-one else's."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.