If you’re a Trump supporter, you’re probably thinking this will be a liberal hit piece. However, my conclusion has the support of all the data.
Many commentators, including myself, have been writing about the dangers of Trump’s hateful rhetoric for some time. On 22 May 2016 I wrote a post called, ‘The Dangerousness of the Donald’.
Those of us who said people could die because of Trump’s rhetoric were told we were getting carried away, and we couldn’t day things like that. Now it’s happened.
So while the inspiration for this post is three recent events, I could have written it before their occurrence. The fact of those events merely gives weight to what I’m saying.
Of course, the three events I’m talking about are:
1. The posting of sixteen pipe bombs to people/organisations President Trump has made a point of rampantly verbally attacking, allegedly by Cesar Sayoc.
2. The murder of two African-Americans in Louisville, Kentucky, allegedly by white supremacist Gregory Bush.
3. The murder of eleven Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue by Robert Bowers. He is a white supremacist and anti-Semite whose motive appears to be that Jewish organisations are helping new immigrants to settle into the country. (Bowers, unbelievably, is pleading not guilty to both murder and hate crimes charges.)
I believe these crimes were all but foreshadowed from the time of Trump’s decision to run for president. There are many that share the opinion that the increase in hate crimes in the US is a result in the increase in hateful rhetoric. That, of course, is lead by the president.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers is the rabbi who met with the president and first lady following the murders in Pittsburgh. Most were not prepared to meet with Trump so soon, but Trump wanted to get it out of the way so he could continue campaigning. As he (Trump) said, it wouldn’t look good to hold a rally that same day.
At a service at his synagogue today, Myers told his congregation at the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha site what he said that to the president and first lady. According to CNN, it went like this:
I said to him, “Mr. President, hate speech leads to hateful actions. Hate speech leads to what happened in my sanctuary, where seven of my congregants were slaughtered. I witnessed it with my eyes.”
When he came down that escalator in Trump tower and gave his anti-Mexican immigrant speech, it was obvious the sort of president he would make. When his personality won him the Republican nomination, things went up a notch. His winning of the presidency meant events such as those above became all but inevitable.
Stochastic Terrorism is when mass media and other forms of mass communication are used by a charismatic individual to foment terror. It’s 7½ years since Osama bin Laden was killed, but videos of his speeches are still inspiring followers to kill for him. It’s over seventy years since Hitler took his own life rather than face the consequences of his actions. However, he still inspires people to this day.
And every time Donald Trump speaks at a rally, exciting his base with his attacks on the media, immigrants, Democratic party opponents, or just those who have spoken against him, he inspires people.
Of course, most of those people don’t resort to violence because of what Trump says. However, the climate he creates with his rhetoric makes violence both more likely and more acceptable. I believe that he doesn’t intend for his talk to inspire violence. However, it does. When he says, “there were very fine people on both sides,” as he did following the events in Charlottesville last year, the white supremacists take encouragement from that.
Those with a tendency to violence are more likely to commit it when they hear their president saying saying things like those in this ABC News summary from 19 October 2018:
Trump and the Media
Trump has 55.6 million followers on Twitter. His tweets therefore go to tens of millions of people, and those who are part of his fan base hang off his every word.
Most of the GOP bears responsibility for what’s happening here though. Almost all enable Trump and almost none speak up when he attacks fellow USians. Pretty much the only ones who are standing up to him are those that aren’t seeking reelection.
There is no such thing as a president who likes all the media coverage he gets, but to call the media, “The Enemy of the People” is outrageous. Further, Trump calls any negative news story about him “fake news”. It would be laughable except his base, which more and more have all the appearance of a cult, believe that the truth, when it shows Trump in a negative light, is fake news.
This is just as big a problem with those who know he’s lying. As president, a situation may arise where he needs all his people to come together. If that situation is an unusual one, a large proportion of the country is going to wonder whether or not they can believe him. With most previous presidents, even President Nixon, the country knew that there were situations, such as an invasion, that their president would not lie to them. However, that’s exactly the situation in which Trump is currently lying to his country.
The Mid-Term Elections
The US is due to go to the polls on Wednesday (Tuesday US time). Trump’s Republican party currently hold the most seats in the Congress and Senate as well as the presidency. The probability is that the Republicans will lose enough Congressional seats next week for power there to pass to the Democrats.
The Senate, however, is looking more favourable for them. Not that long ago, there was talk of a “Blue Wave”. Trump was so unpopular it was thought that feeling would spread so far that the Republicans would lose heavily in both the House (Congress) and the Senate. That no longer looks to be the case. The news cycle moves so quickly that many have forgotten why they were switching their vote to the Democrats. Trump’s poll ratings are looking better, and he’s holding multiple rallies in states where Senate seats are in play.
And as we know, Trump knows how to excite his base. As a result, it looks like the Republican party will now not only hold the Senate, but could increase the number of seats they currently hold. This is almost entirely down to Trump’s rally strategy.
Republican Party Political Ad
So we have Trump’s media presence, we have an upcoming election, and we have a Republican party willing to say anything to stay in power. The result is this GOP ad, the distribution of which includes the president’s Twitter account:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
It’s not just politics that sees this kind of thing being Tweeted by the president. Yesterday I was watching CNN while they were broadcasting a Trump clip from that day. (I think it was a rally, but it may have been another situation. However, I stand by my transcription of his words.) One of the things he said was this:
They [the Democrats] want to turn America into a giant sanctuary for violent predators and MS13 killers. A Blue Wave would equal a Crime Wave. Very simple. And a Red Wave equals jobs and security.
Psychologically, we have the creation of fear and the promise of security.
The ad above does the same thing. There’s the outrageous comparison of this criminal psychopath with all the people in the caravan. In a group of several thousand people, I’ve no doubt there are some bad eggs. However, the majority are just what they say they are: people seeking respite from the constant threat of physical and sexual violence and wanting to work.
Further, the ad contains the lies that, “Democrats let him into our country,” and Democrats let him stay.” The truth is that no one “let” him in. On each occasion he went into the US, it was illegally. The first time was during the (Democratic) Clinton administration. At that time he was arrested several times on drugs charges by (Republican) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Yes, the one pardoned by Trump for the crimes he committed as sheriff.) Arpaio has made a statement saying he “doesn’t know how” Luis Bracamontes “slipped through the cracks” in (Republican) Arizona. However, he was eventually deported by the Clinton administration.
He returned illegally during the (Republican) Bush administration. Following a prison sentence, he was again deported. Once again he returned illegally. This time it was during the (Democratic) Obama administration. He killed two police officer in (Democratic) California. He didn’t slip through the cracks there. It’s the trial for those murders the footage in the ad comes from.
Defending the Ad
I’ve heard multiple Republicans defending this add. One was continually insisting it wasn’t racist because one of the victims of Bracamontes was African-American! Another said it was true because Trump tried to compromise over immigration but the Democrats wouldn’t do it. As an outsider, it looks to me like both parties own the failure to fix the US immigration system, and have done for decades. Trump seems to have fooled a few that he’s different when it comes to immigration, but that ranks up there with his multiple claims that work has started in his border wall. (It hasn’t.)
Trump’s Fear-Mongering Message
But Trump keeps pounding on the message at the pre-election rallies he’s holding. Some of the messaging he’s using:
Some people call it an invasion, it’s like an invasion. They violently overrun the Mexican border, you saw that two days ago. These are tough people in many cases, a lot of young men, strong men, and a lot of men that maybe we don’t want in our country.
Once they arrive, the Democrat party’s vision is to offer them free health care, free welfare, free education, and even the right to vote. You and the hardworking taxpayers of our country will be asked to pick up the entire tab.
And (does this even make sense?):
It’s only the Republicans that are in unison, they want to change them. They want to make strong borders, want to get rid of any crime because of the borders, of which there’s a lot.
I don’t want them in our country. And women don’t want them in our country. Women want security. Men don’t want them in our country. But the women do not want them, women want security.
And that’s just a small sample.
Trump’s “Invasion” on the Southern Border
Psychologically, one of the things that makes a conservative a conservative is a desire for security. A conservative is more likely to fear a terror threat from an Islamist extremist, for example, despite the data showing that’s really unlikely.
Trump instinctively knows this, and therefore those are the factors he’s emphasizing in his rallies. There are good things about the country that he could be emphasizing instead, such as some positive factors regarding the economy. But he’s not. He’s playing on the fears of his base by calling a caravan of people, travelling together for security reasons, who are currently 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) from the nearest point of the US border, an “invasion”.
To emphasize how scary these 4,000 Central Americans (mostly Hondurans, at least half of whom are women and children) are, Trump is proposing sending 15,000 active duty military personnel down to the border in addition to the Border Patrol officers who are already there. That would cost billions.
There’s no mention of the fact that most illegal immigrants come into the country on valid tourist or other short-term visas, which they overstay. Because of the broken immigration system, the US has no process for identifying those people. Many are able to spend their whole lives living and working illegally in the US, escaping detection because of the type of work they do, not coming to the attention of the police, and being white.
It’s hard to escape the assumption that the focus on Central American asylum seekers has a lot to do with the colour of their skin because the reality of the situation is very different from that in Trump’s frequent portrayals.
The Asylum Process: Part One
Trump said in a speech on Friday (US time) that 1,500 to 2,000 people try to come into the US illegally each day. Assuming that’s true, why is the approaching caravan of around 4,000 such a threat? He’s calling it an invasion, but when was the last time an invasion gave three months notice of their intentions and half of them were women with children?
Most are not planning to try entering the country illegally. They’re fleeing an epidemic of gang violence in Honduras, which is getting worse by the day. They know too that if Trump carries out his threat to stop or reduce aid to their country, the threat at home will increase even more. All most are looking for is a safe place to live where they can work and bring up their families without the daily threat of injury or death.
Some of these people have already sought and been granted asylum in Mexico. Others are, obviously, carrying on to the US. When they reach the border, they will apply for asylum. The administration knows they’re coming, so they have time to organize a task force to be there when they arrive to process their applications. At that point there will be a decision for each applicant as to whether their application has the possibility of success. If it doesn’t, the applicant will be refused entry. If it does have a chance at success, the applicant will go onto the next stage of the process. That’s when a court will decide whether to allow them to stay in the country permanently.
With three months notice, the administration may even be able to organize for a temporary court to be set up to hear the cases expeditiously.
And all that would be a lot less expensive, traumatic, attention-seeking, and dramatic than sending 15,000 active duty military to the border, away from their families and their training, with instructions to shoot people who throw stones.
The Asylum Process: Part Two
The myth in the US is that once people apply for asylum, they all disappear into the country, never to be seen again. It’s also another of the president’s more than 6,400 lies told so far in his presidency. As recently as 29 October he said:
The problem is — they release them [immigrants applying for asylum] in and then they have the trial three years later and nobody shows up.
The reality is that most asylum seekers DO turn up for their asylum hearing. Here’s what the Washington Post Fact Checker has to say in response to the above lie:
Justice Department data show 60 to 75% of non-detained migrants have attended their immigration court proceedings. For the specific group of migrants Trump was addressing, asylum-seekers, data suggests the return rate is even higher. The data for a program that Trump ended in June [HMH: A program Obama began] shows participants had a 100 percent attendance record at court hearings. They also had a 99 percent rate of check-ins and appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
Trump’s Words Have Consequences
There are other ways than creating a climate in which attacks on “others” becomes acceptable. The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard that Trump was telling troops that a rock should be treated as a gun was wondering how some in the caravan may react to that.
My assumption is that now they know of those instructions, they may attempt to get weapons to protect themselves. Because that’s how it works with guns. Having a gun doesn’t make you safer. I also can’t help wondering whether Trump likes the idea of a potential riot situation, because he thinks his base will like the idea of firing on the caravan.
Trump’s supporters are also, of course, supporting the “rocks are guns” message. Amy Kremer, co-founder of Women for Trump, was on Chris Cumo’s show on CNN on 1 November (US time, transcript here). Her reasoning for supporting the message was about as ridiculous as it gets:
Remember the story of David and Goliath, it was a stone.
Basically, her reasoning was that because of the story from the Bible where David beat Goliath with a stone, a group of Honduran refugees might beat the US if they throw stones at the US military.
What I didn’t expect was what happened in Nigeria the next day. A report came out from Amnesty International about a Shi’a Muslim group that was protesting peacefully in Nigeria. The Nigerian military fired on them, killing at least 45 people. In response, the Nigerian military posted tweets including video of Trump’s “rocks are rifles” comment (since deleted), saying that what they did was okay because of what Trump said about treating rocks as rifles.
The truth is that illegal immigrants commit fewer violent crimes than those living in the US legally. Australia’s Business Insider wrote this on the subject:
No set of data is perfect, and organisations that seek to restrict immigration have identified several issues with statistics regarding criminality and immigrant status.
Still, multiple studies using federal and state data have found no suggestion that rising immigration rates leads to more violent crime.
The charts below come from data in a December 2016 study published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice. They show that US saw a 118% increase in its immigrant population (documented and undocumented) from 1980 through 2016.
Yet during this same period, the rate of violent crime – homicides, rapes, robberies, and assaults, according to the FBI – fell by 36% to about 386 incidents per 100,000 residents.
Further, when it comes to terrorism, the most dangerous members of US society are the far right. And, of course, the far right are far more likely to vote for President Trump than any candidate the Democratic Party is likely to put forward. CNN’s Don Lemon gave the stats on his show on 30 October (US time). According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 372 murders by domestic terrorists 2007-16. 74% were committed by right-wing extremists, 24% by Islamist extremists, and 2% by left-wing extremists,
New America, which is a bi-partisan organisation, counts what is an extremist group differently. They can up with 171 murders by extremists in the US post 9/11. However, the difference between far-left and far-right is similar. Their count was 95 by jihadists, 68 by far-right extremists, and 8 by far-left extremists.
Trump says, “All I’m doing is telling the truth.” That’s the biggest lie of all.
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