At a Wednesday right rally, and into his Thursday morning tweets, Donald Trump continued what’s become the “closing argument” for the Nationalist Party: We’re so civil … unlike our shrill feminists, violent brown people, and lying media enemies. The prospect of Trump slinging a mixture of insults and claims to “civility” continued in the face of literal bombs being directed at the people he singles out for criticism. Because what Trump really means isn’t “everyone should be nicer” it’s “those guys need to stand still while I punch them.”
The idea that the left deserves even a fraction of the blame for the ramping of up political tension is ludicrous in the face of Trump’s statements. On stage and off, Trump has repeatedly broken every barrier of civility, manners, and simple common courtesy. He’s called people ugly. Talked about their weight and age. Claimed that a woman was “bleeding very badly from a facelift.” Referred to a Congresswoman repeatedly as having “a very low IQ.” He’s mocked people with disabilities. He’s attacked the Gold Star family of a fallen soldier, and not only openly sneered at a veteran for having been taken prisoner during war, but also falsely accused that veteran used his connections to get of imprisonment—all the while using his connections to utterly avoid service.
And after a day when bombs were directed to the homes and offices of people who he has specifically called out as opponents, Trump went on stage in Wisconsin to call the party of the people being bombed “a mob” while taking absolutely no blame for the violence inspired and inflamed by his own rhetoric. CNN reports that Trump “squandered the chance to lead after a day of fear.” But Trump didn’t miss an opportunity. He used it. Because fear is his goal.
Characteristically, he undermined his scripted invocations of unity with fresh attacks of his own, implicitly blaming people who criticize him, the media and Democrats for the nation’s dangerous political divides. He kept up the attacks Thursday morning, tweeting that “a very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media.”
Trump’s token calls for “unity,” like earlier calls for “civility” and the ongoing claim that the Democratic Party supports “the mob” is all of one piece. All part of the same effort to elevate racism and xenophobia into something dipped in mock nobility. It’s like Trump’s gold-plated toilet—they want to pretend it’s something beautiful, but it still smells like shit.
On the other side of the world, a journalist was hacked to death. And while Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is the man directly responsible, Trump also had a role in wielding that bone saw. His constant tirade against the press, his open willingness to declare anyone critical the “enemy of the people,” and his off-hand dismissal of the dozens of journalists killed on orders of Vladimir Putin all made it possible for Jamal Khashoggi to die; made it clear to bin Salman that there would be no consequences to the action. Or at least, no bad consequences.
He reinforced that impression on Wednesday night, continuing to attack the media and his opponents. As for the people who were threatened with bombs, Trump didn’t bother to identify any of them by name. After all, it would be clumsy if he later had to insult them after pretending to have even a mite of care. It was the same reason that the Nationalist senators on the Judiciary Committee hired a professional prosecutor to stand in for them—directly addressing someone at least acknowledges their personhood. Neither they, nor Trump, want to give their opponents that much. It’s important that both Democrats and the media remain “a mob” in aggregate, singled out only for special moments of criticism.
In one of the scripted portions of Trump’s Wednesday night speech he carefully called for civility on the part of the press in a statement that might as well be a summation of the evening.
Trump: the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.
A statement that shows the next generation of the “civility” demand in that it is both a demand for silence on the part of the opponent and an attack. Be civil, you hostile, negative, liars.
Trump was back at it on Thursday morning, continuing in the same vein.
A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
Those guys who are getting killed in Saudi Arabia and receiving bombs in America. Who are caged up at Trump rallies and subjected to screams and threats… The ones who have been cut off from normal channels of communication and attacked at every turn. Those guys. Those lying liars right over there. It’s their fault.
That’s the message that Trump is spreading, both on Twitter and in person. It’s not just fear and xenophobia, but that violence is excusable in defense of fear and xenophobia. If we hurt them, it’s because they made us do it. By being such … others. That message is becoming the central theme of both Trump and his party in the scant days that remain before the election: Those people, if they would just lie down and take it if they would just shut up, things would be better. It’s only because they’re complaining … that we have to get hard with them.
It’s not a new message. It’s the message of every privileged class defending its turf against democracy. It’s the Jim Crow message. It’s the message of those “old-fashioned” Nationalists who Trump admires. Shut up, and we’ll stop hitting you. Except we won’t.
The hits will just keep coming. And the attacks are getting ever more serious.
Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council is right when he says on @foxandfriends that the Democrat inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the Border. MUST BE CHANDED, but I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
On a day when people’s lives are threatened across the nation by violence inspired by his own rhetoric, Trump is calling out the military and declaring a national emergency — over a small group of would-be immigrants, a thousand miles away. And blaming Democrats.
Something definitely must be changed.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.