It is not some unfortunate coincidence that one of the Red Hats physically attacked a member of the media Monday night at a rally for Donald Trump, American president. From almost day one, journalists who cover Trump events have been corralled into a pen and ridiculed by the leader of this movement. Trump attacks them for the gladiatorial rapture of the crowd, calling reporters “scum”-a nice bit of dehumanization, which history tells us always ends well-and suggesting they are the Enemy of the American People. He says he “hates these people”-journalists-but “would never kill them,” a disgusting way to put the idea on the table.
His crowds respond by loudly jeering and screaming in the direction of the pen. They are primed to hate journalists, to blame them for the troubles and failures of The Leader and his Movement. Monday night in El Paso, it simply went to another level.
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlThe BBC cameraman, Ron Skeans, said the “very hard shove” came from the blindside, and the Red Hat shoved him twice before a blogger wrestled him away. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he says. He was just doing his job, filming the event, when he was assaulted from behind. His colleague, Washington correspondent Gary O’Donoghue, called it “an incredibly violent attack.”
“This is a constant feature of these rallies-a goading of the crowds against the media,” O’Donoghue continued. He says he’s been “spat at before.”
According to the BBC, Trump checked with Skeans to see that he was OK, exchanging thumbs-up before continuing. That seems to be captured on video:
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlMinutes later, Trump was back to attacking the media, suggesting there’s “collusion between the Democrats and the Fake News.”
The British news service also reports that a Trump campaign official said the attacker was drunk. But he did not attack a member of the media, screaming “Fuck the media,” simply because he was drunk. Donald Trump has not just attacked the media in dehumanizing language, or called them the enemy of the state. He also praised Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for physically attacking a reporter-a crime for which Gianforte pled guilty to misdemeanor assault.
This is an endorsement of political violence
That charming performance came as Trump’s White House was reportedly working with the government of Saudi Arabia to try to absolve Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of involvement in the atrocity murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We now know U.S. intelligence has assessed MBS ordered the assassination, and that a year before it occurred, the prince was caught on tape saying he would use “a bullet” on him.
Trump has long embraced violence from the rally podium, encouraging his supporters to punch protesters in the face and offering to pay their legal bills. Throughout the campaign, a few of his supporters responded by…physically attacking protesters. You’ll notice the crowd’s response to the attack last night was to chant “CNN sucks.” That quickly became a primal call of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” They didn’t see anything wrong. Why would they? These rallies are permanently hovering near the boiling point, and much of the volcanic anger is reserved for journalists covering the event. It is a hate movement.
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlWhen Trump praised a political ally for assaulting a reporter, here’s how the crowd reacted:
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlThis is an authoritarian spasm that, day by day, moves closer to accepting violence as a political solution. Trump’s rhetoric has no doubt had some effect on people at the very fringes of society, like the die-hard supporter who sent bombs to CNN and major figures in the Democratic Party. Trump called for civility, then went back to attacking the media.Or the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, who cited some of the same anti-Semitic conspiracies Trump was pushing in the homestretch of the 2018 elections. Trump went back to pushing them five days after the attack. Or even the mass shooter at the office of a Maryland newspaper, who’d held a grudge for many years but just happened to take action…now. Perhaps it was just a coincidence.
The nation was divided before Donald Trump entered the scene, but he has pushed our politics to the brink. After all, journalists were not the only target for Trump’s ire last night. This was what he had to say about undocumented immigrants:
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlThis is disgusting propaganda, particularly considering immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. (This is a lie Trump has been pushing since his speech announcing his candidacy in 2015, when he characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.) He dismissed those statistics as “phony,” because he does not subscribe to the idea of objective reality. The truth is whatever you can get enough people to believe. The same went for some insane lies about abortion, in which he remade the decision a mother and her doctor must make when a child is not viable outside the womb into a conspiracy to “execute the baby.”
https://s.yimg.com/os/yc/html/embed-iframe-min.2d7621e2.htmlThere is no regard for the truth. There is no regard for the consequences, even if Trump paused for a moment to see if the BBC reporter was alright before he launched back into the festival of lies. If Donald Trump cared about what he was doing to American society and the world he would have changed course two years ago.
Donald Trump cares about Donald Trump, and if some peons have to get ground up and spit out to keep his machine running, then so be it. The stakes are ramping up, as the president faces not just political challenges in 2020, but legal ones as well. He is already essentially the un-indicted co-conspirator in a federal indictment. Two organizations he oversaw have been shuttered amid lawsuits alleging widespread fraud. Pretty much every other organization he’s ever run is under examination as at least a semi-criminal enterprise. Unlike most politicians, losing his office is not just a source of disappointment or embarrassment. It could mean he goes to prison. What will he do, and who will he allow to suffer, to skirt culpability for his own actions? He’s used to getting away with things. He’s done it his whole life.
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