News of a series of mail bombs sent to critics of US President Donald Trump has been dominating the US’s headlines this week. Certainly, Trump can’t be held directly responsible for the actions of all of his supporters. But nonetheless, he laid the conditions in which violence against political opponents could arise.
10 bombs to eight different targets
Between 22 October and 26 October, a total of 13 mail bombs were sent to 11 of Trump’s most high-profile critics. Targets included former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hilary Clinton, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and actor Robert De Niro.
Trump’s response to the incidents has been erratic. At first, he called for a more “civil tone” in public discourse, only to later himself blurt out characteristically insensitive and juvenile remarks. In spite of the initial laudable sentiments, critics were quick to point out the deep hypocrisy given Trump’s prior behavior.
Climate of hostility
Of course, Trump is not directly responsible for what has happened. But he has created a climate of hostility in which this kind of extremism easily takes root. On multiple occasions, he has legitimized and even encouraged violence against political opponents.
The trend began before he was even elected to the presidency. On the campaign trail in 2016, he said of a protester who disrupted one of his rallies that he would like to “punch him in the face”. He added that “in the old days” protesters would be “carried out in stretchers”. Just weeks before, he had boasted that he could “shoot somebody” and still not lose any voters.
There were also some cases of thinly-veiled encouragement for supporters to use violence. In August 2016, he was widely believed to have implied that gun owners should take the law into their own hands against his then-Democratic Party opponent Hilary Clinton in the case of him losing the election.
Once he was in office, things didn’t get any better. Earlier this month, Trump praised a Republican congressman who had assaulted a journalist. Greg Gianforte, who represents the state of Montana, ‘body slammed‘ Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017.
This kind of rhetoric lends legitimacy to extremists who are willing to use violence for political purposes. But there is something deeper going on here. Though few politicians refrain from personal attacks and stick exclusively to matters of policy, Trump goes well beyond the kind mudslinging that has taken place previously in US politics. Rather, he paints his adversaries as dangerous, conniving villains who are involved in a vast conspiracy to destroy American sovereignty.
In other words, according to the Trumpian narrative, they are not just political opponents but enemies of the country and its people. And now, after Trump has been spinning this tale to his supporters, someone has taken extreme and rash action against them.
– For information on truly progressive candidates in the US, see Our Revolution and Justice Democrats. And if you want more voters to choose the best candidate over the best-funded candidate, then support anti-corruption groups like Move to Amend, Represent.US, and Wolf-PAC.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?