Fake news, racism and bombs: Fear and loathing in Trump’s America
By David A Love
Donald Trump, the American president, has fomented violence against liberal opponents and critics who disagree with his policies, and so-called “fake news” media organisations he regards as the “enemy of the people.”
With pipe bombs mailed to some of the political targets he has singled out for retribution – several high-profile Democratic Party politicians, including two former US presidents, a liberal billionaire philanthropist and a major news organisation – Trump is the most prominent inciter of violence and facilitator of right-wing American domestic terrorism.
For the past two years, Trump has stirred the putrid cauldron of racial hatred, xenophobia and violence, with divisive rhetoric and dehumanising policies. Now, with this massive, potentially devastating assassination attempt on political leaders less than two weeks from the most important US election in generations, the depravity of Trump’s America is laid bare for the world to see.
The first bomb was mailed to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a scapegoat of choice who has been vilified by the political right and regarded as a puppet master by Trump, the Republican Party and white supremacists. They have falsely accused Soros of being part of a Jewish conspiracy to protest the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh amid sexual assault accusations. Republicans also accuse Soros of funding a caravan of migrant workers headed to the country from Honduras.
Other suspicious packages containing explosive devices were sent to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama; President Bill Clinton and Trump’s former rival Hillary Clinton; former US attorney general Eric Holder, US Congresswomen Maxine Waters – attacked by Trump as a “low IQ person” – and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; former CIA director John Brennan – regarded by Trump as “a total lowlife” and a “very bad guy” – and CNN, an ongoing target of inflammatory rhetoric by the president.
“Trump has unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country,” said David Gergen, former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt tweeted that “Trump has stoked a cold civil war in this Country. His rallies brim with menace and he has labelled journalists as enemies of the people. That someone would seek to kill their political enemies is not aberrational but rather the inevitable consequence of Trumps incitement.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the bomb threats “an act of terror,” and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took Trump to task for his rhetoric and called the bomb threats “red versus blue terrorism,” referring to the colours of the respective major US political parties.
Yet, Trump’s allies insist the bomb threats are part of a liberal plot to benefit the Democrats, as his supporters still chanted “lock her up” at a Wisconsin rally – referring to Hillary Clinton a day after the bomb scare at her home. Blaming Democrats and the media and taking no personal responsibility for his own role in the political violence, Trump called for unity following the attempted bombings – which is rich, given his history of inciting violence. As a presidential candidate, Trump promised to pay the legal fees of supporters who beat protesters. As president he urged police to brutalise suspects upon arrest, imploring them. “Please, don’t be too nice.”
Days after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump continued his assaults on the press, praising Montana congressman Greg Gianforte for his 2017 body-slamming of a reporter, noting that anyone who would do such a thing is “my kind of guy.”
Trump and his sycophants thrive on social division, dehumanisation and gratuitous violence as an electoral strategy, including painting their political opponents, the left and minority groups as a violent mob. Now, after kidnaping thousands of migrant children, separating them from their parents’ embrace and throwing them in cages, Trump conjures up images of marauding migrant caravans who must be met with military force at the border.
Under this presidency, racial dog whistles have been normalised. Even worse, white supremacist ideology has been validated, and Nazi protesters are regarded as “very fine people”. When Trump recently proclaimed he is a nationalist, which is understood as white nationalist – white supremacists such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke heralded the announcement. Trump’s Republican Party has undergone its full-scale descent into fascism, complete with Brownshirts such as the Proud Boys – a gang of Republican-affiliated street brawlers who thrive on toxic masculinity, Islamophobia and racial violence, and seek broader public acceptance at a time when their man is the most powerful person in America. This, as white nationalist hate group Identity Evropa plots its infiltration into the Republican Party to mainstream their white supremacy and ban nonwhite immigration.
Vladimir Putin declared that US global dominance is coming to an end, and he blamed the nation for making mistakes “typical of an empire.” Certainly, Putin has helped Trump in his mission to divide the nation by race, in a country rife with years of unaddressed racism, and where most domestic terrorism is the handiwork of the white right-wing extremists among Trump’s core supporters.
Stoking the flames of fear and hate is the legacy of Trump’s America. The nation is a dumpster fire now, on the eve of a midterm election that will determine whether the US has the capacity to continue as a democracy. After Trump threatened the news media and turned his critics into targets, it is no wonder someone would target those people and organisations with letter bombs.