Is Donald Trump responsible for inciting violence? | The Tylt
Is Donald Trump responsible for inciting violence?
Trump and his administration was quick to denounce both the shooting and the shooter's mention of the president in his manifesto. As with previous acts of white supremacist violence—like the 2017 tragedy in Charlottesville during which the president claimed there were "very fine people on both sides"—the president has claimed white supremacy is not a growing problem. Rather, according to NBC News, the White House believes this was the act of unrelated individuals.
Mick Mulvaney, the president's acting chief of staff, visited the Sunday morning talk shows to discuss the violence in New Zealand, among other issues. NBC News reports Mulvaney took umbrage at the implication the president's behavior or language may in any way be related to the rise in nationalist and white supremacist violence around the globe.
On "Fox News Sunday," anchor Chris Wallace asked "to the degree that there's an issue with white supremacist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, and there is an issue with that, why not deliver a speech condemning it?"
"You've seen the president stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty," Mulvaney said. "The president is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that. And to simply ask the question, every time something like this happens overseas, or even domestically, to say, 'Oh, my goodness, it must somehow be the president's fault,' speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining sort of the institutions that we have in the country today."
Days after the massacre, the president was still tweeting about the incident. Instead of condolences, however, the president tweeted his outrage at being tied in any way to the attack.
Experts who study racist groups and their actions are in agreement the president's language is emboldening racists in America and abroad. Per the Washington Post:
Trump regularly engages in both veiled incitement of violence and anti-Muslim bigotry with a kind of casual regularity that almost seems designed to lull us into desensitization. That this is losing the power to shock is bad enough. But that’s producing another terrible result: This desensitization leads us to spend too little time focused on the actual consequences these verbal degradations could be having.
...Robert McKenzie, a former counterterrorism adviser at the State Department, currently tracks white nationalist and white supremacist group activity online for the New America Foundation. He says he regularly sees clear evidence that Trump’s rhetoric energizes this activity.
“Trump at times fans the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment, and at other times, he’s an arsonist of anti-Muslim sentiment,” McKenzie said. “The rhetoric is absolutely resonating and connecting with white supremacist and white nationalist groups, who are over the moon to hear him use such language.”
After the massacre in New Zealand, many politicians called the president out on his behavior. According to Politico, Sen. Tim Kaine made was unequivocal in his belief that the president's language was actively encouraging violent acts.
“The president uses language often that’s very similar to the language used by these bigots and racists,” Kaine said. “And if he’s not going to call it out then other leaders have to do more to call it out and I certainly will.”
“I think the president is using language that emboldens them. He’s not creating them. They’re out there,” Kaine said, adding, “That kind of language from the person who probably has the loudest microphone on the planet Earth is hurtful and dangerous and it tends to incite violence.”
In an Oval Office interview days before the attack, the president told the ultra-conservative website Breitbart News, "I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” He also listed his supporters—including the military, police and "Bikers for Trump." While the statement was vague, many, including New York Times columnist David Leonhardt took it as yet another veiled threat of violence by the president. Leonhardt stopped short of saying such language was directly responsible for violence, he did say the president's language has emboldened white supremacists.
This wasn’t the first time Trump had mused about violence, of course. He has talked about “Second Amendment people” preventing the appointment of liberal judges. He’s encouraged police officers to bang suspects’ heads against car roofs. He has suggested his supporters “knock the hell” out of hecklers. At a rally shortly before 2018 Election Day, he went on a similar riff about Bikers for Trump and the military.
...But they do matter. The president’s continued encouragement of violence — and of white nationalism — is part of the reason that white-nationalist violence is increasing. Funny how that works.
...Drawing a direct line from the purveyors of hateful rhetoric to any specific hate crime is usually impossible. And it’s usually a mistake to try. The motive for these crimes — be it in New Zealand last week or Pittsburgh last year — is typically a stew of mental illness, personal anger and mixed-up ideology. Trump doesn’t deserve to be blamed for any specific crime. But he does deserve blame for the trend.