Friday, November 2, 2018

The Resurgence of Hate In America

Trump inflames the very worst in human nature. He is hardly the first to exploit the politics of division, like other demagogues he leverages hate and exploits fear. This tactic dates back to the mists of prehistory. What makes this truly terrifying is that it is taking place in a mature democracy like the United States. The three disturbing acts of domestic terrorism in recent days are part of a general trend of increasing hate crimes taking place in the US. This includes violence from white supremacists and antisemitism. These events cannot be divorced from the rhetoric coming from the president. They have cemented Trump's position as the most hate inspiring leader in recent times and one of the most hateful presidents in the history of the Republic.

Domestic terrorism

Domestic terrorists are buoyed by Trump`s dehumanization of his political opponents, mainstream media and immigrants. It is no coincidence that there have been three acts of domestic terrorism in less than a week including assassination attempts against Trump`s political enemies, two African Americans gunned down by a white supremacist and 11 Jews killed by an anti-Semite.

On October 22, a fervent Trump supporter, described by those who knew him as a racist, sent 14 mail bombs to prominent Democrats including President Obama, Rep. Maxine Waters, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former CIA Director John Brennan. The president's vitriol against CNN did not go unnoticed by the bomber as evidenced by the explosives he also sent to the media outlet. The perpetrator's van was covered with pro-Trump stickers and included targets over CNN and Trump's political opposition.

On October 24, a white supremacist committed a hate crime that targeted blacks. He ruthlessly ended the lives of Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice Stallard, two African American customers at a Krogers grocery store. When he encountered a white patron he said,  "I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites." Only minutes before the murders the perpetrator unsuccessfully tried to gain entry into a black church.

The orgy of pre-midterm violence culminated on October 27th when an anti-Semite attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 people during Shabbat services. When the gunman surrendered, he told police he "wanted all Jews to die."

As stated in a Washington Post opinion piece by Paul Waldman:
"In the age of Trump attempts at terrorist bombings were absolutely predictable...Given what Trump has done and said, this was absolutely predictable. In fact, it’s a wonder that it took this long....It’s not just that Trump advocates violence against his political opponents — though he does. It’s that everything about his rhetoric pushes his supporters in that direction, even if the overwhelming majority will never get quite to the point where they’ll actually commit this kind of act of terrorism....There is simply no question that Trump has repeatedly sent the message to his supporters that politically motivated violence is not a violation of proper behavior and ideals, but instead is perfectly appropriate if you detest the person against whom you’re committing that violence."

Facts about hate in the US

These horrific crimes must be understood as part of a wider trend. In stark contrast to Trump's vitriol, the statistics show the real threat comes from white nationalists who make up part of his base. Trump has given license to those that hate and we have seen increases in hate crimes.  "There has been a notable uptick in politically linked plots and threats as the midterm elections approach and the campaign rhetoric intensifies," the CBC reports. In recent months the FBI has been involved with eight separate acts of domestic terrorism largely from white supremacists.

There are always those that hate, there are also those who are vulnerable to being coerced to hate. Although Trump's message resonates with a large minority of Americans, some are swayed to commit acts of violence. The three vicious miscreants who committed these acts of domestic terrorism are all older white men who are clearly susceptible to Trump's dog whistles.

Contrary to the deliberately dishonest rhetoric coming from the Trump administration the biggest threat to Americans is not immigrants it is home grown right-wing terrorism perpetrated by white men. When Trump states that Middle Eastern men have infiltrated the caravan of immigrants making their way to the US he is taking advantage of the fact that Americans are fixated on terror attacks by Muslims. A recent study found Muslim terrorism receives 357 percent more media coverage than those committed by non-Muslims. The Global Terrorism Database concluded that right-wing terrorists carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Muslim extremists. 

As reported by Quartz, a report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), indicates that the midterm elections have been a "rallying point" for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread hate against Jews. The ADL released a report at the end of October and it indicates that far-right extremists in the US have generated a wave of antisemitism especially, although not exclusively, online.

The report states that that the US has become progressively more inhospitable for Jewish Americans online. They also report that there has been an major increase in anti-Semitic incidents (including physical assaults, vandalism, and attacks on Jewish institutions). During Trump's first full year in office anti-Semitic incidents have increased by nearly 60 percent over the previous year. This represents the biggest single year increase on record.

"Under the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump, America has witnessed a rise in hate crimes, anti-Semitic incidents, anti-Muslim violence, and a resurgence of white supremacy like never before," the Center for American Progress said.

Another investigation revealed that hate crimes are on the rise in the ten largest US cities. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.  that the vast majority of terror attacks are committed by the radical right not the extreme left.

On November 13th the FBI released a report that showed there was a 17 percent increase in US hate crimes under the Trump administration.  The report states, "law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 7,175 criminal incidents and 8,437 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity."

Dividing the nation by preaching fear and hate 

These heinous acts are not taking place in a vacuum. Although Trump did not create this divide he has consistently exacerbated it with his inflammatory rhetoric. In the face of resurgent hatreds he is doubling-down in an attempt to influence the midterms.

After the assassination attempts at CNN Trump repeated his contempt for mainstream media using one of his favorite rhetorical refrains. When he calls the mainstream media "the enemy of the people" he is echoing the sentiments of despots and dictators, he is also challenging the Constitution, the bedrock of America's democracy. These constitutional challenges also include a recent remark in which he claimed he can deny citizenship to people whose parents were not born in the US.

Trump has built his presidency on keeping his base angry and white supremacists have been emboldened to reemerge from the shadows and onto main street.  He has also worked very hard to instill fear in voters across the country. 

"Trump is capable of exploiting just about any kind of fear that people might have and will do so at the drop of a hat," said Daniel Benjamin, director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College and the State Department’s former coordinator for counter terrorism.

As has been said many times by many people, words have power, especially if they are spoken from the bully pulpit of the presidency. The president knows full well that words precede deeds and he uses it to maximum effect.

"Trump has sent the small number of violent people a message. It’s one they might be hearing loud and clear," Waldman said.

Democrats are not blameless, they may have contributed to the incendiary environment by using language that is virulently anti-Republicans but this cannot be confused with a commander-and-chief who has called for violence at this rallies, equivocated about Neo-Nazis in Charolottesville and praised a congressman for body slamming a reporter.

Trump is a president who will forever be remembered for repeatedly inciting violence. He has said things like "I’d like to punch him in the face," "Maybe he should have been roughed up," and "Part of the problem, and part of the reason it takes so long, is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore". 

International repercussions 

What is happening in the US is a tragedy that has global repercussions. Trump has refused to call out far right extremists who are responsible for the bulk of domestic terrorism and hate crimes and this sends a message to the world. Even worse he actively incites violence.
The reach of Trump's hateful message extends far beyond America's borders. His influence is impacting many parts of the world including Brazil to the south and Canada to the north. America's friendly northern neighbor just elected two xenophobic leaders in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. There was even a racially motivated shooting at a mosque by a Trump supporter in Quebec City last year.

Trump has disparaged some of America's closest allies while supporting despots. Most recently he has refused to sanction the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashogg. He has also been reluctant to rebuke dictators like Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Ill. Trump has emerged as an inspiration to despots the world over. 

Americans have a stark choice in the forthcoming midterms, they can either exercise their democratic right and vote to check his power or they can embolden his message of hate.

Updated November 16th 2018 at 7:35 am EST

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