Friday, September 2, 2016

Donald Trump's 'blood libel' hate speech

Well, after all this - the big buildup about 'softening' - Donald Trump finally gave his promised immigration speech and... he hasn't changed a thing about his blood soaked white nationalist politics, as Josh Marshall at TPM describes it.

Incredible, isn't it? Either this was a bamboozle from start to finish, or no one in the Trump campaign knows what's going to come out of his mouth, including Trump himself!

But that's not the part I want to talk about here. I want to point out this post, also by Josh Marshall, about Donald Trump's 'blood libel' hate speech, using victims as political props to ramp up anger and hatred. An excerpt:
If we went out and found victims who'd suffered grievously at the hands of Jews or blacks and paraded them around the country before angry crowds the wrongness and danger of doing so would be obvious. Now, you might say, that's not fair. American Jews and African-Americans are citizens, with as much right to be here as anyone else. But that's just a dodge. There's no evidence that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than documented or naturalized immigrants. Indeed, there is solid evidence that immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native born. Simple logic tells us that undocumented immigrants face greater consequences for being apprehended by police and thus likely are more careful to avoid it. They're likely more apt to avoid contact with authorities than the rest of us.

There is a legitimate public policy question about how aggressive we should be in deporting those who our laws say should not be in the country in the first place. But the fact that some of them commit crimes is not relevant to the discussion. This is simply a way of whipping up irrational fear and hatred. Though I wouldn't use the word 'demonize', one could fairly argue that groups like MADD spent decades demonizing drunk drivers. But of course this is demonizing a specific activity which has caused thousands of deaths. The action itself is the cause of death and suffering. There is no comparable argument to be made about immigration status. It is simply blood libel and incitement.

Indeed, my hypothetical about Jews and African-Americans is no hypothetical. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the Jim Crow South or 1930s Germany and the centuries of anti-Semitism that preceded it will tell you that the celebration and valorization of victims was always a central part of sustaining bigotry, fear and oppression. We know now that many victims of lynching or blood libel were in fact wholly innocent. But of course not all of them were. The specific idea of ritual killing behind the phrase 'blood libel' was an anti-Semitic fantasy. But being members of an oppressed group is no exemption from human nature. There were blacks who raped and killed whites and Jews who raped and killed Christians. The valorization of victims was and is a way of provoking vicarious horror, rage, hate and finally violence whether specific individuals were guilty or not.

I must return to the point: the suffering of these exploited victims is real. Indeed, I'm no stranger to that pain. When I was a child I lost a beloved relative in an auto accident. I know from my experience the intense desire to find a scapegoat or someone to blame. I don't begrudge any of these families not only their agony but even their a desire to blame whole groups. Grief warps the mind. But there's no excuse for those who have themselves suffered nothing but exploit this suffering to propagate hate. That fact that we've become inured to this, that we now find it normal to see these cattle calls of grief and incitement as part of a political campaign is shocking and sickening. There's no other word for this but incitement and blood libel.

Watch Trump's speeches, with the yelling, the reddened face, the demand for vengeance and you see there's little to distinguish them from what we see at Aryan Nations or other white hate rallies that we all immediately recognize as reprehensible, wrong and frankly terrifying. This isn't 'rough' language or 'hard edged' rhetoric. It's hate speech. Precisely what policy solution Trump is calling for is almost beside the point. Indeed, it wouldn't be hate speech any less if Trump specified no policy solution at all.

This isn't normal. It was normal in the Jim Crow South, as it was in Eastern Europe for centuries. It's not normal in America in the 21st century. And yet it's become normalized. It's a mammoth failure of our political press. But it's not just theirs, ours. It's a collective failure that we're all responsible for. By any reasonable standard, Donald Trump's speech on Wednesday night should have ended the campaign, as should numerous other rallies where Trump has done more or less the same thing for months. There's a reason why the worst of the worst, the organized and avowed racists, were thrilled and almost giddy watching the spectacle. But it has become normalized. We do not even see it for what it is. It's like we've all been cast under a spell. That normalization will be with us long after this particular demagogue, Donald Trump, has left the stage. Call this what it is: it is hate speech, in its deepest and most dangerous form.

Sinclair Lewis once said, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." That's what we're seeing in Donald Trump's Republican Party.

Indeed, it's even worse than that. We're seeing the rise of the American Nazi party, in all but name. We're seeing deliberate hate speech used to ramp up fear, bigotry, and hysterical anger. We saw the results of that in 1930s Germany. Heck, we saw the results of that in the American South for generations.

Donald Trump's hate speech will be a danger to America whether he wins or loses the election. We can only hope that sane Americans will get off their couches and actually vote - and thoroughly repudiate his campaign and his rhetoric. Hillary Clinton needs to win this in a landslide.

But whether she does or not, Trump's hate speech has already damaged our country. It's likely to incite violence. This isn't just a crazy white supremacist ranting to his fellow bigots. This is the Republican Party's candidate for President of the United States!


Chimeradave said...

On the plus side I think going back to this strategy is acknowledging that he cant win and he's going to focus on pleasing his base hoping they watch his new tv show or whatever he is planning when he loses to stay in the limelight.

Bill Garthright said...

Maybe, John. But personally, I think that Donald Trump is too egotistical, and too faith-based, to think that he can't win.

Hate speech will get the GOP base eager to vote - and might lure some libertarians back from supporting their third party candidate, too.

Remember, Trump doesn't need a majority of Americans supporting him. He doesn't even need a majority of voters, not if his opponents split their vote.

So if he can get his supporters to the polls, while his opponents either stay home or split their vote among fringe parties, he has a real chance. Trump needs to encourage his fans while attacking Hillary Clinton on every front, since her support seems relatively weak.

What the election will come down to is how stupid the rest of us are. Will we get behind Hillary Clinton or not? Will we actually vote? Polls aren't the election.

Trump could still win this. As I say, it just depends on how stupid his opponents are.