tags: Press Releases

As Experts Warn About Right-Wing Violence, Blake Masters’ Latest Ad Illustrates the Dehumanization That Drives It

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Washington, DC – As the January 6 Select Committee examines the coordination between leading Republicans and the right-wing groups that organized the violence on the Capitol, experts warn the GOP’s campaign rhetoric threatens to make the violence worse. The latest ad from Arizona Senate GOP primary candidate Blake Masters clearly illustrates this point. Masters’ ad both echos the ‘white replacement’ and ‘invasion’ conspiracies that have inspired several domestic terrorists and renders refugees into faceless animations massing at the border wall.  

In a must-read interview by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post with Rachel Kleinfeld, an expert in political conflicts, in a piece titled “An expert in political violence urgently warns: The worst is coming,” underscores the danger with ads like Masters’. In an illuminating exchange:

Sargent: It seems as though some GOP and right-wing politicians are hovering in a gray area. They’re endorsing violent attacks on the opposition without facing serious party discipline, fantasizing about settling political differences via paramilitary combat, vastly minimizing the Jan. 6 insurrectionist violence or erasing it with propaganda, and describing Jan. 6 rioters facing prosecution as “political prisoners.”

Has this gray area been replicated by other countries that went on to spiral into worse political violence?

Kleinfeld: One of the things we know about other countries that descend into greater political violence is that violence is preceded by a dehumanization phase. America is well along in that phase: things like misogyny, racial epithets, calling Democrats “groomers” and comparing them to pedophiles.

The next stage is making violence against those dehumanized opponents seem more normal. You’re starting to see GOP candidates posing with rifles — everything from Rep. Thomas Massie’s family Christmas photo to Eric Greitens’s new ads about hunting RINOs.

Sometimes it’s against Republicans who are not part of the antidemocratic faction. Sometimes it’s against Democrats. But either way, dehumanization normalizes the idea that harming those dehumanized opponents is legitimate.

We know from other countries that have descended into really serious political violence that this is a trajectory, and we’re on it. We’re actually pretty far advanced on it.

Blake Masters’ latest dangerous ad is nothing new for his campaign. He has made ‘white replacement’ and ‘invasion’ conspiracy theories a key part of this political message despite the fact that they are blatantly false and tied to mass racist political violence. 

But dehumanizing and racist conspiracies are not the exclusive purview of his campaign. America’s Voice has been closely tracking this disturbing trend and has identified over a hundred other Republican ads that employ the “invasion” conspiracy and hundreds more that engage in forms of dehumanization.

And is not just the rhetoric of Republican campaigns that has elevated these conspiracies. As Kleinfeld points out, the GOP has repeatedly engaged with far-right militia groups like the Oath Keepers well before and consistently after January 6.  For example, the Texas Republican party invited the Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes to speak at an anti-immigrant rally after he was indicted for his role in January 6.  But many other Republicans have also embraced the Oath Keepers, and we will likely find out how deep these connections go in today’s hearing. 

According to Zachary Mueller, America’s Voice Political Director:

“Blake Masters is courting real-world political violence with this ad. The faceless animation he uses is more reminiscent of a zombie videogame than the real-world issues at hand. It adds an additional level of concern to an already dangerous set of lies because the animation creates even more distance from the humanity of those seeking asylum at our border and makes them not real.  This particular style of dehumanization is deeply concerning when it is paired with a racist conspiracy theory that already has a significant body count.

While there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between a specific Republican ad and an act of political violence, Masters and the many other Republican candidates still must be held accountable for their actions. They have embraced far-right armed groups with a history of violence while at the same time amplifying deadly conspiracy theories through campaign ads. These actions represent a serious threat to our democracy and are putting a target on the backs of every person of color.”