Following the white nationalist terror attack in New Zealand, President Trump offered another wholly insufficient and inappropriate response. He not only failed to denounce the world-wide white nationalist terror threat, he doubled-down at his Oval Office press op by surrounding himself with families of people murdered by immigrants to veto legislation to block his constitutional end run around Congress to build his wall.
In doing so, he echoed the New Zealand terrorist’s rhetoric of immigrant “invasion.” The President then spent much of the weekend tweeting about the need for Fox News to reinstate aggressively anti-Muslim anchor Jeanine Pirro, while acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, appearing on a series of Sunday news shows, was forced to say “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that.”
Well, apparently, Mulvaney and others will need to keep saying it as leading national observers assess the role and responsibility of our president in stoking divisiveness and responding to white nationalism and terror.
The consensus? President Trump has abandoned the traditional role of the American president as a uniter seeking to bridge divides and quell international terrorism, seeking instead to stoke fears of “invaders” and further divide the country, along racial, religious, and nationalist lines. While of course he is not directly responsible for the unspeakable acts seen in New Zealand, Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, and elsewhere, Trump is helping to create an atmosphere where white supremacy and white nationalist terrorism is flourishing.
Among the key voices exploring the subject are:
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin writes “Demonizing Muslims and immigrants leads to predictable results,” noting:
President Trump issued a perfunctory message of condolence on Friday and then went back to decrying the special counsel’s investigation and claiming victimhood for himself. I cannot help but think back to the actions President George W. Bush took in the wake of Sept. 11. Bush went to an American mosque just days later.
…Now we are confronted with yet another white-nationalist attack. The Anti-Defamation League put out a statement, which read in part:
“This attack underscores a trend that ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.”
… In the third year of Trump’s presidency we’ve witnessed the president stoke irrational and baseless fears of Muslim invaders (hence the travel ban and the lies about Middle East terrorists mixed into the caravan). We’ve seen him declare that there were “very fine” people were among the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, who chanted the white nationalist theme (“Jews will not replace us”) — the same “replacement” ideology apparently at the heart of the New Zealand attacks.
…Did Trump “cause” the mosque killing? No. The murderer(s) are responsible for the deaths of innocents, for the assault on religious freedom, for an act of unimaginable evil. Does Trump contribute to the broader problem, amplifying rather than discouraging (as Bush did) Islamophobia? Yes. Does Trump give legitimacy to “replacement” ideology by creating a moral equivalence between its proponents and anti-Nazi protesters? Yes. Does he prefer to fuel fear of Muslims at the expense of taking serious and sustained effort against right-wing terrorism? Absolutely.
Bush put it best: “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.” He never conceived that such a person would occupy the Oval Office.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt writes a piece titled, “It Isn’t Complicated: Trump Encourages Violence,” with the following subhead: “He doesn’t deserve blame for any specific attack. He does deserve blame for the increase in white-nationalist violence.” Leonhardt concludes by writing:
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.
It isn’t very complicated: The man with the world’s largest bully pulpit keeps encouraging violence and white nationalism. Lo and behold, white-nationalist violence is on the rise. You have to work pretty hard to persuade yourself that’s just a big coincidence.
In a Washington Post piece headlined: “Trump is likely emboldening hate groups. Time for tougher questions about it,” Greg Sargent of the Post’s Plum Line points out today, Trump repeatedly trafficks in the language of white supremacy and white nationalist terror.
The man who allegedly gunned down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last October did so after ranting that Jews “bring in invaders” — meaning refugees — who “kill our people.” After that happened, Trump publicly lent support to the conspiracy theory that George Soros was funding the migrant caravans, and he has repeatedly described them as invaders since.
After we learned that the alleged New Zealand shooter used that word — “invaders” — Trump insisted that “illegal aliens” constitute an “invasion.” After this mosque massacre, Trump tweeted support for a Fox News host who is under fire for claiming a Muslim congresswoman’s hijab renders her devotion to the Constitution suspect.
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.”
And the final lines of Adam Serwer’s powerful piece in The Atlantic, “White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots,” written before the New Zealand shootings, carry extra weight now:
External forces have rarely been the gravest threat to the social order and political foundations of the United States. Rather, the source of greatest danger has been those who would choose white purity over a diverse democracy. When Americans abandon their commitment to pluralism, the world notices, and catastrophe follows.