The world’s leading enabler and very vocal encourager of the ominous global rise of white supremacy now tells us that it is no threat. After Charleston, Charlottesville, Cesar Sayoc (the Trump worshipper who sent mail bombs to prominent Democrats and media figures), the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh and now the Christchurch, New Zealand slaughter, plus a host of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish attacks around the world, Donald Trump says: White supremacist violence is not a big deal.
The reasoning behind his glib dismissal of the most serious current terrorist menace is obvious: He does not want to risk losing the support of this particular demographic that, per post-election surveys, comprised around 20 percent of his backing in the 2016 election. That is reprehensible and merits condemnation from every corner of the body politic.
Words have consequences. Trump’s demonization of Muslims and brown-skinned “invaders” from Central America, his appalling equivalency claim after Charlottesville that there are “some very fine people on both sides” and his unsubtle warning on the same day as the New Zealand killing spree that the military, law enforcement and bikers are behind him serve as encouragement to the hate-filled, neo-Nazi goons that perpetrate violence against minority communities to “lock-and-load.” White supremacist terrorists feed on his reckless rhetoric.
Another result of Trump’s refusal to confront reality is that the U.S. government, at the direction of the President, does not take right-wing terrorism seriously. Our security services have made this threat a low priority despite the disturbing escalation of right-wing violence and targeting of Jews and Muslims. Since 9/11, 70 percent of U.S. terrorist attacks have come from the extreme right. The Trump administration’s response has been to slash programs directed at monitoring and neutralizing these violent groups.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Muslim community consistently cooperates with law enforcement. Violence perpetrated by Islamic jihadi groups has consequently declined here. You would not know that listening to Trump. The contrast with President Bush’s statesmanlike remarks about Muslims post-9/11 is revealing.
The government has also failed to rein in social media company complicity in providing these terrorists a platform over which they can spread their hate, coordinate with one another and encourage like-minded monsters to emulate them. Their profit-induced negligence countenancing such incendiary postings allowed the Christchurch butcher to livestream his attacks to the world via a helmet camera and post links to his crazed manifesto. The First Amendment does not protect incendiary speech.
Facebook, Google, Twitter et al. have stringent policies designed to quickly take down and severely restrict Islamic jihadi content. Not so white supremacist garbage.
The shooter who obliterated so many lives in New Zealand said in his manifesto that he admired President Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” He would not have been able to make that assertion if Trump had not so often spoken and tweeted about his admiration for these thugs.
It is incumbent on congressional Republicans to raise their voices against such abhorrent talk. This, if anything, should be enough to induce them to make their private revulsion of Trump public. If voters next year don’t punish them for their spinelessness, history surely will.
Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.