On the other side of the world, a journalist was hacked to death. And while Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is the man directly responsible, Trump also had a role in wielding that bone saw. His constant tirade against the press, his open willingness to declare anyone critical the “enemy of the people,” and his off-hand dismissal of the dozens of journalists killed on orders of Vladimir Putin all made it possible for Jamal Khashoggi to die; made it clear to bin Salman that there would be no consequences to the action. Or at least, no bad consequences.
He reinforced that impression on Wednesday night, continuing to attack the media and his opponents. As for the people who were threatened with bombs, Trump didn’t bother to identify any of them by name. After all, it would be clumsy if he later had to insult them after pretending to have even a mite of care. It was the same reason that the Nationalist senators on the Judiciary Committee hired a professional prosecutor to stand in for them—directly addressing someone at least acknowledges their personhood. Neither they, nor Trump, want to give their opponents that much. It’s important that both Democrats and the media remain “a mob” in aggregate, singled out only for special moments of criticism.
In one of the scripted portions of Trump’s Wednesday night speech he carefully called for civility on the part of the press in a statement that might as well be a summation of the evening.
Trump: the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.
A statement that shows the next generation of the “civility” demand in that it is both a demand for silence on the part of the opponent, and an attack. Be civil, you hostile, negative, liars.
Trump was back at it on Thursday morning, continuing in the same vein.
Those guys who are getting killed in Saudi Arabia and receiving bombs in America. Who are caged up at Trump rallies and subjected to screams and threats. The ones who have been cut off from normal channels of communication and attacked at every turn. Those guys. Those lying liars right over there. It’s their fault.
That’s the message that Trump is spreading, both on Twitter and in person. It’s not just fear and xenophobia, but that violence is excusable in defense of fear and xenophobia. If we hurt them, it’s because they made us do it. By being such … others. That message is becoming the central theme of both Trump and his party in the scant days that remain before the election: Those people, if they would just lie down and take it, if they would just shut up, things would be better. It’s only because they’re complaining … that we have to get hard with them.
It’s not a new message. It’s the message of every privileged class defending its turf against democracy. It’s the Jim Crow message. It’s the message of those “old-fashioned” Nationalists who Trump admires. Shut up, and we’ll stop hitting you. Except we won’t.
The hits will just keep coming. And the attacks are getting ever more serious.
On a day when people’s lives are threatened across the nation by violence inspired by his own rhetoric, Trump is calling out the military and declaring a national emergency — over a small group of would-be immigrants, a thousand miles away. And blaming Democrats.
Something definitely must be chaded.