Sunday, August 14, 2016

Trump's Assassination Dog Whistle Follows Familiar Pattern

Rolling Stone (August 9, 2016): Trump's Assassination Dog Whistle Was Even Scarier Than You Think, by David Cohen:

Donald Trump's recent comment that maybe there is something that Second Amendment people can do if Hillary Clinton "gets to pick her judges" has been heavily criticized for potentially inciting violence. David Cohen categorizes the comment as "stochastic terrorism" a form of terrorism very familiar to those who combat anti-abortion violence.

According to Cohen, stochastic terrorism

means using language and other forms of communication "to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable."

Let's break that down in the context of what Trump said. Predicting any one particular individual following his call to use violence against Clinton or her judges is statistically impossible. But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future.

Valerie Tarico described how stochastic terrorism occurs following the Colorado Springs murders at Planned Parenthood. She described how (1) a public figure demonizes a person or group of persons, (2) the target is gradually dehumanized, "depicted as loathsome and dangerous- arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust," (3) violent images and use of righteous religious language are used that stop short of an explicit call to arms and (4) "[w]hen violence erupts, the public figures . . . [claim] no one could possibly have foreseen the 'tragedy.'"

Cohen writes

In the world I'm most familiar with, the world of anti-abortion violence, we see this again and again from leaders of the anti-abortion movement. Tarico's post linked above is one example. . . . Following Trump's comments, we all have to hope (and, if it's your cup of tea, pray) that it doesn't come to this – that the lone wolves out there don't read this as urging someone to take the next step in the cycle.

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