On the State of American Politics
Incitement of violence is never acceptable. It is especially appalling when delivered by the president of the United States.
President Trump’s weekend tweet that depicted a beatdown of a figure with a CNN logo superimposed over the head of the “victim” was yet another example of both his utter tastelessness and his disdain for an independent news media. It’s all the more disturbing in light of the way he whipped up crowds against the press corps and protesters during the campaign, leading to a distinct aura of danger at rallies.
The 28-second clip was adapted from a 2007 WrestleMania stunt in which a suited Trump tackled and pummeled WWE chief Vince McMahon. Trump embroidered his tweet with the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN. It had not a whit of wit.
It did, however, bring to mind the recent real-life body slam of a Guardian reporter by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, a Republican. In politics, unlike pro wrestling, violence is neither funny nor fake.
Also crossing the line was a new National Rifle Association recruitment video that casts the threat to American freedom from liberals in an ominous tone reminiscent of a wartime propaganda campaign. In words and images from protests, it presents “them” as an evil force: “They use their media to assassinate real news,” the narrator intones, darkly. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
Narrator Dana Loesch ends by imploring that the only way to save the nation is to “fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”
Defenders of the Trump tweet or the NRA video would point to over-the-top rhetoric by a some celebrities and politicians on the left. Yes, there have been regrettable examples of excess on both sides.
But the leader of the free world, and an organization with 5 million members, should not be inflaming an atmosphere that is growing increasingly toxic and fraught with the specter of violence.