During a political rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, Donald Trump told his followers that:
“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the 2nd Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the 2nd Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.
But — but I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day…”
Despite efforts by his minions to deflect and spin Trump’s comments to some other meaning, his intent was clear: Hillary Clinton should be targeted for gun violence if she dares to nominate judges who would properly interpret the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The meaning of a given speech act is heavily dependent on context. Donald Trump’s rallies routinely feature misogynist and sexist language where Hillary Clinton is described as a “bitch.” Hillary Clinton has also been threatened with death by Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone. At Trump’s political rallies, people have also shouted that Hillary Clinton should be “hung” and put in jail. To deny that Donald Trump’s comments were incitements of violence against Hillary Clinton is to ignore the facts.
As is their habit in covering Donald Trump, the mainstream corporate news media is sounding the alarm of crisis and panic. His comments are “unacceptable,” “unbelievable,” “a new low,” and signs that he is “unfit” to be president because such behavior is “unprecedented” and “horrible.” These feigned moments of shock are misdirected and too narrow.
Donald Trump is speaking to the Republican base. His screeds and factually challenged bloviating are their Esperanto. It resonates among them. Ultimately, Donald Trump’s threats about guns and the 2nd amendment are neither unprecedented nor unusual. Exhortations to violence are routinely made by the American right-wing news entertainment disinformation media.
There are many examples.
Since the election of Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, Republicans — urged on by the Tea Party faction and right-wing media — have used the antebellum slave regime language of “nullification” and “states' rights” to undermine federal authority and to call into question Obama’s political legitimacy. The right-wing media, its opinion leaders, and elected officials, have also openly talked about a second American “civil war” in response to Barack Obama’s (very centrist and moderate) policy initiatives. This is violent speech.
Conservatives routinely call Obama a “tyrant” or say that his policy initiatives (such as the Affordable Care Act) are infringements on “liberty” and "freedom." This is speech that is designed to encourage violence against a democratically elected public official.
In 2011, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin featured a map where gun sights targeted Democrats she wanted defeated in the upcoming congressional elections. Palin’s map was accompanied by the directive, "'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'" Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the United States Congress, was one of the people targeted in Palin’s ad. She would later be shot at a political rally in Arizona by a gunman named Jared Loughner. Likewise, in 2010, Sharron Angle, a Republican congressional candidate, threatened Democrats with gun violence by using the more “polite” language of “Second Amendment solutions.”
Eliminationist rhetoric is the norm in the. There, liberals and progressives are called “libtards,” “rats”, “traitors,” “sick,” not “real Americans,” and described as being subhuman debris. This type of language dehumanizes its target in order to legitimate violence against them.
Fox News encouraged and embraced the right-wing domestic terrorist and government largess welfare queen Cliven Bundy (and his sons) when he refused to pay grazing fees to the United States government and then gathered a militia which threatened to shoot and kill federal agents and other law enforcement agents.
Bill O’Reilly and other right-wing media personalities have encouraged violence against individuals and groups with whom they disagree. What is known as “stochastic terrorism” resulted in the murder of Dr. George Tiller — a man who Bill O’Reilly repeatedly targeted for harassment and described as a “Nazi,” a “baby killer,” and a man who would be forced to have his “Judgment Day.” Robert Dear, who killed three people in December 2015 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, was also moved to violence by the lies and disinformation circulated by the Right-wing media about “baby parts” being sold for profit by providers of women’s reproductive health services.
When the American mainstream corporate news media fails to connect Trump’s dangerous rhetoric and behavior with the larger trends and beliefs of movement conservatism and the Right-wing media, they have, once again, further undermined their legitimacy.
As I suggested in an earlier essay here at Salon, Donald Trump should be publicly denounced by “decent” Republicans. His threats of violence against Hillary Clinton (and by extension United States federal justices) are further proof of his proto fascist beliefs. Unfortunately, Trump’s most recent moment of poor behavior will be insufficient to cause the vast majority of “decent” Republicans to denounce him. Why? With few exceptions, most of them love the thought of a Republican in the White House more than they do the country’s well-being.