The Age of Trump is a horror movie — we've reached the point where the monster is vanquished

The monster will appear again in the sequel

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published October 5, 2023 5:45AM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Mark Milley (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Mark Milley (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

The Age of Trump is a horror movie. We are now at the part of the movie where the "responsible" people finally accept the horrible truth that the monster, be it human or supernatural, is real. The people they made fun of and derided for being hysterical were right the whole time. Moreover, many if not all the people that the monster killed would likely still be alive if the so-called authority figures had taken the warnings seriously.

In this American horror story that is the Age of Trump, the mainstream news media, the responsible political class, and other leaders appear, at least for the moment, to have finally accepted the "shocking" and "unimaginable" truth that Donald Trump and his MAGA movement are an existential threat to the country. Trump is a monster who intends to follow through on every horrible threat and promise he has made when/if he returns to the White House.

What has finally shocked them into this apparent revelation?

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump publicly threatened the life of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, wishing that he had been executed for "treason". Of course, Donald Trump is lying; Gen. Milley has committed no such crime(s); Trump's accusations are psychological projections. Trump threatened Gen. Milley because of a featured profile that appeared in the Atlantic magazine, which confirmed that the ex-president possesses contempt and disgust for America's soldiers – especially disabled veterans and those who have been killed and injured. As I explained in a previous essay here at Salon, Trump also wants to see Gen. Milley killed because he actively tried to stop the traitor ex-president from ending the country's democracy.

The mainstream news media and political class – and many members of the public – have also been shocked into finally accepting the fact that Donald Trump is an extreme danger to the country as demonstrated by his escalating and increasingly violent threats and incitements to violence against Special Counsel Jack Smith, Attorney General Garland, and the judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other law enforcement (as well as jurors and witnesses) who are attempting to hold him accountable under the law in his upcoming criminal and civil trials.

For example, even CNN, which has been widely and deservedly criticized for trying to pivot and be more "fair" and "balanced" (i.e. motivated by ratings in order to make more ad revenue and other money) by giving Trump and other former regime members a platform to lie and circulate disinformation and propaganda, also sounded the alarm about Trump's increasing dangerousness as exemplified by his murderous threats against Gen. Milley.

There were also "centrists" and "moderate" reporters and journalists – a group that has been highly resistant to describing Trump and the MAGA movement in the proper terms as fascist and an extreme danger to American society — who were finally moved to accept that Trump is a public menace.

President Biden was clear and powerful in a speech and interview he gave last week, where he directly identified Trump and the MAGA movement as an existential danger to the nation.

Mental health professionals and other expert observers have continued to warn that Trump's recent behavior more generally (including a particularly troubling speech in California last weekend where he mocked Nancy Pelosi's husband who was viciously beaten in the head with a hammer by a mentally ill man) shows that the ex-president appears to be mentally decompensating as he is facing the reality, for the first time in his adult life, of being held accountable for his criminal and other antisocial behavior.

But just like in the horror movie, these new shouts of horror and shock at the monster in their midst may be too little and too late.

Trump's most recent threats of violence, murder, destruction, and other pathological and malevolent behavior are nothing new or surprising. Trump has behaved that way throughout his life.

In horror movies, the "respectable" and "responsible" people usually ignore the monster– and then we often find out later that they knew about the monster all along and may have actually helped to create it. This is true for the Age of Trump as well.

During the last eight years, Trump has repeatedly threatened to kill his political "enemies" or otherwise wished harm upon them. In addition to the above examples, Trump's targets have included President Biden, Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Special Counsel Mueller, and other leading Democrats, various members of the news media, "Black Lives Matter", "Woke", "illegal immigrants", and other targeted groups.

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In 2016, Trump infamously bragged that, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters". So far, Trump has proven to be correct.

After white supremacists and other racial fascists rampaged across Charlottesville in 2017 killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people, Trump described them as "very fine people". Trump has repeatedly refused to directly and without qualification condemn and disavow white supremacists and other members of the white right. 

Trump attempted a coup on Jan. 6 that involved a lethal assault by his followers on the Capitol – which he and his agents incited and de facto commanded.

If Trump returns to the White House, he has promised to pardon the January 6 terrorists, a group he describes as "victims" and "patriots".

At his rallies and other events, Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened journalists and other members of the news media with violence. Trump has also told his followers to attack protesters and other members of "the Left" who have dared to disrupt (or even attend) his rallies and other events. 

Trump publicly admires murderous dictators and autocrats such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

Based on his behavior, Trump appears to possess an erotic relationship to violence.

Trump's regime created a concentration camp system for Black and brown refugees and migrants and other undocumented residents. Trump's system of organized cruelty included stealing children from their parents as a type of "deterrent" against "illegal immigration". Trump has promised to reinstate the Muslim ban and his concentration camp system if he returns to power in 2025.

As part of his plans to become America's first dictator, Trump has publicly announced as part of Agenda 47 and Project 2025 to put homeless people in camps, use the military to occupy cities in Democratic Party-led parts of the country as a way to "fight crime", enact laws that will allow security guards and other people to shoot "shoplifters", end the First Amendment, and invoke the Alien Enemies Act to deport "criminals" and "drug dealers" (which as a practical matter means anyone who opposes him and the MAGA movement).

Trump has also been credibly accused of rape and sexual assault by dozens of women. In the E. Jean Carrol civil case, a court of law determined that Trump committed sexual assault.

Some of the world's leading mental health professionals warned as early as 2015 and 2016 that Donald Trump was mentally unwell and possessed a diseased mind and pathological character, characteristics which made him a public menace and unfit to be president. Many of those same leading mental health professionals went so far as to predict that if Trump were elected president that millions of people could potentially die, both directly and indirectly, because of his sociopathic and other pathological behavior.

They were proven to be correct: Trump's negligent, cruel, and self-interested actions in response to the COVID pandemic constitute democide; the Age of Trump has been marked by a historic rise in right-wing political violence and hate crimes including mass shootings.

Donald Trump's own niece, Mary Trump, who is a trained psychologist, repeatedly and publicly warned that the ex-president should be removed from office because of his deep pathologies and dangerousness to the public. Then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also warned that Trump and his MAGA movement were an extreme threat and that for the good of the country and its future that they must not rise to power. Trump's own biographers have repeatedly warned that he is unfit for public office.

In 1989, Donald Trump placed full-page ads in prominent New York City-area newspapers demanding that the 5 black and Latino teenagers who were accused of raping and almost killing a white woman in Central Party (the infamous "Central Park Jogger" case) should basically be lynched. In 2002, those five men were exonerated and released from prison. Trump refuses to apologize to them.

Trump may finally be facing serious legal consequences for his obvious crimes, but his criminal behavior, both confirmed and rumored – including connections to organized crime – goes back decades.

There are many other examples of Trump's criminal, antisocial and dangerous behavior that predate his death threats against Gen. Milley last week. Those members of the news media, political class, and others with a public platform who are now so "shocked" by Trump's recent behavior that they are finally accepting the fact that he is a clear and present danger to the country have little credibility remaining. When they and other such voices spent years denying and otherwise trying to explain away, minimize, and in the worst examples normalize Trump and the MAGA movement's (and Republican fascists') obvious dangerousness and extreme and pathological behavior as being just "partisanship" and "polarization" and/or "theatrics", they made it increasingly difficult to take any of their warnings seriously.

Moreover, many of those public voices (and everyday Americans as well) who were trying to sound the alarm throughout Trump's presidency and before were labeled as having "Trump derangement syndrome" and/or were slurred and mocked for being "hysterical" and "overreacting." Some of those alarm sounders lost their jobs or were otherwise professionally sanctioned and stigmatized. Their personal relationships, health, emotions, finances, safety, and overall well-being were also negatively impacted because of their principled choice to tell the truth about the real and growing existential dangers of Trumpism, the MAGA movement and American neofascism when such warnings were not widely welcome.

Ultimately, and as in the horror movie, when the "responsible" people announce that the monster has been vanquished and all is safe now, the viewer knows that is not true. The monster will appear again in the sequel(s). The same is true with the real-life horror movie that is the Age of Trump and American neofascism.

Many of those same "responsible voices" and elites are prematurely announcing that Trump is done for and the MAGA movement will "inevitably" dissipate because of demographics or "American Exceptionalism" or some other reason. These are many of the same people who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the problem. In reality, Trumpism like other types of fascism and such monstrous leaders, movements, and social forces never truly go away. Why? Because the monster is not some Other, a thing alien and outside of us. It is actually looking right back at us in the mirror every day.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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