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Climate of Rage

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

My former teaching colleague at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, Warren Goldstein, who now teaches U.S. history and chairs the History Department at the University of Hartford, hit the nail exactly on the head in regard to the main source of hate in the United States in an article in The Villager, a New York City newspaper.

“Enough squeamishness from the MSM. The violent, hateful rhetoric comes overwhelmingly from one side only and from its padron, Donald Trump. Period,” wrote Goldstein, who has a doctorate in American Studies from Yale University. He knows the U.S. well.

“Who have their rhetorical targets been? Immigrants, Democrats, black people and George Soros. And who were actual targets last week? Democrats, blacks and immigrant- and refugee-supporting Jews,” he wrote in the piece published on November 1.

As to what he relates is the reluctance by Mainstream Media to focus squarely on the main cause of the vitriol in U.S. society today, Goldstein wrote that “in order to make peace, we need first to talk truth, and say who provided the soil, the nourishment, the encouragement and the spark to these homegrown terrorists and killers: the would-be pipe bomber of Democrats; the racist Kentucky Kroger murderer; the Pittsburgh killer. Not, alas, according to Sunday’s New York Times: ‘The anguish of Saturday’s massacre heightened a sense of national unease over increasingly hostile political rhetoric.’”

“Really? I don’t feel unease—I feel rage at the Trumpian big lies,” declared Goldstein.

“It’s cause and effect. Rhetoric from the top prepares, nourishes and sparks actions in the field. That’s the truth we need to declare, print, shout—and take into the voting booth. Then maybe we can start making peace,” Goldstein said.

The piece was headlined: “We all know who’s fueling the hate; So say it.”

There are others who place this accurate focus on Trump for the wave of hate that has been sweeping the country. U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California on CNN’s “State of the Union” program spoke following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue on the “kind of climate” now in the U.S. “This country is filled with amazing beautiful wonderful people who came here, many of them, attracted by the idea this was a land of opportunity no matter your religion, ethnic origin, your color,” he said. “That idea is being tested by those who are preaching hatred and division. And we have to overcome that. And I think the president has a pivotal role there. No one sets the tone more than the president of the United States. And the tone that he sets is one of division, often one of hatred, sometimes one of incitement of violence against journalists and there is no escaping our collective responsibility, but there’s no escaping the tone that he sets for the country.”

Or as Julia Ioffe wrote in a column in The Washington Post: 

“Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger—let alone stain it with blood.”

“The president did not tell a deranged man to send pipe bombs to the people he regularly lambastes on Twitter and lampoons in his rallies, so he’s not at fault,” wrote Ioffe. “Trump didn’t cause another deranged man to tweet that the caravan of refugees moving toward America’s southern border (the one Trump has complained about endlessly) is paid for by the Jews before he shot up a synagogue. Trump certainly never told him, ‘Go kill some Jews on a rainy Shabbat morning.’ But this definition of culpability is too narrow…”

Celia Wang, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “The numerous statements he’s made calling himself a ‘nationalist,’ crowds at his rallies chanting threats against George Soros—it’s all connected.” The “central premise of his presidency,” she says of Trump, is “to attack and smear immigrants and refugees. All the violence we see is the extreme and radical version of what he is implementing on a policy and legal front as president of the United States.”

Ronald Lowy, the Miami lawyer for the family of Cesar Sayoc Jr. accused of sending a slew of packages containing pipe bombs to high profile Democrats, media institutions and others, has explained that “this was someone lost who was looking for anything and found a father in Trump.” Sayoc’s father walked out on the family when he was a child. “He doesn’t seem to recognize reality. He lives in a fantasy world.”

Many of the “Trumpsters”—the angry people who populate Trump’s non-stop rallies—also seem to have found a father in Trump with his violent rhetoric, rhetoric not only full of vitriol but also of lies, thousands and thousands of lies.

We’ve had some beauts as U.S. presidents. But Trump, according to a determination of nearly 200 top U.S. political scientists, is the worst. The social science researchers voted in recent months in a 2018 Presidents and Executive Policy Greatness Survey. Trump bumped James Buchanan out of the bottom spot of the survey done every four years. Other analyses confirm this determination as, surely, will history. Trump is the leading personification of hate, of malice, of ill will and of malevolence in the United States. We, indeed, all know who is fueling the hate—and we must say it.

More articles by:

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

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