“Invasion” and “alien” are not entirely neutral words

USA Today did an analysis of Trump’s racist rhetoric a few days ago:

Invasion. Aliens. Killers. Criminals.

Those are among the words President Donald Trump repeatedly uses while discussing immigration during his campaign rallies, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the transcripts from more than five dozen of those events.

Not that we didn’t know that. There are many video clips of him doing so.

A USA TODAY analysis of the 64 rallies Trump has held since 2017 found that, when discussing immigration, the president has said “invasion” at least 19 times. He has used the word “animal” 34 times and the word “killer” nearly three dozen times.

The exclusive USA TODAY analysis showed that together, Trump has used the words “predator,” “invasion,” “alien,” “killer,” “criminal” and “animal” at his rallies while discussing immigration more than 500 times. More than half of those utterances came in the two months prior to the 2018 midterm election, underscoring that Trump views immigration as a central issue for his core supporters.

That’s putting it way too politely. Trump views immigration as an excellent way to whip his supporters into a frenzy of hatred for brown immigrants and loyalty to him.

Those who study political rhetoric question Trump’s insistence that his rhetoric is not aimed at stirring up divisions. The word invasion, some analysts have said, conjures up the image of an incursion by a foreign enemy force.

“Trump does nothing by accident,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at New York University who has studied propaganda.

Well he does lots of things by accident, but using racism to whip his fans into a frenzy isn’t one of them.

Trump was tweeting the term “invasion” to describe illegal immigration at least as far back as August 2015, when he appears to have quoted a supporter demanding that he “stop the invasion.” But Trump’s use of the word came under added scrutiny after the gunman in the deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall posted a gripe about “invaders.”

Still, Trump continued to hammer away on Twitter and at his rallies with the word “invasion,” or some variation of it. He used the word at least four times in two separate rallies on Nov. 4, two days ahead the 2018 midterm election. There is no indication the synagogue shooter, who was critical of Trump, was responding to Trump’s rhetoric.

Trump used the word again during a rally in Iowa in March, telling supporters the nation was “on track for 1 million illegal aliens trying to rush our borders. It is an invasion.”

It’s not just a cynical political tactic though. He also does it because he likes it – because he really is an angry malevolent racist who thinks his pasty skin and gilded hair make him better than those pesky foreigners to the south.

Trump launched his White House run in 2015 with a speech alleging that foreign countries were “sending people that have lots of problems” including, he said at the time, “rapists.” But Trump dropped the word from his rally stump speech before he became president. It has occasionally cropped up during official events on immigration, including in January.

Let me guess – he dropped the word because he’s a rapist himself.

But also it’s not just his rallies.

Beyond the rally stage, Trump’s campaign has flooded social media with warnings that the U.S. is under “invasion” by immigrants coming across the southern border. That has taken place on Twitter, the president’s platform of choice, but also in a deluge of advertising on Facebook.

Facebook political advertising data analyzed by USA TODAY shows that Trump’s campaign funded the publication of more than 2,000 political ads that urged users to, for instance, “STOP THE INVASION.”

Another word Trump has frequently used to describe immigrants is “alien.” He was nearly four times as likely to use that word when describing immigrants during his rallies than “immigrants,” according to the analysis. He almost never uses the word “migrant.”

“Alien” is a word occasionally found in federal law or official documents, but it has not been uttered as frequently by Trump’s predecessors, if at all. A review of former President Barack Obama’s remarks and statements archived at the American Presidency Project at the University of California Santa Barbara found no reference to the term. A similar review for President George W. Bush’s term found only a handful of references to the word.

With good reason: it’s a very loaded word.

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