Trump foments violence

Dana Milbank has more on the pizzeria shootup and Trump’s fomenting of hatred and thus violence.

He got an email from a reader on Sunday.

“Rope, Tree, Journalist,” the man wrote. “Some assembly required.” To this slogan, made popular by T-shirts Donald Trump supporters wore at his rallies, my would-be hangman added his offer: “I will assemble for you.”

This bit of, er, gallows humor was the latest, though far from the worst, of the sort of correspondence my colleagues and I have been receiving lately.

There was a time when threats against journalists, like threats of any sort of political violence, were exceedingly rare. But in Trump’s America, such threats are neither rare nor idle.

The pizzeria shootup – in his neighborhood – is one example.

Jones has been whipping up a bogus and bizarre accusation that Comet is a front for a Hillary Clinton-affiliated pedophilia ring, and the resulting calls and messages threaten a “public lynching” of this nonexistent ring. “I pray someone comes to Comet pizza with automatic weapons and kills everyone inside,” wrote one. “I just may cut your throat. . . . I truly hope someone blows your brains all over Comet pizza.”

Comet’s owners asked the FBI for help but heard nothing in reply from James Comey’s agents. They heard instead from a North Carolina man, carrying an assault rifle, who walked into Comet and started shooting on Sunday afternoon — by coincidence, about the same time I got the email from the aspiring hangman. The man told police he had come to “self-investigate” the pedophilia conspiracy. Mercifully, nobody was hurt.

But next time, and the time after that, and into the future?

And the Flynns, father and son, have been promoting this conspiracy theory.

This would appear to be the new normal: Not only disagreeing with your opponent but accusing her of running a pedophilia ring, provoking such fury that somebody takes it upon himself to start shooting. Not only chafing when criticized in the press but stoking anti-media hysteria that leads some supporters to threaten to kill journalists.

After The Washington Post reported Sunday about the Comet gunman and the nonsense conspiracy theory that motivated him, the reporters received emails and tweets saying “I hope the next shooter targets you lying sacks of shit in the media,” “God has a plan better than death,” and “it would also be a shame if someone took a gun to” The Post.

Trump is not directly responsible for every violent word or action of his followers. But he foments violence. As The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, has noted, when Trump refers to journalists as “the lowest form of life,” “scum” and the enemy, “it is no wonder that some members of our staff [at The Post] and at other news organizations received vile insults and threats of personal harm so worrisome that extra security was required.”

The fact that Trump is not directly responsible is thus kind of beside the point. Working people up into a lather of rage at a particular set of people is dangerous to that particular set of people.

Trump, during the campaign, fantasized about Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that “I bring rage out” in people, and his violent rallies proved it. Since the election, Trump has falsely accused the media of inciting violence. At his speech in Ohio last week he denounced the “dishonest” media no fewer than six times.

He has also been encouraging Jones, leading publicist of the Comet-Clinton-pedophilia absurdity. Trump has praised Jones’s “amazing” reputation, called Jones after winning the presidency to thank him for his support, and has regularly parroted Jones’s conspiracy ideas.

And surprise surprise, he gets results.

If Trump were a different leader, he would declare that political violence is unacceptable in a free society. Perhaps he’d say it after eating a “Steel Wills” pie at Comet.

But instead he continues to fuel rage against his opponents and his critics. More and worse violence will inevitably follow.

Watch your back out there.

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