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Donald Trump, Nasty Rhetoric, and Scripted Violence
Demagogic rhetoric targeting unpopular groups of people can incite violence. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump can claim he never told his followers to hurt anyone, and perhaps avoid legal consequences, but Trump is morally responsible. His nasty vilification produces “scripted violence.” The victims of Trumps rhetoric are piling up. The term “incited violence” also describes this process that draws from the media studies concept of “constitutive rhetoric.” Incitement to violence also has legal ramifications.
Last August the Washington Post in an editorial warned that “Mr. Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric breeds violence.” In a column, Robert Reich collected a long list of violence in the path of Republican bigoted blustering. Those that commit bigoted violence “often take their cues from what they hear in the media” wrote Reich in November following the murderous attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Reich said “the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate” in which violence against targeted groups is real.
Washington Post Editorial Board, “Mr. Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric breeds violence,” August 21, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mr-trumps-politics-of-incitement/2015/08/21/c33d0f2e-483d-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
Robert Reich, “Why Hate Speech by Presidential Candidates is Despicable,” November 29, 2015 http://robertreich.org/post/134235925280
As a human rights activist he has spent over forty years studying prejudice, demonization, scapegoating, demagoguery, conspiracism, and authoritarianism. He has investigated far right hate groups, reactionary backlash movements, theocratic fundamentalism, civil liberties violations, police misconduct, government and private surveillance abuse, and other anti-democratic phenomena. He is a lively speaker defending democracy and diversity.
Berlet is co–author, with Matthew N. Lyons, of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, (Guilford Press, 2000), which received a Gustavus Myers Center Award for outstanding scholarship on the subject of human rights and intolerance in North America. He is on the board of the Defending Dissent Foundation. From 1981 until 2011 Berlet worked at Political Research Associates, spending over a decade as PRA's Senior Analyst. specializing in the study of right-wing movements in the United States, civil liberties, and the global Human Rights Movement.
He used to be a print journalist, but now is a content provider. < (irony alert)
His byline has appeared in publications ranging from the New York Times to the Progressive; and he is a frequent guest on radio and television programs from Nightline to Democracy Now.
Berlet also has written scholarly articles on conspiracy theories, religious apocalyptic aggression, and organized racist groups. For thirty years he was senior analyst at Political Research Associates. He is the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort and on the baord of the Defending Dissent Foundation.
Focus on Anti-Bigotry Work
Focus on Media Work
Focus on Right-Wing Movements
Focus on Apocalypticism
Focus on Conspiracism
Selected articles available online:
Chip's Research Website:
Curator of these Websites:
Odds & Ends