The Increasingly Violent Rhetoric of MAGA and the Mass Media’s Failure

As Donald Trump faces legal indictments, his increasingly aggressive rhetoric is becoming commonplace and alarmingly overlooked.  For over seven years, Donald Trump has been steadily disseminating seeds of discord, aggression, and disruption throughout America. His persistent efforts have cultivated a hazardous harvest of hostility.

On the recent Thursday, Trump, utilizing his Truth Social platform for dissemination of misleading information, shared what he alleged to be the residential location of former President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. The subsequent events unfolded in a manner that was not only anticipated, but appeared to be what Trump intended.

A Trump supporter, reportedly involved in the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, seemed determined to murder Barack Obama, seemingly inspired by his revered leader’s endorsement of such aggression. The Justice Department reports that Taylor Taranto, a 37-year-old man, journeyed to D.C. armed with two firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Associated Press details:

Taranto reportedly shared a Truth Social post from Trump on the day of his June 29 arrest, which was presumed to reveal Obama’s residence. In a message on Telegram, Taranto stated: “We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s.” This statement was a clear reference to John Podesta, who was the former chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign…

Taranto was detained in close proximity to the ex-president’s dwelling.

Taranto isn’t a solitary actor. Studies by political scientists and law enforcement agencies indicate that countless Trump enthusiasts and other right-leaning individuals endorse the use of violence to reinstall Trump and the MAGA movement in power. Thousands among this group are presumed ready to engage in violent acts and terrorism, as evidenced on January 6 and on other occasions.

A recent examination by the public oversight organization, CREW, reveals that nearly 200 Trump supporters believed they were obeying his orders during their assault on the Capitol on January 6:

Through appeals to the public, court filings, and letters to federal judges, these defendants and their legal teams have emphasized that Trump’s recurrent baseless claims and provocative speeches propelled their actions that day. These insights reinforce the January 6th Select Committee’s conclusion that Trump was the “central cause” of the Capitol attack…. CREW’s analysis further solidifies the evidence that January 6th was an orchestrated attempt by Donald Trump and his allies to forcibly impede the certification of a legitimate and fair election.

If Taranto, a devout follower of Trump, had succeeded in his mission to inflict fatal or severe harm upon Obama (and presumably his family), the United States would have been plunged into a wave of shock and distress, the extent of which is difficult to comprehend – this agony would have been particularly intense for African Americans.

Yet, a large portion of the American populace remains oblivious to these occurrences.

The reasons behind this obliviousness are manifold, including deep-seated denial and a reckless decision (borne out of fear) by mainstream American news outlets (with some noteworthy exceptions) to either blatantly neglect or play down the violent actions of Trump, the Republican hardliners, and the broader MAGA movement and white right-wing groups. For some reason, the gatekeepers of mainstream media believe that such an approach will miraculously restore the country to a state of “normalcy.”

In a misguided bid to appease Trump’s followers and other right-wing individuals, mainstream media believes it is economically prudent to avoid offending them. For instance, recent developments at CNN validate this trend. Hence, an obsession with maintaining a façade of “balance,” “fairness,” “bipartisanship,” and “centrism” creates a platform for Republican extremists and other malicious actors to disseminate their toxic narratives more extensively. Mainstream media has also been habituated and cowed into such behavior by the right-wing sector’s unfounded accusations of predominantly non-existent “liberal bias.”

Career aspirations among mainstream reporters, journalists, and editors encourage a kind of collective mindset and reluctance to candidly, persistently, and unequivocally spotlight the threats to American democracy and society posed by Donald Trump, the current Republican Party, and the larger white right-wing faction. The allure of career advancement and the safety of aligning with “the consensus” or the herd mentality frequently take precedence over articulating uncomfortable truths.

Mainstream media personnel are also members of the upper echelons of society. They prioritize access to Trump, the Republican Party, and other right-wing power hubs over their obligation to hold the powerful accountable as the Fourth Estate in a democracy. The mainstream media, both the institution and its staff, are intertwined with “the system” and will cling to it irrespective of its degeneration. Consequently, there’s a desperate attempt to normalize Trumpism and the present Republican Party and conservative movement regardless of how radical and undemocratic they’ve become.

In the context of the fanatical Trump supporter on a mission to assassinate Obama, some media figures might justify their lack of coverage by suggesting that the suspected individual might be mentally unstable. However, this does not diminish the risk posed to Obama. Furthermore, the purported would-be assassin’s mental health is a legal issue that is distinct from Trump’s repeated targeting of Obama for violence. The need to emphasize and not dismiss Trump’s recurrent incitement to and threats of violence against Obama as common knowledge is imperative.

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and threats against Barack Obama form part of a larger trend. He has now hinted that special counsel Jack Smith should be “put out to rest.” He has also ridiculously claimed that Smith and President Biden are addicted to cocaine (Trump even suggested that Smith is a “crackhead”). Trump has frequently threatened and encouraged violence against President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and other prosecutors and law enforcement officers who dare to hold him accountable for his publicly committed crimes. Apart from Trump’s threats of a “final battle” and retribution, the former president and coup instigator has repeatedly insinuated that Biden and other leading Democrats are traitors and national adversaries who must be duly punished to safeguard the country.

Trump is currently sending a series of fundraising emails directly accusing President Biden and his family of committing “treason.” Traditionally, the penalty for treason is death. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump directly threatened Hillary Clinton with “Second Amendment people” – an explicit reference to gun violence and death.

Trump has openly and repeatedly declared that his supporters, who executed his January 6 coup attempt by launching a deadly attack on the Capitol, are “political prisoners” and “patriots” whom he will pardon if he is reelected president.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party and is presumed to be the party’s 2024 presidential nominee. Republican elected officials and other party seniors are echoing Trump’s violent threats and other illegal activities, including support for the January 6 terrorists. Trump’s MAGA followers and other right-wing militants are exhibiting black flags as a signal that they will show no mercy to Democrats, liberals, and other perceived “enemies” in what they believe to be an impending second American Civil War.

For many decades, the right-wing media and propaganda machine, with Fox News at the helm, have promoted the concept of eliminationist and other types of mass violence against Democrats, liberals, progressives, people of color, migrants and refugees from Latin and South America and other non-white countries, Muslims, atheists, feminists, the LGBTQI community, and others who are not considered “real Americans.” This dangerous narrative continues unabated, encouraging division and exacerbating the violent inclinations of those prone to extremism.

American right-wing voices, including Trump, are increasingly referencing the prospect of a civil war, a notion that is being popularized and normalized with alarming rapidity within right-wing circles. This rhetoric promotes the notion that Democrats, liberals, and non-whites are “enemies of the people,” leading to the dehumanization of these groups, the final stage before the onset of mass violence.

Societies and democracies do not fail all at once. They disintegrate incrementally, often in the face of silence and indifference, the diffusion of responsibility, and the reckless abdication of moral courage. The United States, however, is not a ‘failing’ society. It is, rather, a society under attack from within – by an internal enemy that has breached the walls of democracy, threatening to replace it with authoritarianism.

This calls for an awakening, an active realization that our democracy is under threat. Trump and his hardliners are openly advocating for violence and disorder. Trump’s incessant dissemination of hate speech, misinformation, and false narratives endangers the integrity of the United States and its democratic principles.

It is high time that the mainstream media shed its perceived mantle of impartiality to forcefully challenge the flagrant contempt for legal and democratic conventions. This isn’t about aligning with the Democrats or Republicans, but rather standing firm for the democratic bedrock that constitutes our society.

As a nation, we must confront the harsh truth of our predicament. The battle is not merely against Trump and his faction, but rather against a deeply ingrained ideology that is insidiously infecting the very soul of our nation. The persistent vitriolic rhetoric and acts of violence are not the disease, but rather the manifestations of a more sinister malaise.

Mainstream media, being the fourth estate of our democracy, needs to step up and play its vital role as a vigilant watchdog. Its mission should be to educate the public about the actual state of affairs, transcending the mire of partisan politics, and instead, focusing on holding the power bearers to account.

Neglecting or minimizing the threats posed by Trump and his disciples, or the proliferation of right-wing extremism, only paves the way for a further surge in violence and deepening societal chasms. It is incumbent upon the media to step up to its responsibilities now, more than ever, to safeguard the nation’s unity and integrity.

This is a clarion call for decisive action. There’s no room for dithering or prevarication when the very core of our democracy hangs in the balance. For far too long, the threats emanating from Trump and his adherents have been glossed over or underplayed. It is about time we met these threats with the gravitas and urgency they warrant.