On Thursday, Oliver Darcy remarked on the derangement at the right-wing MAGAfied media outlets, noting that “Millions of Americans are immersed in a twisted world where language used to describe autocrats is being applied to America’s democratic institutions. The draconian rhetoric, once reserved for the likes of tyrants and dictators, has become commonplace in right-wing media when referring to President Joe Biden and the elected government he leads. The dark and sinister language, normalized on mainstream conservative platforms such as Fox News, has been on full display this week during coverage of Donald Trump's third indictment. The Biden White House is referred to as the ‘Biden regime.’ Federal law enforcement are referred to as the ‘Gestapo’ and Biden’s ‘personal police force.’ Institutions such as the Department of Justice are referred to as ‘the Department of Injustice.’ The indictments against Trump are referred to as ‘political war crimes’ and an ‘assassination.’… [This] is the reality of what is being broadcast in millions of homes across the country.”
It's all part of a larger trend that has dramatically disfigured the conservative media since Trump ascended to power. With the aim of portraying progressives as an evil force in America, right-wing media's most popular figures and outlets have casually appended despotic terms to Biden and his administration.
The extreme vernacular often flies under the radar, drawing eye rolls from those outside this alternate universe and receiving little media attention. But it shouldn't. Language carries with it serious consequences. And repeatedly conveying to millions of people that their democratically elected leader is a tyrant out to nefariously use the force of government to target and imprison his political opposition carries with it great risk
"I think it's hard to overstate the dangers here: This language moves beyond mere demonization because it suggests a need for violent resistance," Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk-radio host and an editor-at-large of The Bulwark, told me Thursday. "It's language that undermines the integrity, the democratic institutions, and the justice system itself. And there's a constant escalation without much concern where this leads or who might act on the idea that our opponents aren't just wrong— but evil, dangerous, and illegitimate.
Sykes smartly pointed out, "One does not argue, debate or disagree with the gestapo." Instead, "You go to war with them."
Each day gives way to evidence that the fact-defying repetition is working. A CNN poll published Thursday found that nearly 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they believed Biden's presidential win was not legitimate, a staggering majority despite there being no evidence of widespread election fraud. Perhaps more alarming, about half of Republicans say they now have no confidence at all that elections reflect the will of the people.
Arguably, the rhetoric saturating mainstream right-wing media today is more extreme than the hyperbole used in the weeks leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In those weeks, just like now, right-wing media forces set the stage and gathered the tinder for Trump— who was happy to light a match to the gasoline-soaked kindling gathered before him on January 6.
At the very least, the poison pumped into the national discourse has maimed America's shared sense of democratic principles and contributed to profound polarization, dividing neighbors, friends, and families. But in the wake of Trump's third arrest, over an attempt to topple American democracy, and ever-intensified rhetoric, let's hope history does not repeat itself.
Here’s good example of the poison coursing through the political veins of the country. Click on Kari Lake’s image to listen to what she’s spewing.
All this notwithstanding, yesterday, Jonathan Chait wondered \if the Republicans are being lured into nominating Trump by the Democrats. I can understand where he’s coming from based on the decades-long Democratic Party reliance on lesser-of-two-evils elections. The party long ago lost track of what it is and who Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is. Now it’s a mishmash of a few real progressives with conservatives, crooks and careerist politicians using it as a vehicle for their own advancement. But always the lesser evil. He looked at from the point of view of the anti-anti-Trumpers who see Trump as awful but the lesser evil when compared to Biden, Hillary, Schumer at al. These people blame the Democrats for forcing Trump down their throats.
In way of evidence, Chait offered “Rich Lowry’s July 23 column, headlined, ‘Trump’s enemies pursue more and more indictments— to ensure his 2024 nomination,’ argues that the multiple prosecutions of Trump have not only the effect, but also the intent, of making him the party’s nominee… The Wall Street Journal editorialized, ‘Democrats want Trump to be the Republican nominee, and Smith (whether he intends it or not) is making that outcome more likely.’ And National Review’s Andrew McCarthy explicated this theory in more specific lunatic detail:
“The Democrats are trying to get Trump nominated because they know they would beat him decisively in November 2024. The indictments (and there will probably be two more— one from Biden DOJ special counsel Jack Smith, perhaps as early as today, and one from Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis (in the next two weeks or so), coupled with the civil cases teeing up for trial (New York attorney general Letitia James’s fraud case on October 3, and a second E. Jean Carroll sexual-assault/defamation case in mid January), are both firing up the Trump base and preventing other GOP candidates from getting any traction. That is the intention …
The Democrats’ plan has been, at this point (with 2024 voting a little over a year away), to give Republicans the impression that Trump can win. And it’s working. We’ve all seen with our own eyes how Trump has destroyed the GOP’s grip on Pennsylvania over six years, and yet people are somehow going up in a balloon about his chances to beat Biden in the state because a poll shows him in a statistical dead heat there. That is what Democrats and the media want us to think. Then we nominate him and he loses in a landslide in November, taking the Senate and House down with him.”
Chait acknowledges that “this theory is totally deranged. There is no evidence any, let alone all, of the prosecutors investigating Trump have coordinated with the Biden administration or have any interest in affecting the Republican nomination. Trump’s legal woes are easily and parsimoniously explained by the fact he has habitually flouted the law throughout his career, beginning at least 50 years ago, when he and his father refused to allow Black people to rent apartments, and continuing through decades of assorted schemes and swindles. More to the point, the Republican electorate’s attachment to Trump is explained even more easily. The party’s voters thrill to his bullying style; they believe his stream of lies and exist in an information ecosystem in which every fresh piece of evidence of Trump’s misconduct merely affirms the scope of the conspiracy against him. The fact that they wish to renominate a man whom they consider one of the greatest presidents in history, and who most of them believe legitimately won the 2020 election, follows naturally from their own beliefs. The choice was not imposed on them by the Democrats, the liberal media, or Jack Smith.”
The anti-anti-Trump right’s need to explain Trump as a Democratic plot serves one additional psychological function: It excuses their own apologias on his behalf. After all, if the Democrats are to blame for Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, then the anti-anti-Trumpers are justified in refusing to defect from a Trump-controlled party. By focusing their opposition on Trump’s left-wing opponents, they are directing their main energies against the very people who are responsible for Trump’s rise in the first place.
It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the anti-anti-Trump right had returned to its belief that the Democrats are secretly boosting Trump now, at the moment when the DeSantis campaign is collapsing. Now that they are realizing they will have no respite from the ugly work of justifying a figure they loathe, they must make their inner peace with the role they have chosen.