Why Isn't Bannon In Prison Yet?
Yesterday, Mehdi Hassan tweeted “Among the many crazy and offensive Trump statements in recent days, he also told a right-wing website that undocumented immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of our country,’ which is a straight-up white supremacist/neo-Nazi talking point.” Not just that, historically, this kind of ugly, vicious xenophobia has always been a precursor to violence— from the Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian genocide, the Bosnian genocide, the Darfur genocide, the Rohingya genocide and the Uyghur genocide, where Trumpian-type xenophobia was used to justify and incite violence against a particular group of people, creating a climate of hatred, then violence that led to the deaths of millions of people.
As the walls close in around Trump, he seems more and more willing to stoke outright violence among his MAGA followers, even as any semblance of a GOP establishment that could act as a counter-weight dissolves before our eyes. Yesterday, two the Republicans who ousted Kevin McCarthy— Matt Gaetz and South Carolina lunatic Nancy Mace— visited Steve Bannon’s studio from which he daily stokes chaos and disunion. “Tectonic plate shift here in the imperial capital,” said Bannon as a lead-up to his introduction. “We must stand in the breach now. We have to lance the boil that is K Street in this nation.”
“Bannon,” wrote Annie Karni, “represents a clear through line from the grievance-driven MAGA base to Congress. And his role in the meltdown that played out this week in the House helps explain why the Republican Party appears to be eating its own. He is a vital part of a feedback loop of red-meat media hits and social media posts, online fund-raising and unfettered preaching to an often angry and fervently right-wing base that rewards disruptions and detests institutions… [H]e offers an unfiltered platform where individual rabble-rousers can speak directly to the base, known on War Room as ‘the posse,’ creating more incentives for them to wreak havoc on the House floor… Bannon, an unrepentant agent of chaos, admits he was spoiling for a government shutdown. ‘You create a firestorm now that totally changes things,’ he said. ‘People right now think government is a benefit. I’m going to show government spending as cootie-infested.’”
Zach Basu wrote that Trump’ violent rhetoric has been growing more extreme as he contemplates, after all these decades of getting away with everything, Justice coming after him. “Since he left office,” wrote Basu, “Trump's erratic behavior has been masked, numbed and normalized by the political fatigue permeating the media and the public. But his words' violent turn in recent weeks— calling for a U.S. military leader to be executed, mocking a potentially fatal assault on a congressional spouse, urging police to shoot shoplifters— suggest a line has been crossed…. Much of the public may not be aware of Trump's darkening rhetoric… but the people most likely to be radicalized by him or to act on his incitement already hear him, loud and clear.”
The normalization of political violence— or at least the threat of it— has been one of the most jarring and lasting impacts of Trump's dominance of the GOP, especially in the wake of his four indictments this year.
Between April and June, the percentage of Americans who agreed that "the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency" increased from 4.5% to 7%, according to the Chicago Project on Security and Threats.
Threats to FBI personnel have risen more than 300% since agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August, according to the New York Times.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a prominent Trump critic in the GOP, revealed recently that he paid $5,000 a day for private security for his family after Jan. 6: "It only takes one really disturbed person," he told The Atlantic.
Trump's courtroom debut this week provided a glimpse of whether he would tone down his rhetoric once his trials began. The early verdict is a resounding no.
Last month, writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Rachel Kleinfeld noted that threats against members of Congress were 10 times beyond “normal” while Trump was campaigning and in office. “For most politically violent individuals, ideology tends to be a rationale that is used to cloak an aggressive personality in a larger cause. Further demonstrating that violence is not directly related to affective polarization, hostility toward racial minorities is the variable most predictive of right-wing affective polarization. But aggression and hostility toward women is more predictive than racism for right-wing justifications for violence. There is also some new research suggesting that an authoritarian personality may play a role in augmenting someone’s aggression in the case of political, but not interpersonal, violence. The traditional authoritarian scale was built in the 1930s to explain fascism and has questions that conflate authoritarianism with conservativism and with working-class child-rearing, which tends to emphasize obedience to authority. (Researchers have suggested that this may be because working-class parents are trying to prepare their children for jobs in which obeying a boss is more important for success than creativity or thinking for oneself.) The scale thus overpredicts for Republicans being authoritarian and is more of a measurement of ideology than personality. A new scale by Emory University researchers examines a constellation of cognitive and personality traits to create a definition of authoritarianism that works across ideologies by looking for a willingness to use coercion and punitive measures to enforce values in the political sphere. While the values being supported through coercion are polar opposites between the right and left, there is significant overlap in the personality traits, suggesting that ideology is secondary to a mindset that leads those with authoritarian personalities to advocate more autocratic, antidemocratic action, including violence, in support of their preferred world order.”
She asks, “How do lifelong personality traits held by a relatively stable percent of a population transform into sudden changes in the rate of political violence? Increased fear and sense of threat as well as stress are likely to play a role. These feelings may be triggered by events (such as a pandemic or a rise in crime). But who aggressive people are violent toward, and how much they feel their violence is tolerated by state authorities, is likely to be affected by polarization. Aggression that may have been directed toward neighbors or intimate partners may be channeled toward other targets based on in-group cues of who is believed to be creating a threat. A sense that public aggression is less likely to be punished also appears to play a role in political violence— this variable is not related to polarization but to state response. In-group leaders, such as politicians and media personalities, play a particularly important role in normalizing violence; dehumanizing certain groups or individuals to make violence against them more likely; suggesting who or what group is a threat; and, by aggrandizing violent individuals, paying their legal fees, or offering them pardons, creating a sense of who is and is not likely to be punished. Government leaders also play a role based on whether they hold the violent individual accountable. A sense that the state will provide impunity increases the likelihood of violence and suggests another strong role for political structures and incentives.”