Sunday, March 20, 2016

Il Duce Donald, the Storm Trumpers and free speech

Dahlia Lithwick takes a serious look at the legal status of the Storm Trumper act in Is Donald Trump Inciting Violence? Slate 03/15/2016.

Treating the campaign like just another reality show, Trump is quick to say that only he has the right to express himself, with seemingly no care for the fact that protesters and reporters have been set upon at his rallies, dragged out by police, even assaulted, as he slyly stands by and speculates as to whether they might just be enemies of the state. As Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune puts it, “He treasures his right to free expression, but yours is negotiable.”

Trump’s authoritarian views on speech are troubling, but there’s another more immediate question about free-speech abuse that has already possibly occurred: Has he crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected incitement to violence?

Under the landmark 1969 Supreme Court ruling Brandenberg v. Ohio, even hateful, racist speech is fully protected under the First Amendment—unless, that is, “it is advocacy directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” By that measure, much of Trump’s worst speech is safe. As contemptible as it is that high schoolers are now chanting “build a wall” at Hispanic students from a rival school, or that third graders in Fairfax County are now pointing out which children will be deported when Trump is elected, it is pretty clear that while he is morally responsible for polluting the discourse, he isn’t on the legal hook for this sort of thing.

The question comes down to whether Trump is across that incitement line based on what he tells people to do at his rallies. In a powerful segment on The Rachel Maddow Show this past Friday, Maddow amassed a good deal of video evidence suggesting that Trump is indeed attempting to nudge his followers toward lawlessness. The evidence is horrifying, and shocked many of us who had become accustomed to Trump’s daily pellets of ugliness.
The video to which she links is here, Maddow: Trump "Deliberately Tried To Incite Violence" by Ian Schwartz Real Clear Politics 03/11/2016

Another legal columnist, one with up-close knowledge of authoritarianism, John Dean, wrote in December about Il Duce Donald's version of it, What Trump’s Call to Ban Muslims Is Telling Us About Authoritarian Politics Justia 12/11/2015, saying he "instinctively understands exactly how to manipulate the fourth estate better than any political figure in modern America."

The Clinton camp seems to be projecting a confidence that Trump is unelectable. Democrats generally thought that about Ronald Reagan in 1980, also. Yet here we are, with our Democratic President still framing issues in terms largely defined by Reagan's brand of conservatism.

Dean also wrote:

Most recently, on December 7, 2015, when Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” he lit a fuse he understood would explode worldwide. This is not to say he understood what he was doing, for he is not a person who thinks through his actions, rather trusts his impulses, for he is good at correcting his blunders as he proceeds. Trump did not fully understand what he was doing in calling for a blanket ban that would also prevent American Muslims from returning home. (It appears Trump was unaware that Muslims have been in this country longer than his own family, that they are approaching two percent of our population, that they serve in our military, and they are the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.) So he tweaked his blunder, and without missing a beat, he doubled down on his ban to reach only on “foreign Muslims,” which the New York Times discovered might be constitutional.

Notwithstanding the overreaction of the news media, which included other Republican leaders gently rebuking Trump’s “un-American” and unprecedented religious test for entering the United States, it now appears that rank and file Republicans actually like Trump’s foreign Muslim ban. It appears that Trump was telling Republicans what they wanted to hear, which has only reinforced his position as the GOP front-runner, and has undoubtedly bolstered his confidence in his own instincts and that he can continue to bluff and blunder his way toward the nomination, because he is smarter than everyone else, and he can double talk himself in politics like he has in business, for he is a natural born con man. This is how authoritarian leaders think. [my emphasis]
But Dean, at least in December, was also saying he was "confident that the sun will rise in the morning and that Trump will never be our nation’s president."

But, as Digby points out in The riot planners Hullabaloo 03/20/2016, the mainstreaming of Storm Trumper violence in the Republican Party proceeds.

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