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Trump’s unprecedented call for protests is the latest sign of his aim to degrade America’s institutions
In a social media post on March 18, 2023, former President Donald Trump announced that he would be arrested on March 21 on charges stemming from an investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Bragg’s office is probing hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, which were allegedly made to spare candidate Trump embarrassment on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
“THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” wrote Trump.
Scholar Shelley Inglis spent more than 15 years with the United Nations, where she advised governments and democracy advocates on how to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance. We asked her about Trump’s post.
What did you think about when you heard his call for protests?
Let me begin by quickly describing populism, because it’s important to my thoughts about Trump’s post. Populist movements portray “the people in a moral battle against elites,” as scholars Jane Mansbridge and Stephen Macedo describe it. Some level of populism is inherent in democracies where candidates appeal to be elected by “the people.”
But what I call autocratic populists use this narrative to claim they are the sole voice of “the people” and those against them are “bad” or even “evil.” They undermine any and all opposition to them and attempts to hold them accountable, including independent institutions like courts, elections and the media. This is how such populists become so dangerous for democracy and the rule of law.
Trump has that autocrat’s populism, in which he says that not only is he anti-elite but that he is “the only one” who can represent the people and calls on the public to question legitimate democratic institutions – which he did even when he was the head of those institutions.
Scholars like me know that protests play an important role in societies, and the freedom to protest is part of a democratic society. The idea of peaceful protests is to hold the government accountable and for people to have an avenue for free speech and be able to participate in demonstrating their demands. But I believe protests are most valuable when they originate from civil society or advocacy groups.
It’s really a red flag if a political party or leader is using people in protest in a democracy like the U.S. That devalues the idea that protests come from the people or what we call civil society. Instead, it’s a manipulation of a democratic society.
Trump wasn’t asking his followers to protest a policy, was he?
He was asking for a protest on his behalf because of what an independent institution is doing. It’s a protest about and for him.
It’s hard for me to think of an example in recent history when political leaders in a democracy like the U.S. demanded that people protest, even on an issue, let alone for them. So Trump’s call is a real populist move that is intended actually to undermine respect for democratic institutions, whereas popular protests and advocacy can be a sign of a vibrant and healthy democracy.
Then-President Donald Trump declaring “I am the chosen one” during a White House session with reporters on Aug. 21, 2019.
But doesn’t Trump couch the moves to hold him accountable as coming from the radical left, not as government holding him accountable?
Demonizing the institution and alleging that the institutions are controlled by an agenda is part of the narrative that Trump has created. It is the populism of “us” versus “them.” Even when he was the head of the government and its institutions, he was fomenting this narrative by effectively saying things like, “This election is going to be unfair … even though I’m president of the United States. I’m already saying that this election, run by my own government, though at multiple levels, is going to be unfair.”
Once populists get in power, they degrade any kind of accountability, any checks and balances, and they debase the opposition through very clever ways of creating a narrative that it’s somehow justified.
Yet Trump is out of power now. How does that still work?
He’s continued with that narrative, which is basically to say he’s the only one who represents the people of the United States as a legitimate voice. And anything that is done against him actually is against the United States. So his phrase in that post, “Take our country back,” means “Give back power to me, or do something against institutions that might be holding me to account.”
For me, it is important for people to appreciate that protest is productive and healthy for democracy when it comes from the bottom up. But when it’s manipulated by political actors, calling on people to protest for them and seek to overturn U.S. institutions, like on Jan. 6, it can actually be highly threatening to democracy.
Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
$1.6B Dominion suit against Fox News could go to trial next month: report
A $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by an electronic voting hardware and software company against Fox News will go to trial next month unless a judge issues a summary judgement in the case, CBS News reports.
Dominion Voting Systems filed the 2021 lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company Fox Corporation alleging the right-wing news outlet made false claims over the 2020 election and provided guests a platform from which they could propagate falsehoods and defamatory statements.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis was expected to issue a ruling on requests for a summary judgement after a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, the report said. Dominion and Fox News each made separate summary judgment requests.
Should the case go to trial, Dominion will be required to prove that Fox News acted with “actual malice,” meaning it will have to demonstrate that the cable network knowingly made false claims or acted with reckless disregard in spreading unfounded fraud allegations.
IN OTHER NEWS: Trump sending a coded message to the far-right with the location of next rally: experts
Attorneys representing Fox argue that the case doesn’t meet that standard, since it was merely reporting the allegations of a sitting president and his legal team which had news value.
Dominion’s attorneys allege Fox dropped the ball by failing to characterize the allegations they knew to be false as such.
"Media companies may always report the truth, including reporting on false allegations while explaining that the allegations are false, and Dominion did not sue the many media companies that did just that in 2020," Dominion’s attorneys said.
Gwyneth Paltrow defends against 'meritless' skiing lawsuit in Utah court
Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in court in the western US state of Utah on Tuesday, where she is being sued for damages by a retired optometrist over a skiing accident seven years ago.
In opening statements, Terry Sanderson's lawyer said the alleged collision on the slopes of Deer Valley had caused him damages worth $3.3 million. The "Shakespeare in Love" actress has in turn countersued.
Paltrow's lawyer Steven Owens told the Park City court on Tuesday that Sanderson is "obsessed" with the lawsuit, and that the case was a "meritless claim of false allegation."
"Really kind of an offensive one. That she somehow left him an unconscious man and bolted? I can tell you, we believe it to be utter BS," said Owens.
The alleged collision occurred in February 2016 at Deer Valley, a glamorous ski resort above the swanky larger resort of Park City in the Rocky Mountains.
Deer Valley hosted Winter Olympics skiing events in 2002, while Park City is home to the annual Sundance film festival.
Paltrow, wearing a white turtleneck sweater, sat silently beside Owens as proceedings began Tuesday. She is expected to later take the stand in her own defense.
Paltrow's husband Brad Falchuk and children Moses and Apple are due to address the court, Owens said.
Sanderson says Paltrow skied into him from behind and then vanished, leaving him unconscious, lying in the snow.
Lawrence D. Buhler, representing Sanderson, said in his opening statement that Paltrow had been skiing in a "dangerous" and "reckless" manner, and had caused his client "four broken ribs and permanent brain damage."
Paltrow says Sanderson skied into her back, and is countersuing for a nominal $1 plus legal expenses.
Her lawyer Owens said "Gwyneth is a conservative skier" who was "not going fast," and said she had initially feared she was "being assaulted" when Sanderson appeared directly behind her.
"It rattled her and physically hurt her," he said.
Owens also said Sanderson is "blind in one eye" and suffers from "decreasing vision" in the other -- suggesting poor eyesight was a reason for the crash.
In addition to her Oscar-winning acting career, Paltrow has forged a second career marketing wellness products on her Goop website.
The online blog and store promotes healthy eating and stress-free living, as well as a range of unorthodox products -- from DIY coffee enema kits to a line of scented goods made with cedarwood, bergamot, rose and ambrette, and named "This Smells like My Vagina."