President Donald Trump is a terrorism-generating machine. In one week, America has been hit by three separate terrorist attacks directly connected to his sowing of division and promotion of violence.
The most recent attack took place on October 27. Robert Bowers allegedly shot up the The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven. Leading up to the massacre, Bowers ranted against Jews for bringing in “hostile invaders to dwell among us,” which would lead to “certain extinction.”
Bowers echoed the right’s talk that George Soros was funding “caravans” of refugees full of ISIS terrorists. Trump reinforced this with ravings about the “onslaught” and “assault” of a few thousand refugees hiding DRUGS and “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.” Bowers’ talk of extinction followed Trump mainstreaming the myth of “white genocide” recently, amplifying Tucker Carlson who had dredged the lie from the sewers of the far right.
Three days earlier, on October 24, Gregory Bush allegedly killed two African-Americans at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. One eyewitness, who grabbed his revolver after hearing gunshots, said he came face to face to Bush, who told him, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” Right before that, Bush reportedly tried to enter a Black church, possibly intending to carry out a Dylann Roof-style massacre. Bush’s connection to Trump may seem tenuous at best. But two days earlier, Trump had declared himself a “nationalist.” For Trump, that term is indistinguishable from white nationalism given his racism-powered ascent to the presidency beginning with birtherism.
If there is any doubt about Bush’s link to Trump, there is none with Cesar Sayoc. He’s the alleged #MAGABomber who mailed 14 packages to prominent Democrats targeted by Trump, FOX News, and the right. The general manager of a restaurant where Sayoc worked as a delivery driver said, “He was anti-gay, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, you name it. Everybody that really wasn’t white and wasn’t a white supremacist didn’t belong in the world. That’s what he used to say to me all the time.”
Sayoc was a Trump “superfan,” who attended his rallies and inauguration. His van looked like Breitbart on wheels, plastered with pro-Trump, alt-right, and anti-Democrat memes. His social media overflowed with threats and invective against those he sent bombs to and whom Trump also took aim at, such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, CNN, and George Soros.
Trump’s words unite these three alleged terrorists. He uses the bully pulpit to spread “stochastic terrorism.” This concept was defined in 2011 as using “mass communication to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.”
Right-wing stochastic terrorism took root during the Obama years. FOX News was the platform of choice for stochastic terrorists like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Lou Dobbs. They would demonize targets repeatedly — Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, the left, feminists. Eventually, a “lone wolf” — almost always a volatile white man — would act.
A neo-Nazi angry about Obama rapes and murders non-whites in Massachusetts. A Florida man kills two Chilean exchange students believing “foreign illegals” are going to “overthrow us.” A fan of Glenn Beck and white supremacist radio kills three cops in Pittsburgh, believing Obama is trying to confiscate guns or imprison Americans in FEMA camps. An anti-Muslim member of the neo-Nazi Hammerskin Nation kills six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, which appears to be another deadly instance of Sikhism being confused with Islam. An anti-government conservative kills six and wounds 14, including a U.S. Congresswoman, in Arizona.
In each case, right-wing commentators immediately dismiss the incident as a lone wolf, as evil, as a nutcase. They deny responsibility while immediately getting back to inciting the next attack.
It’s similar to how climate change works. No one wildfire can be attributed to rising temperatures. But evidence is accumulating that global warming is leading to more wildfires of greater severity.
When it comes to stochastic terrorism, Trump is in a feedback loop with FOX News. Each spreads and amplifies the other’s lies. But Trump goes further, inciting violence. It makes sense that terrorism would be in runaway mode as the midterms boil over with his white-hot rhetoric. Trump’s strategy has always been spread hatred, fear, and division. He began with birtherism in 2011. Then Trump launched his campaign in 2015 by accusing Mexican immigrants of being “drug dealers, criminals, rapists. That was followed by “calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”