American conservatives are having increasingly lurid fantasies about killing their political enemies, according to an expert on the Middle East, which he says is certain to result in a cycle of "brutal" violence
The Republican Party has mostly stood aside as Donald Trump and his most fervent supporters use increasingly violent rhetoric, and Middle East scholar Hussein Ibish sees some alarming similarities in that process to some of the atrocities he's seen and studied, as he writes in a new column for The Atlantic.
"Decades of living in, studying, and writing about the Middle East have taught me that whenever a political faction becomes obsessed with violent rhetoric and fantasies, brutal acts aren't far behind," writes Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. "And while there's always been a strain of militancy on the American right and left fringes, there is something unmistakably new, and profoundly alarming, about the casual, florid, and sadistic rhetoric that is metastasizing from the Republican fringe into the party's mainstream."
Recent surveys found 39 percent of Republicans agree that political violence could be justified, and 47 percent say "patriotic Americans" must someday "take the law into their own hands," and Ibish points to a piece on the right-wing Federalist website that imagines scalping a liberal with "pornographic sadism" -- "in language that the Islamic State would envy."
"Again, the unmistakable lesson from the modern Middle East is: When people keep saying they're fantasizing about how great it would be, and feel, to kill you, believe them," Ibish writes.
Trump and other Republican politicians, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA), have suggested that conservatives use their "Second Amendment rights" to violently stop their political opponents, and Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani actively encouraged followers to use "trial by combat" before they tried to sack the U.S. Capitol.
"What begins as hyperbolic posturing, when it is persistent and repeated, will eventually be taken seriously," Ibish writes. "And then not only will its proponents be stuck in a never-ending cycle of radical outbidding, but eventually some of their audience members — most of whom don't know they're not supposed to take any of this seriously, let alone literally — will act on it."
The blame for this impending cycle of savagery lays entirely on the Republican Party and its leaders, Ibish writes.
"The cancer of political violence is not an endemic American disease," he writes. "At the moment, it is a Republican disease. No one but Republicans themselves can cure it. Until they do, the violence of the right is only going to keep swelling and crashing. From a Middle Eastern perspective, this is all appallingly familiar."