Terrorism is the spreading of fear and panic to advance a political agenda. And that is precisely what the president’s latest tweet storm was designed to do.
It revolved around retweeting a number of videos, purportedly of Muslims doing Bad Things.
The first was a guy breaking a statue of the Virgin Mary. Meh.
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The second is a sickening clip of what appear to be ISIS militants throwing two men from a roof and then beating them.
The third is one supposed to be of a Muslim immigrant beating up a Dutch kid on crutches.
Except it turns out the perpetrator is neither Muslim, nor an immigrant. He’s Dutch. Born in Holland, raised in Holland, and arrested, charged, and sentenced by Dutch authorities.
Read our original explainer of Trump’s three anti-muslim tweets this week.
The tweets all originated from Jayda Fransen, the Deputy Leader of far right group ‘Britain First’. When Labor MP Jo Cox was murdered on the Campaign trail during last year’s British general election, the man who did it shouted “Britain first”, as he carried out the attack.
Unsurprisingly, he has links to the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group. Not really the sort of group you want the Leader of the Free World identifying with. Even far right conspiracy activists like Paul Watson of Infowars.com are criticising the connection (or, at least, the “optics” of the connection).
When ISIS first started releasing videos of these kinds of horrendous acts, there was a vigorous debate in the media about how best to handle it. Should we air them, to inform the world about the threat? Or is that what they want? Is that the whole purpose of the videos in the first place? To goad us into a panic, to make them seem an unstoppable phenomenon; a force too terrifying to be reckoned with.
The global media collectively agreed that it was best not to show the videos Trump re-tweeted. Not just because they are sickeningly violent, but because it’s playing right into Islamic State’s hands. Spreading fear is what they want. Reaching a great number of people is exactly why they film and upload the videos in the first place.
Leaders and ethical media organisations have an unspoken agreement: we do not share their propaganda.
Except for Trump. The bigot-in-chief grabbed it with both hands and fwd: fwd: fwd:ed it to his 44 million followers.
To call it recklessly irresponsible is a gross understatement. I’m not sure there are words to describe it. Deliberately incendiary, perhaps?
The dignity of The Highest Office requires grace, nuance, and thought out strategy. Retweeting far right extremists is… god this is exhausting.
When reporters inevitably pointed out that the Dutch video showed someone who was neither a Muslim nor an immigrant, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders responded, “Whether the video is real or not, the threat is real, what the president is talking about, the need for national security and military spending, those are very real things."
She went on, "[Trump's] goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security. That's what the president is taking about, that's what the president is focused on, dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it."
A brazen, blatant fabrication of a story, from an administration that infamously rails against ‘fake news'. Except, it seems, when it advances their hawkish political agenda.
Yes, Ms. Sanders, it matters if the video is real. That’s how this is supposed to work. What is the world that we are living in here? How is that after a single year, we are in a place where the POTUS tweeting blatantly false headlines to amplify fear and hatred of minorities is a relatively standard Wednesday?
Never mind that a wealthy white real estate investor used a high-powered rifle to shoot 600 people a few weeks ago. Or that another white American kid took a gun into a church and shot all 26 of them to death last month.
If I'm interpreting Trump's hate-fuelled tweets correctly, we need to focus on the Muslims.
It is blatant fear mongering, and we should call it what it is: terrorism.
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Legally speaking, of course, defining terrorism is tricky. There's no universally agreed upon definition of the term. In America, it would seem there is focus on committing violent acts themselves, rather than sharing videos of said acts.
Consider for a moment, however, the definition of domestic abuse. Violence no longer has to be exclusively physical. It can be verbal, emotional, sexual, even financial.
Similarly, we need to recognise that 'terrorism' is by no means limited to personally committing an act of violence. When an act is intended or calculated to provoke a state of fear or terror in the general public - tweeting a video, for example - that's terrorism too.
It's hard to maintain outrage with this administration, especially when they keep outdoing themselves.
So we need to recognise what is happening, keep a steady head, and call Trump's idiocy out for what is.
Terrorism. Plain and simple.