Trump Doubles Down on "Animals" Comment; Members of His Administration Amplify the Eliminationism

[Content Note: Dehumanization; eliminationism; nativism.]

Last week, Donald Trump called undocumented immigrants "animals," then claimed he was only talking about members of the gang MS-13, as if dehumanizing, eliminationist language is okay just as long as it's directed at people you don't like.

Today, Trump traveled (back) to Long Island, where he launched into a gross diatribe, doubling down on his vicious rhetoric. He again called MS-13 "animals," lied about their having killed a police officer, and naturally continued to ignore that children are routinely roped into MS-13 and disallowed from leaving.

Further, Trump was joined by:
  • ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, who defended and reiterated Trump's "animals" comment, saying: "I think you're being kind. Animals kill for survival. MS-13 kills for sport."

  • Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan, who referred to members of MS-13 as "savages."

  • Rep. Pete King, who called MS-13 members "horrible, vicious, rotten murderers."

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reinforced Trump's comment on "alien children" — "They look so innocent. They're not innocent." — with this incoherent mess: "We're letting people in who are creating problems. We're letting people in who are gang members. We're also letting people in who are vulnerable. Many of these alien children who have no parents, no family structure...develop gang ties."
This is utterly vile.

I am genuinely sorry for the people who have been harmed, or whose loved ones have been harmed, by individual members of MS-13 — just as I am genuinely sorry for anyone who has been harmed by violence of any kind.

I couldn't be more filled with grief and anger about school shootings, and yet I do not use eliminationist rhetoric to dehumanize the misogynist and white supremacist groups with which they're frequently affiliated.

The president and members of his administration and members of his party can share those people's agony and rage without engaging in eliminationist rhetoric. (And let us note that they only "share" the agony and rage of people whose loss neatly coincides with their political agenda.)

But even if Trump et. al. are genuinely angry about the victims of MS-13: It is possible to be angry without engaging in othering.

* * *

On a final note, I just want to register my alarm that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was echoing Trump's language of "alien children," even if he tried to couch it with some measure of concern — especially given that FBI Director Christopher Wray oversaw the approval of Jared Kushner's security clearance today, too.

I don't like the optics here. It looks like Rosenstein and Wray went to the White House with heads full of steam and came away cowed and doing Trump's bidding very visibly.

The thing is, as you may recall, just a couple of weeks ago, Rosenstein said that people "have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted."

I believed that. I don't think Rosenstein is easily cowed, at all.

So the fact that he said publicly and defiantly that he was being threatened, but wouldn't be deterred, makes me believe that Trump threatened him and Wray with something that wasn't directed at them personally.

That is, I think Trump threatened to do something to the citizenry. I don't know what it could be, but I can imagine him threatening anything from using the military on civilians to dismantling the FBI and Justice Department altogether.

(I mean: Kirstjen Nielsen is a Trumpian placeholder if ever I saw one. He wants Rudy Giuliani in there, running a national militarized law enforcement arm of the executive branch so bad even I can taste it.)

The point is, we often wonder where all the patriots have gone, with good reason. But patriots act on behalf of We the People. And they may be negotiating with a terrorist president who is holding us hostage.

And we don't even know it.

What we do know, however, is that Trump is capable of it. And far worse.

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