The Trump Regime and Stochastic Terrorism

[Content Note: Incitement; violent bigotry.]

After writing yesterday about untraceable plastic guns and anti-choice terrorism, and after including a link in the round-up about the racist "Stand Your Ground" shooting in Florida, it became clear to me that the Trump Regime is going to rely on stochastic terrorism in order to enact their eliminationism.

Stochastic terrorism is "the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf."

That is: Leverage visibility and influence to dehumanize your enemies and cast them as threats, then sit back and wait for your most radical and/or unstable supporters to take violent action. It helps significantly if you've also leveraged your power to give access to deadly weaponry to as many people as possible.

The anti-choice movement is the perfect example of stochastic terrorism at work in the United States. Anti-choicers from the sidewalks outside clinics to national political leaders talk about abortion as "murder," say that abortionists "kill babies," talk about abortion-seeking women as "mothers who kill their children," and other profoundly dishonest and equally incendiary language. Then clinics get bombed and doctors get killed, and we are all expected to pretend that the latter has nothing to do with the former. It's just "lone wolves" who were acting on their own. Their bootstraps made them do it.

Donald Trump knows how stochastic terrorism works. He engaged in it during the 2016 campaign — targeting his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In August of 2016, he bellowed at a rally: "Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick— [boos from audience] If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

His point, to anyone without a cynical agenda, was unambiguous.

Feminist law professor and reproductive rights activist David S. Cohen wrote that Trump was engaging in stochastic terrorism: "Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn't know which dog."

It was an invitation to anyone who might be listening and inclined to take action.

Stochastic terrorism is a perfect strategy for a person like Trump, who loves to boast about how tough he is, but is in reality a simpering coward. He is, after all, a man who became famous for uttering the phrase "You're fired!" on television every week, but forces other people to do the actual firing in his White House.

For Trump, disseminating toxic bile from his Twitter account and legalizing untraceable weapons is the ideal strategy for "taking care of" the portions of the population he finds undesirable. He'll let his base handle it.

Which is not to say, of course, that there will not be state violence. There certainly will be; there already is at the border and in prisons, and this will continue.

But the Trump Regime is doing everything they can to empower their base to commit eliminationist violence, against marginalized people and dissidents — and to do so legally, thus avoiding the pitfalls of genocidal regimes: No state-sanctioned mass killing centers; no mass graves. Just Trump loyalists murdering "undesirables," to probably very little media attention, between a population which has become inured to reports of mass shootings and a press whose increasingly consolidated corporate ownership will function primarily as propaganda for the administration.

I'm quite certain there are people who will find that totally implausible. And yet: The mainstream media has been largely ignoring social terrorism for decades.

Most incidents of anti-choice terrorism are not widely reported. Most homophobic and transphobic murders are not widely reported. Most modern lynchings of Black people, in their various iterations, are not widely reported. Even when this violence is widely reported, it's rarely connected to organized hatred against people who share the victim's identity — and certainly not connected to modern conservative politics.

It doesn't have to go this way. It can be prevented. But that requires a collective will to hold Donald Trump, and his entire party, accountable each and every time they use incendiary, dehumanizing, and eliminationist rhetoric. It requires a zero tolerance policy on that language, from every quarter, including and especially the political press. It requires never giving him the benefit of the doubt that he really meant something else.

I am not optimistic that will happen. But I would love to be wrong.

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