Donald Trump Stoops to Lowest Low Yet With Violent Post of Biden

Donald Trump Stoops to Lowest Low Yet With Violent Post of Biden 1

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Donald Trump’s attacks on President Joe Biden have become familiar, but on Friday they reached a new level of terrifying. The former president posted a video on his Truth Social platform featuring a truck with an image of President Biden hog-tied on the tailgate, as if he’d just been kidnapped. 

This type of messaging is part of a specific routine for Trump—one that we’ve been reporting on for years. It’s called “stochastic terrorism,” a type of rhetoric from a leader that smears another person or group so that they are more likely to be attacked by the leader’s supporters, while the leader is able to deny any involvement. My colleague Mark Follman reported on Trump’s use of stochastic terrorism—and how it’s spread through the GOP—in 2022: 

Trump made this form of incitement a hallmark of his presidency, galvanizing extremists by railing against and dehumanizing his “enemies.” The country saw the devastating consequences when his supporters stormed Congress to obstruct certification of the presidential election. And now a growing number of Republicans are emulating Trump’s technique.

“While these attacks may defy specific predictability,” threat assessment experts Molly Amman and Reid Meloy wrote in a 2021 study in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism, “their likelihood is greatly increased by the public demon­ization process.” Repetition and saturation through social media and news coverage further amplifies the effect, they observed.

Friday’s post from Trump is undoubtedly extreme and dangerous, but it’s unlikely to illicit widespread outrage or condemnation because he has succeeded in normalizing this type of speech. David Corn wrote about this phenomenon in September:

Of course, there have long been many instances of Trump encouraging political violence. Axios has compiled a list. As has ABC News. And Vox. And the New York Times. Often, it’s been tough-guy bluster, with Trump telling law officers to handle suspects roughly, pledging to shoot looters, or saying to attendees at his rally that it’s okay to beat up protestors. Stochastic terrorism is more indirect and perhaps more effective: It’s pinning a bull’s-eye on the back of an opponent in a volatile situation—perhaps suggesting the world would be safer without this supposed threat—knowing this could lead to violence against that target. It’s indirect incitement, inspiring someone else to do the dirty work.

“Trump is regularly inviting political violence,” Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in response to Friday’s post. “It’s time people take him seriously,” he added—”just ask the Capitol police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6.” The Secret Service stated that they would not “confirm or comment on matters of protective intelligence.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign tried to deflect blame for amplifying violence and pin it instead on Biden. “That picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said. “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

“That picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway.” Cheung sees this as an excuse, but I think it points to something even scarier. Even before Trump posted the video, he created the conditions for such an image to be acceptable to display in public. Some of his supporters already felt emboldened to create or buy the decal. That’s horrifying. Disseminating the image to millions of followers is only likely to make the decal, and the ideas it supports, all the more popular.