President Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

It has been seventeen years since John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published their book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. One of the central themes of the book was to cite demographic data about the so-called “browning of America” and note that it was the left that was positioned to benefit from the fact that non-Hispanic whites would eventually become a minority in this country.

In the years since the book was published, a lot of liberals (including one of the authors) came to question the premise that “demography is destiny.” While those on the right have publicly panned the book’s analysis, there is a way in which it has become the foundation of what we are witnessing from Donald Trump and his enablers.

Two years ago, I wrote about the connection between the president and white supremacists, including this quote from Richard Spencer.

“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” He said, “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” but he did believe that Trump reflected “an unconscious vision that white people have – that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon.”

More than a year before Trump was elected, Spencer—a spokesperson for white supremacists—explained that the “Trump phenomenon” was based on the fear white people have about the changing demographics in this country.

As Courtney Hable explains, the El Paso gunman was inspired by “the white supremacist ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory that white people are being systematically ‘replaced’ by people of color through mass immigration.” She goes on to document how Fox News has been pushing that narrative relentlessly.

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The subtle shift in how this narrative is being presented is that personalities like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have re-framed the demographic changes away from being the inevitable destiny of this country so that they can blame it on immigration. The El Paso gunman caught on and described immigrants as “invaders” flooding into the United States.

Thomas Kaplan documents how that is exactly the language being employed by the Trump campaign on social media.

President Trump’s re-election campaign has harnessed Facebook advertising to push the idea of an “invasion” at the southern border, amplifying the fear-inducing language about immigrants that he has also voiced at campaign rallies and on Twitter.

Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word “invasion” — part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging.

I would not normally read an article titled, “White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise” because it sounds exploitative. But Max Fisher, who has a reputation as a thoughtful and serious journalist—especially on matters related to terrorism and propaganda—is the author. Here is what he wrote.

Many scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of the Islamic State and that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso, Tex.

“The parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.

And they are growing more notable with each new attack.

Experts say that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.

In both, there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a civilizational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical, indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and win attention for the cause.

There are self-starter recruits who, gathering in social media’s dark corners, drive their own radicalization. And for these recruits, the official ideology may serve simply as an outlet for existing tendencies toward hatred and violence…

The feedback loop of radicalization and violence, once triggered, can take on a terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online radicalization and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks.

The apocalyptic ideology of a civilizational conflict is being peddled by the president of the United States and his enablers in right-wing media via the great replacement conspiracy theory. The use of indiscriminate violence as a response travels around the underbelly of social media in places like 8chan.

Americans who don’t pay attention to right-wing media and have no exposure to radicalized social media forums have no idea this kind of thing is happening. They simply wake up one day to see that yet another mass shooting has taken place. When Democrats point the finger of blame at Trump and his enablers, it can appear as if it’s just another example of the politicization of tragedy.

That’s why it is important for people to learn about what’s going on. The use of the word “invasion” over 2,000 times on Facebook by the president’s re-election campaign is no accident. It is a calculated strategy to incite the kind of reaction we just witnessed in El Paso.

As Fisher notes:

It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by ideas and decentralized social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when the perpetrators’ ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum.

It will take time and a concerted effort to deal with those decentralized social networks that have developed. But it all begins by exposing the president as the man behind the curtain who is inflaming the situation.

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