Veiled Calls for Violence…Stochastic Terrorism

August 10, 2016 (San Diego) Words matter, and when Donald J Trump said this yesterday, the response was swift:

Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know.

But—but I’ll tell you what. That will be a horrible day. If—if Hillary gets to put her judges—right now, we’re tied. You see what’s going on.

Yes, the Secret Service has taken it for what it is, a call to violence. Whether that was the intent or not, is another question. Trump has denied it was. So wether it was a poorly crafted statement, or not, we will have to take him at his word, and insist that he takes more care with how he says things in the future.

Yet, he is not the first candidate to go there. Hillary Clinton did the same in 2008, when she said the following about Barack Obama, near the end of her campaign:

“We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Now many others in the media have gone into this, and the he said, she said, or the fact that we are no longer talking about his economic plan. To me these statements, from both candidates, raise alarm bells about the coarsening of language and the lack of care with it, by a powerful political elite. They know they can get away with it, and truth be told, nothing, legally speaking, will happen to them.

Maybe this is why the Clinton campaign is cautious, at times too cautious, with the language, even practiced and focus group tested, what Trump is doing, is reflecting a new age of social media. In social media people at times say things that they do not mean, in the heat of the moment. But it also reveals the rise of a new culture, which is far less practiced or careful.

There is a point we all need to ask, is this better? They both reflect an older and a newer reality of politics. This is where change is intersecting with the race to the White House, We also must raise alarms, since we do live in a very divided country. This will be an extremely close election. Trump has raised the issue of civil disobedience, or worst, a few times. He is also laying the ground work for serious civil disobedience and delegitimizing the Clinton Presidency, assuming she gets elected, before we even vote. And yes, there are questions with elections, but that is a whole different kettle of fish. What Trump is doing is precisely what you see in other countries.

The Clinton campaign is less gaffe prone, but there have been gaffes too. Having the father of the Orlando shooter behind her, was a major one, for example.

That said, people are less guarded with their language these days, but you can almost see the political passions rising, to use an older term, in a nation that is deeply divided. Nor is Trump the first to raise the allegory to violence. Sarah Palin did this in 2008, with images of cross hairs over other members of Congress. We will never know if that imagery triggered the shooting of Gabby Giffords. But it was been raised in the past.

Here is the image in question:



You can also see the rise of what psychologists call stochastic terrorism. This is the use of violent language “statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” This is according to an interview with an expert at VOX. This is an increasing concern, and lone wolves have acted on such language in the past. Planned Parenthood is very well aware of it, for example.

Is this a call to violence? Yes. And in the current environment it is one that could very well lead to a real tragedy. This is to the point that the Secret Service has had a conversation with the Trump campaign.

They did point out on Twitter the following:

In 2008 Keith Olbermann issued this special commend over Clinton’s comment regarding the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, and then Senator Barack Obama. It is worth nothing that this special comment also applies today. Nobody running for office, let alone the Presidency, should engage in what could pass as stochastic terrorism.


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