NYT's Mark Landler: Trump Rallies Becoming "Ritual," Normalizing Authoritarian Language And Violence


New York Times columnist Mark Landler responds to President Trump's Sunday morning tweet accusing the media of "starting wars."

NEW YORK TIMES, MARK LANDLER: Well, as you say, it plays wonderfully with his base, and it's been a hit for him throughout the campaign and it continues to be one of the most popular things. When you go to a Trump rally, it almost has such a feeling of ritual now. And there are certain things that people who go to rallies expect. And one of the things they expect is the opportunity to start chanting "CNN sucks" and to turn around and, you know, vilify the people standing in the media pen. So that's why he does it.

I think that the problem that we're running into is that his repeated and methodical use of the phrase "enemy of the people," and he did it as recently as this morning when he also suggested that people in the media cause wars to happen, is that that phrase is particularly loaded.

The phrase "fake news," which he also uses, is corrosive to the credibility of the media over time. It's -- it's unfair. He shouldn't use it. But the phrase "enemy of the people" is, I think, a whole different order of magnitude. This is a phrase that has a long, historic providence. It goes back to the French Revolution. It goes back to Stalin, to Mao, to Lenin. People in those totalitarian societies used the phrase "enemy of the people" to suggest that one group in society was subhuman. And by doing so it opened the door to all kinds of violence being carried out against them.

I'm not saying that President Trump understands the historical providence of this phrase, but people who are seeing it out in the world certainly do. So by using it over and over again the way he does, I think he opens the door to the possibility of bad things happening.

Now, we've been really lucky. We've been through many, many, many rallies during the campaign and since he's been president, and there really hasn't been a spill over to outright violence. It's been more in the realm of menacing reporters. And it's scary. But, you know, I don't think any of us have really had any anyone take a swing at us.

But the fear I have is that by continuing to do this, by normalizing this language, by making it part of the vocabulary of the country, he does open the door to have -- to have some violence happen down the road. And I think that's just extraordinarily dangerous.

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