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It’s Not Over Until January 20, and It Can Get Worse

“Well can’t you see that this is the last act of a desperate man?”
“We don’t care if it’s the first act of Henry V, we’re leaving!”
- Blazing Saddles

Hours after the networks called the election for Joe Biden, I went into Manhattan for the first time in a while. I saw the crowds celebrating. Peacefully.

But I saw something else that stopped me in my tracks. Throughout mid-town, storefront windows were boarded with plywood, a precaution against violence in the streets by Trump supporters if the election…

In last night’s debate, which CNN’s Jake Tapper on-air called a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck” and that his on-air colleague Dana Bash called a “shit show,” Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy.

That’s not a surprise. It’s part of a pattern.

In my latest book, Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It, I document Trump’s pattern of deflecting calls to denounce white supremacists, followed by a weak denunciation, then reverting back to his prior language.

Trump’s Pattern of Deflection

When asked to denounce white supremacy, both during…

Did you know that Trump ran for president in 2000?

And that he announced in 2011 that he was running against Obama in 2012?

He did.

And he ran again in 2015.

And in none of those runs did he expect to win. He had other reasons.

Sunday the New York Times published an extraordinary account of how Donald Trump paid no federal income taxes for ten years, and only $750 in the year he ran for office, and another $750 in his first year in office.

But to me the big insight from the Times is not that Trump…

Michael Cohen’s interview with Rachel Maddow about his new book did not reveal much that wasn’t already known, but it did provide context and a greater insight into why Trump behaved the way he did.

I am a communication, ethics, and leadership professor at New York University and Columbia University, and have spent the last two years studying Trump’s language for my book, Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It. In it I profile Trump’s revival of the birther conspiracy that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

That claim had been…

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly)

As Trump tries to sabotage the post office, news anchors express puzzlement that Trump keeps insisting that mail-in voting is a disaster and ripe with fraud, but that absentee voting is OK. They seem totally confused about the distinction between the two. Or they think he is confused.

Don’t be fooled. We’ve seen this play before. It’s part of a pattern of predictable behavior by Trump.

The pattern:

  1. Create an artificial distinction between two ways of saying the same thing.
  2. Demonize one of them, while admitting the legitimacy of the other.
  3. Use that distinction to make false claims, and to…

Photo by Ajay Suresh, Creative Commons

Should reporters be executed?

Donald Trump apparently thinks so. As reported by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, in his book The Room Where It Happened, Trump said, “reporters should be executed. They are scumbags.” A former advisor to then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirms that he witnessed a similar exchange between the president and Secretary Mattis.

This is the most recent example of Trump’s incendiary language escalating, and it is putting journalists’ lives at risk.

The Pattern

What began as Trump calling news stories and organizations Fake News escalated to calling journalists Enemies of the People, which in turn…

Library of Congress, Public Domain

Every July Fourth I write about the anniversary of the publication of the nation’s mission statement, the Declaration of Independence. Like most mission statements, it’s aspirational, a work in progress.

One of my favorite passages is rarely discussed: It’s in the very first sentence, just before the revelation of self-evident truths, about why bother to have a declaration at all. Jefferson says that when it becomes necessary for one society to dissolve political relations with another, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

A Decent Respect

President Trump chose to hold his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 lock down in Tulsa on Juneteenth.

The Daily Stormer Ad for the Charlottesville Unite The Right Rally

Tulsa is the city where the largest single act of American racial violence took place: the Greenwood massacre in 1921 that left 300 dead and 8,000 homeless. For decades the massacre was scrubbed from the public records and kept out of history books.

Juneteenth is the commemoration of the end of slavery. After an outcry, the campaign moved the rally by one day. But still on Juneteenth weekend, and still in Tulsa.

This followed weeks of Black Lives Matter protests and civil…

Helio Fred Garcia

Helio Fred Garcia is the author, most recently, of Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

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